Kristian Bertel | Photography
Archive story
In this archive story we are meeting a blind beggar at a train station in the Mazgaon area of Mumbai in Maharashtra, India.
Read the background story of this archive photo by the photographer.
In the Mazgaon area of Mumbai the photographer encountered a blind beggar. India is sadly home to many blind beggars and in no other country you will find so many beggars because it has become a profession. Many of the beggars are crippled or blind and have been beggars by birth and they do not like to change their profession and they make their living with ease.
In the Mazgaon area of Mumbai the photographer encountered a blind beggar. India is sadly home to many blind beggars and in no other country you will find so many beggars because it has become a profession. Many of the beggars are crippled or blind and have been beggars by birth and they do not like to change their profession and they make their living with ease.
Kristian Bertel, Photographer By Kristian Bertel, Photographer
– Updated on March 21, 2024

Mazgaon beggar portraiture

All Indian beggars are an object of pity and they wear rags and some are seen in loincloth only. They go about from place to place on their daily rounds. Some wear loose clothes and they cover their bodies with ashes and some of them are really disabled and some beggars warp oiled rags round their legs and they pretend to cripples. But no matter what they deserve our help and sympathy.

Why India has so many blind people?

It is not just India beacuse about 90 percent of the world's visually impaired live in developing countries and the reason appears to be an extreme dearth of eye doctors. While India needs about 115,000 optometrists, it has only about 40,000 largely because of regulation issues and a lack of training programs.

Blind beggars in India
As a photographer and traveler in India it is hard to ignore the begging conditions in India. By observing the beggars over time one can see that the beggars are usually quite clever and even cunning. Whether the beggars are blind or not they have many ways and means of begging and they may sing some holy songs and their musical instruments and then they are sure of a good living and the children and women welcome such type of beggars. If they have a good voice, they earn a lot and the beggars may sit just by the roadside and may pretend to be deaf or blind and if they are actually blind, they may cry their blindness and thus they rouse pity of people. In some cases they may have a child or two who are clad in dirty rags and they cry and weep as if starving.

Religious minded people
The people in India are religious minded and the Hindus believe in the rebirth of soul after death and they think that if they would do good actions, God would be pleased with them and he would send them to this world again as men. The Muslims too believe that if they would do well to their fellow-beings, they would be sent to 'Jannat' which means paradise. Soon all people are charitable by nature. Hence they distribute food among the beggars and the charitable deposition of the people encourages beggary and people can get bread, flour, clothes and money without any effort of hard work on their part so they like to be beggars and they have to means of supporting themselves and when they get no help from the Government of India, they become beggars and besides ordinary beggars, there are religious beggars.

The Muslim beggars are called 'Faqirs', while the Hindus beggars are called 'Sadhus'. Some of these people are very pious and learned and they give up everything of this world and the beggars are idlers and they cause a great loss of labor and industry to the nation. Their manual labor could have been better utilized in factories or mills and they would have produced useful work and the healthy beggars should not give any alms and they should be discouraged in every ways so that they may become the useful members of the society.

What is blindness?
The term blindness is used for complete or nearly complete vision loss. Visual impairment may cause people difficulties with normal daily activities such as driving, reading, socializing and walking. Individuals with a visual disability not only have to find ways to communicate effectively with the people around them, but their environment as well. The blind or visually impaired rely largely on their other senses such as hearing, touch, and smell in order to understand their surroundings. Accounting for an estimated 850,000 cases of corneal blindness every year in the Indian subcontinent alone. As a result, corneal scarring from all causes is now the fourth greatest cause of global blindness.

What problems do blind people face when living life?
With sight, much of what is learned by a child is learned through imitation of others, whereas a visually impaired child needs very planned instruction directed at the development of postponed imitation. A visually impaired infant may jabber and imitate words sooner than a sighted child, but may show delay when combining words to say themselves, the child may tend to initiate few questions and their use of adjectives is infrequent. Normally the child's sensory experiences are not readily coded into language and this may cause them to store phrases and sentences in their memory and repeat them out of context. The language of the blind person does not seem to mirror their developing knowledge of the world, but rather their knowledge of the language of others.

"A visually impaired person in India may also be hesitant to explore the world around them due to fear of the unknown and also may be discouraged from exploration by overprotective family members. Without concrete experiences, the child is not able to develop meaningful concepts or the language to describe or think about them"

Touch gives immense amount of information
Touch is also an important aspect of how blind or visually impaired people perceive the world. Touch gives immense amount of information in the person's immediate surrounding. Feeling anything with detail gives off information on shape, size, texture, temperature and many other qualities. Touch also helps with communication, braille is a form of communication in which people use their fingers to feel elevated bumps on a surface and can understand what is meant to be interpreted and there are some issues and limitations with touch as not all objects are accessible to feel, which makes it difficult to perceive the actual object. Another limiting factor is that the learning process of identifying objects with touch is much slower than identifying objects with sight. This is due to the fact the object needs to be approached and carefully felt until a rough idea can be constructed in the brain.

Certain smells can be associated with specific areas and help a person with vision problems to remember a familiar area and in this way there is a better chance of recognizing an area's layout in order to navigate themselves through and the same can be said for people as well. Some people have their own special odor that a person with a more trained sense of smell can pick up and a person with an impairment of their vision can use this to recognize people within their vicinity without them saying a word.

How many people in India are both deaf and blind?
95 percent of what we learn is through our eyes and ears. Imagine what it is like to be deafblind. Deafblindness is a unique disability that combines varying degrees of both hearing and visual impairment. All individuals who are deafblind experience extreme challenges with communication and mobility and most have additional physical and medical conditions.

Persons with deafblindness face neglect and discrimination owing to their inability to communicate and relate to the world. They are thus denied even the basic human rights like education, medical care, amongst other needs that are taken for granted by most of us and there is very little awareness about deafblindness amongst the government, general public and other NGOs working in the area of disability and due to this situation many deafblind children and adults are left without support and even considered severely mentally retarded incorrectly. What most people do not know is that deafblind children and adults can become active members of society if provided with the right care.

Are most blind people fully blind?
Not really. For instance the saying 'Legally blind' meaning that a person has a corrected visual acuity of '20/200' in the better eye and a visual field of less than 20 degrees. 'Total blindness' is not as rare as all that, but it is not common either. Many blind and legally blind persons have some sight, such as the ability to see shapes and colors, but without enough clarity to read. Others might see clearly and sharply, but only a tiny pinhole of vision, so that they must read if they can one and some can only see faint shadows of grey on black with only vague light perception.

An explanation of the numbers here where '20/20' is normal vision and you can see, at 6.1 meters, what nearly everybody can at 6.1 meters. '20/200' means that what normally sighted persons can see at 60.1 meters away, a person with disabilities must get up to twenty feet to see. You might be able to read a street sign at the end of the street from the other end, a person with disabilities need to get up to the base of the pole the sign is on.

There is also 'Prosopagnosia' or 'Face blindness' it is believed that it is caused by an injury to the brain or a blind infant passing the window of time in which they learn to recognize faces. As a newborn, one can spent two months or more sealed in an incubator, with masked nurses caring for the blind person and there is a neurological learning window of time in which an infant learns that two dots, a line and a curved line are a face and they learn that faces represent people. So there are as many differences in blindness, legal blindness and impaired vision, as you can imagine.

See this video about Mazgaon in Mumbai made by All I Think About.

The photographer's own experience of taking such photographs
"- Taking these photographs requires more than just technical skill. It requires a deep understanding of the hardships that people living in poverty face and an ability to tell their story through the lens. Photographers often feel an intense mix of emotions when taking poverty photographs in India. They can feel shock and sadness at the reality of what they are seeing, coupled with a sense of responsibility to capture these realities as accurately and compassionately as possible. At the same time, these photographs can be uplifting and inspiring because at the same time, I also experience a sense of pride and admiration for these individuals who continue to fight and strive despite their hardships. I'm humbled by their strength and resilience and inspired by their courage. It's impossible to walk away from these situations without a sense of respect for the human spirit", the Photographer says.

"- The struggles that a photographer may witness can often be counteracted by the strength and dignity of those living in poverty – stories of hope and resilience that remind us of the potential of the human spiri
, the Photographer says again.

Read also:  Blind people of India

Blind people of India

Read also:  Blind people of India

More archive stories

India is a land full of stories. On every street, on every corner and in the many places in India, life is rushing by you as a photographer with millions of stories to be told. In the archive story above, you hopefully had a readable insight in the story that was behind the photo of a blind beggar in Mumbai. On this website of Kristian Bertel | Photography you can find numerous travel pictures from the photographer. Stories and moments that tell the travel stories of how the photographer captured the specific scene that you see in the picture. The photographer's images have a story behind them, images that all are taken from around India throughout his photo journeys. The archive stories delve into Kristian's personal archive to reveal never-before-seen, including portraits and landscapes beautifully produced snapshots from various travel assignments. The archive is so-far organized into photo stories, this one included, each brought to life by narrative text and full-color photos. Together, these fascinating stories tell a story about the life in India. India, the motherland to many people around the world, a land of unforgetable travel moments. The archive takes viewers on a spectacular visual journey through some of the most stunning photographs to be found in the photographer's archive collection. The photographer culled the images to reflect the many variations on the universal theme of beauty and everyday life in India. By adding these back stories the photographer's work might immensely enhanced the understanding of the photographs.