A friend of mine from a leprosy colony in S. India was married recently and I attended the reception in the colony. As we sat in rows at narrow trestle tables set up along the road near her home I noticed amongst the other guests a woman I did not recognise who seemed to be dressed very well. The bride’s brother said she is my mother’s “friend”. I was later introduced to her and was told that when my friend’s Mum went begging in Mumbai the lady would see her each morning on her way back from dropping her own son to school. Over the years they looked out for each other and stopped to talk and share their stories. As my friend and her siblings grew up, so did the son of the lady. She helped with some of the family school expenses and now she had travelled all the way across India from the west coast, to the east coast, to attend the wedding, bringing with her a gorgeous sari for the bride’s Mum.
Hinduism places the giving of alms high on the list of duties of a Hindu but there is no suggestion that the giver need get to know the beggar and usually the coins are put in the begging bowl with barely a look at the person begging. In this case the story is startlingly different and is both inspirational and encouraging.