He saw us coming, he had noticed a pair of young men that held themselves differently as they walked the streets of Kathmandu. When I looked back through images I had taken in the minutes leading up to this I noticed that in a far corner of a vacant block there was a group of children searching through rubbish for items to sell. Amongst these children was this young boy.
He came running after us, tire in hand, waving his hands before finally catching up and asking for money.
Something that most people do not understand is how we could refuse, but begging is actually an industry that perpetuates the plight of the poor, even resulting in families that cannot support themselves, selling their children to orphanages and begging rackets. These business models are widely known amounts seasoned travellers and NGO’s as appearing legitimate on the outside, but when the tourists are not there, the children are used and abused in ways we could never imagine.
Instead we offered to buy him lunch, make sure he got a meal. This was met with extreme protest. He told us that if he did not meet his quota for the day he would be punished.
We came up with a compromise, he would take us back to the restaurant were his keepers sat and drank tea while the children were at work so that they could see that it was not his fault, the though of food became more appealing than the punishment.
It was a dark little shack, and the air was definitely thick as we entered with him and immediately he ordered what he wanted and the three men at the table approached us and asked us what we thought we were doing. “He will be punished for this”, they said, but we insisted and eventually they went back to their routine. For a moment I was quite intimidated as they had surrounded us on all sides, one man stood in the door. The fear was un warranted though as the last people they would want to hurt are the very people that are the source of their income.
Whether or not we did the right thing is not the question, giving him money is also not right but at least he looked satisfied as he shovelled the food into his mouth, he would at least face what ever struggles he came up against that day with a full stomach.
Kathmandu Nepal 2012 - Leica X2.
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