A Unique Time To Be A Tourist in Your Home Town

Where have all the beggars gone, long time missing? Maybe the way of the tourist trinket shops.

It’s a sadly unique time to be a tourist. The streets are empty in a way that one just would not have imagined. Normally, over 60 million tourists visit Italy. Due to the pandemic, not only the international, but also the intra-country tourists, are not here. Just the Romans.

I went to the Trevi Fountain and was one of three tourists. Not that there were no people there — there were. But they were working. I went to the Pantheon (well, to the square, as the Pantheon is closed), and finally got begged from. But only from two beggars. I also wonder where the pickpockets go during this time. I did not see any of them either.

At Piazza Navona (the big rectangular one with the three fountains), I finally saw more people. Once the tourists come back, I can imagine that this square will be wall to wall with people. As it was, there were only a few hawkers and they were not too aggressive. One greeted me with a phrase from the Lion King, which did catch my attention. But, in general, the hawkers seemed fairly listless, as they saw no reason to make much effort when there are no cash cows in town. Who knew that one would miss being milked?

Beggars In Bangladesh – A Reality of Life in Dhaka

This is part of Dhaka traffic.
This is part of Dhaka traffic.

Beggars are part of daily life in Dhaka, as they are in India. They are on every street, often with missing limbs, physical deformities, and naked babies hanging from their arm. Many foreigners feel sad and uncomfortable by the presence of beggars. For many expats, the hardest part is when out and about in town. When sitting in traffic (which is a huge part of life in Dhaka), the beggars will hobble their way through the traffic. They will tap on your car window. Sometimes they bring hungry babies to the car. Sometimes, they make eating motions with their hands. If you walk in Dhaka, the beggars may touch your arm and some may follow you. Usually, a guard or policeman (almost every building in the expat areas has a guard and there are uniformed police everywhere) will shoo away the beggars. During Ramadan, the number of beggars surges in Dhaka because they come to where the money is and because part of the Ramadan tradition is for people to give charity (called Eidy). There are many children beggars and articles have been written about how these children are part of gangs run by pimps and that giving money to these children perpetuates the situation. One thing is for sure, if you give anyone money (buying the beggar child’s stickers — a common device), they will remember you for all the rest of your days in Dhaka. When expats roll down their window or keep the door open to give money to the beggars, the beggars will make it difficult to roll the window up or close the door. Sometimes, the beggar will hang on to your leg and not let go even when you walk away. This adds a disconcerting element to an already uncomfortable situation for many expats. The beggars have no time for fear.

Every time the car stops in traffic, this will happen.
Every time the car stops in traffic, this will happen.

If the beggars are hard to handle, you can get tinted windows for the car. Or you can learn to ignore it. The more you ignore the beggars, the quicker they will move on. And never make eye contact.

Even the Bangladeshis get hit up for money.
Even the Bangladeshis get hit up for money.

Normally I don’t take photos of them but I took a few for this blog posting (though not of the countless mangled children).

On the Road to Agra

Like millions before, we rented a car with driver for a ride to see the Taj Mahal. 10,000 rupees for the joy of six hours down, pit stop at McDonalds, a guide, eight hours back with pit stop at Moghul style restaurant…. going down was an adventure with a dickey wheel and a taste of the angry side of panhandling. On the border to Utter Pradesh, where our driver had to get out to pay some border tax, I snapped a photo of the monkey. Then the handler banged on the window and yelled at me for five minutes and rattled the door of the car.

Monkey and handler eye next prey.

Later on, within 40 kilometers of Agra, our tire blew. So we stopped for a pleasant cup of tea with some locals while our tire got fixed. One man manually changed the tire while eight watched him.

Do the monks deliver fresh tires?