In this hundred and twentieth first archive story by Kristian Bertel, we are photographing a pen begging child in Mumbai, Maharashtra, India. Read the background story of this archive photo by the photographer.
In India children will expect foreigners to hand out free goods to them such a pen and there is another word for this by begging. So one can ask oneself if I am comfortable encouraging begging and if begging is incentivized, children may drop out of school in favor of taking to the streets and collecting goods from foreigners.
In India children will expect foreigners to hand out free goods to them such a pen and there is another word for this by begging. So one can ask oneself if I am comfortable encouraging begging and if begging is incentivized, children may drop out of school in favor of taking to the streets and collecting goods from foreigners.

Pen beggars in India

Like a flock of children, a high-pitched chorus of pen demands rises from the throng and what started out as a emotional moment has ended with you being treated as a human vending machine. So even though a pen is a common writing instrument used to apply ink to a surface, usually paper, for writing or drawing, these pens are actually not good to give to the begging children.


What is a pen beggar?

Like in India there are child beggars or women with a rented child who beg for milk and pens. They bring you to a store to buy one at an inflated price, then return it to the store for cash.


Stop giving pens to children
Here is why you should stop giving pens to children in India and some alternative ways to give to children in the country. Why go to school when you can profit on the streets and these scams emerge where children ask tourists to buy them goods, then return the goods to the shop in exchange for a profit. Either walk silently without seeing them or walk saying a firm 'No' or waving your head or hand. If you really want to give something to the beggars, then give food item you have. Give that and walk away fast. Only a real beggar who wants food will accept this.

With their brown eyes and a blindingly white smile, little school uniform so perfectly pressed and their tiny feet pound the ground as they run toward you, their backpack flapping on their back haphazardly. Other children, noticing you, begin to congregate around your legs and as they look up at you, heads just barely coming up to your belly, you cannot help but smile yourself. You are about to experience the "real" India all those guidebooks talk about. In that moment, the child is the most adorable child in the world. "Pen?", "What is your name? Give me pen!", "No pen? Give me money!"

"800 million people on the subcontinent live in poverty, but giving pens to children in India is a no no for foreign tourists. Though it may seem an innocent act of goodwill, it has some long-lasting repercussions"

India's improved education system is often cited as one of the main contributors to its economic development. Much of the progress, especially in higher education and scientific research, has been credited to various public institutions. While enrollment in higher education has increased steadily over the past decade, reaching a gross enrollment ratio of twentyfour percent in 2013, there still remains a significant distance to catch up with tertiary education enrolment levels of developed nations, a challenge that will be necessary to overcome in order to continue to reap a demographic dividend from India's comparatively young population.

Extreme poverty in India
As a photographer it is a common scene too see throughout India, as well as other countries. Deep-pocketed foreign tourists come in, encounter the most adorable children ever living in less-than-ideal conditions and heartstrings are tugged. The tourists buy them pens, candy, some cheap toys. The children are delighted, the tourists feel like saints. However, that is wrong because though intentions may be good, the repercussions are not because, when beggars easily get money by begging, they do not try to work or even want to work. Instead, they keep growing in numbers. While it can seem heartless, it is usually best to ignore beggars in India and there are so many that even if you want to give them, it is not possible to give to them all so it is a question of survival and this must not be lost sight of.

Begging is a social problem and has to be seen in a holistic manner as there are numerous contributory factors such as poverty, unemployment, disability and migration. Two thirds of the people in India live in poverty almost sicty nine percent of the Indian population have to get by on less than two US dollars a day. Over thirty percent even have less than 1.25 US dollars a day, so these people are considered extremely poor and this makes the Indian subcontinent one of the Poorest countries on earth.

As a country, which is characterized by strong contrasts, has recorded growth rates of up to ten percent over the years and, with a gross domestic product of 1,644 billion US dollars, is one of the largest economies in the world. But only a small proportion of the Indian population has so far benefited from this impressive economic boom, because the majority of the people in India still live in abject poverty. The worst victims of poverty in India are women and children, the weakest links in Indian society that in particular suffer from poverty.

From the village to the slum
More than 800 million people are considered poor in India and most of them live in the country and make their living doing odd jobs. The lack of livelihood jobs in rural areas is driving many Indians to the rapidly growing metropolitan regions such as Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore or Calcutta. Most of them can expect a life marked by poverty and desperation in the mega-slums consisting of millions of corrugated iron huts, without adequate drinking water supply, without garbage disposal and in many cases without electricity. The poor hygienic conditions are the cause of diseases such as cholera, typhus and dysentery, from which children in particular suffer and die.

Read also:  An Indian portrait




Read also:  An Indian portrait

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 child 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.