Tuesday, March 24, 2009

A Damsel in Distress

(This is supposed to be a 'Manvir Singh' style post)

On tuesday of this week my brother and his family came to visit and see how dad was getting on. Having been to the hospital to see dad we managed to demolish a fair amount of food, including raj mah di dal, rice, mattar paneer, raita, not to mention the sweets, chocolotaes and ice cream afterwards. This was naturally followed by a nice cup of cha (not yogi tea). We then had a short 'kirtan jamming' session, a pretty amateurish affair.

I and my brother (or should it be my brother and I?) decided to pay another visit to the hospital at about 7 o'clock in the evening to see dad. So we drove there, parked in the hospital car park and began walking towards the main hospital entrance.

As we were about to come out of the car park an asian 'girl' (looked like she was in her late 20's) came up to us, obviously in distress (lips quivering, a shake in her voice) and said to us that she had just heard about her husband being involved in an accident in Milton Keynes, and that she was short of £12 for the train fare to get there. She seemed to be in a panic, had her mobile on her, and said we could have her number. Our first impressions were she was in distress and our hearts were saying we should give her the money.

"Another predicament you have put me into, Rab Ji", I thought to myself. Because the ligting in th car park wasn't so good my brother suggested we walk up to entrance and we would see what we could do (I think both our minds were trying to think rapidly wether this was a genuine request, or we were about to be conned). This gave us time to analyse the situation and to ask her some questions as we walked. We learnt that she lived about 15 minutes walk away from the hospital. This made me wonder why she didn't walk home to get the money, especially as it was on the way to the train station.

By the time we'd reached the entrance I felt 95% sure that this was just a ruse to get us to part with our money (a number of times when I had been duped in similar circumstances came to mind). I suggested that we were willing to take her home to enable her to get the money she needed. "Oh no" she replied, "I never keep money in the house, I've been burgled several times." I was even more convinced by now that she wasn't genuine (I could see my brother was still considering giving the money), so I said to my brother (in front of her) that I'd had some bad experiences in similar circumstances, and that I wasn't sure. At this point she very quickly got the point and realised the bait hadn't been taken and left, saying she would never have asked if she wasn't in real need.

"Chalo" I thought, "Rab da Hukam", feeling a little guilty because there was still the tiniest possibility that she might have been genuine.

This could well have been the end of this post, but guess what, Rab Ji had another similar experience in store for me! A few days later I and my sister were leaving the hospital after visiting my dad and this time we were 'accosted' by a middle aged muslim man (I could tell from his Punjabi). "Waheguru", I thought, "am I a magnet for these type of people?". The man displayed a handful coins to us, apolgised profusely for what he was going say, told us about how he often went to the gurudwara and sometimes even had langar, then got to the heart of the matter. Basically he was £1.50 short for something (I can't remember what) and asked if we could spare him the money. His whole performance was well rehearsed and not too unpleasant. My view is that the money was probably to finance his next bottle of alcohol. Having learnt from my recent experience I politely but firmly said I couldn't help him.

I hope I don't become such a hard liner that I fail to recognise and help a genuine person in need. 1/6/06


ਿੲਕ ਿਸੰਘ said...

and i hope you DID NOT! if you did she just made $24 per 5 minutes of performance. that's $24 times 12...*getting the calc.exe*...$288 per hour!!! $288 times 2000 hours=$576,000 per year!

she's was prolly a millionaire! you should've asked her for some money!

Sol had a similar story on his blog a couple of months ago. he ran into the same guy a month later at his "school"...

Happy Gurpurab! Sat Nam!

msingh said...

Thanks for you calculations IK Singh ji, as you can see we did not give her the money in the end.

Hope preperations for your trip to India are going well.

ss said...

It can be tricky this business of giving money as there are so many people ready to abuse and exloit others goodness.

The bad things about trying to be good is all the bad people out there :-)

So how does one decide - well it has to be subjective; but the thing is to realise that there are genuine cases and not to let the bad put you off. Exercising some caution as you did is probably good advise and where possible try and use established charities; giving directly to people in the street is a difficult area.

One other point that occur's to me, I've never heard of an asian woman trying this trick before (I'm naive right!). Oh well! I wonder if she was only picking on other asians?


ਿੲਕ ਿਸੰਘ said...

msingh ji, you ruined the ending for me! your post still says "to be continued"? suggesting there's more to come? anyways my calculations weren't trying to make you feel gullible but instead point out (wether or not you gave her the money) how much she can make in a day. i've seen people just stopping and giving everything in their pockets to people who're asking for money. no questions asked. and there're people like me who never give money (on the street...except for once cuz we were scared)...
well anyways pull chuk maaf karna!

well...on a slightly similar note...went to gurudwara today and my wife made me carry the diaperbag...and after Parshad I pulled my camera phone (sony ericson) out of my pocket and started taking pictures of kids with kirpans infront of the guru...anyways...while eating langar my phone must've slipped out of my pocket...since i had to carry the diaperbag and kheer in the other hand i didn't get a chance to check my pocket...half an hour later went back to the gurudwara and the phone was gone...asked anyone and everyone...checked lost and found...called the phone...why do these people go to gurudwara? how do you justify stealing personal property? i'm so turned off by this...i mean...i've left more valuable stuff at starbucks for godsakes and gotten it back. we're talking about a guru da kar man! as always it's not the camera phone i could care less about that...but what was in the camera (30 pics of my daughter and her momma over the past couple of weeks)...just wanted some guidance from the good cyber sangat!

Sat Nam!

msingh said...

ss I agree that all the dodgy so-called charities and con artists have made the business of giving money pretty difficult. Even with established charities you sometimes learn that a big chunk has been spent on administration and runniing costs. And talking of charities, I think KhalsaAid is great initiative which I would like to be able to support wholeheartedly. But I haven't reached that point yet - I feel I need to find out more until I feel happy with what they are doing and how they spend the money. Many would say I'm being cynical, but there you are, that's how I feel.

ik singh there is still a small 'chapter' to add to this post, that's why it still says "to be continued". Sorry to hear about the phone that went missing from the gurudwara, just serves as a reminder that no matter where you are you have to look after your possesions. Be very carefull when you are travelling in India - I find it ver convenient to wear a cotton vest with a pocket at the chest/stomach area (either you can make the whole vest yoursel, or modify a ready made regular vest) large enough to hold your travellers cheques, cash and pasports. Only carry money enough to do you shopping in your pocket. Don't relax your precautions when visiting Harimadar Sahib - I know many people who had teir money or wallet stolen, including passports.

Came very late from the hospital, it's now 3 in the morning, must get some sleep.


msingh said...

Some of the reasoning why I don't think she was genuine:

- what was she doing in the hospital car park? After all she didn't come by car

- she kept saying that we could have her phone number and was even trying to hand over her mobile in order to convince us she was genuine

- her reply about not keeping money at home because she was scared of being burgled seemed made up on the spot

- she never said what she was doing at Ealing Hospital

- there was a cash machine in the hospital

- when she realised we were not going to give her the money she walked out of the hospital. Why? There were more people here going in and out whom she could have asked if she was really genuine.

I hope we made the right decision.

ਿੲਕ ਿਸੰਘ said...

m-singh ji, thank you for your advice. i'll be sure to take it to heart. i guess i accept and expect that in india because of poverty and need it can make people do all the wrong things but my shock is that it happened HERE.
i guess i'm not cynical enough to be not naive.
and re: your post over here that happens a lot at the "tube"/subway stations. usually a man dressed up in a suit and tie with a briefcase will come up to you and say "i don't have enough money to get home/work...i lost/forgot my wallet..." can you spare me a buck or two. it's really believable cuz that's actually happened to me and others but when it's happened to me i've just gone to the station master and explained the situation and they usually have bunch of fare cards at the lost/found box that they can use. interesting post!

Manvir Singh Khalsa said...

Bhaji I like your writing style (hehehe).

Nah seriously it was good post. Can't wait for the next part.

Its always hard in situations like yours, I now believe that one should go with his or her instinct. Assess each situation individually and do whatever your inside tells you do (after evulating your surroundings etc... that's if there's enough time!)

ਿੲਕ ਿਸੰਘ said...

okay, my faith in total strangers has been restored. my phone was turned in at a phone store near the gurdwara. the guy didn't leave his name though...so sad!!!!!:(

m-singh ji, when i was looking for the phone a guy doing seva told me that there's actually a prayer for looking for lost posessions. he recited it in a gora accent but i was too wrecked to remember(no, it wasn't just the phone...but other things going on...:)) but i didn't forget "SAT NAM WAHE GURU"! but do you know of such a prayer?


msingh said...

Manvir Singh Ji thanks for visiting and for your comments. You are too kind when you say you can't wait for the next part - in truth this only really applies to the posts on your blog (as I said there this one here is only a pale imitation)

Great news IK Singh about finding your phone. Regarding the prayer for finding lost possesions, this is new to me. Maybe something along the lines of "Waheguru Ji kirpa karo, das garib da phone labh javey" ...


ਿੲਕ ਿਸੰਘ said...

lol msingh you're funny! "...das garib..." :)))) HAHAAA!!! honestly i'm going to the same gurudwara again this sunday(oops!! i can't we're doing our own kirtan at another gurdwara for my brother's wedding!)...anyways i'm going to make a point to ask that sevadaar what the shabad was...and ohh another twist to my phone story...the guy who turned in the phone was described as "goofy looking white dude with glasses, no turban, short hair". i don't remember anyone fitting that description at the gurdwara. he said he found it at his "church"...this story's getting weirder and weirder every second...stay tuned (manvir style...eventhough i've never visited manvir's blog...i have a feeling i know what it's all about...)...i think i'm gonna start blogging. no, not cuz i think i'm interesting but because it'll keep me from polluting other people's blogs! ;)

ps re: your comment...if you're nice, you'll always stay nice. i've found that people don't change. your dna doesn't change, you are who you are. trust me you're more likely to be duped by a con artist than duped by a person in real need! :)

Sat Nam!

Manvir Singh Khalsa said...

When I lost my wallet in the University Cafeteria I did Ardaas, "Waheguru, Hope some poor student, who desparately needed the money for a good cause got my wallet. Waheguru Sabh Tere Rang."

All Waheguru's Kallaa (Game).


S.K. said...

It should be my brother and I, I'm quite sure, but then again I could be wrong :p

Veerji, I was faced with a similar situation while waiting to buy a train ticket, this lady was already in the line ahead of me and asked me to spare £2 to attend a funeral--she too looked distressed. I gave her the money in an instant as I was in a rush, but I wonder why she asked me and not the others. Also, I once gave a homeless man an egg sandwich that I picked up by accident, I saw him put it away and continue asking for money.

Hope your dad is feeling better.

Sikhi Seeker said...

I know it could be totally without a reason that you haven't been blogging....
I hope all's well and good in the msingh land.

Guru Fateh!

ss said...

I was thinking much the same - hope all is well and good msingh ji.

msingh said...

s.k., sikhi seeker, ss thanks for your kind thoughts. I've just posted the sad news about my father's death.