Beggars don't want your change

An elderly beggar threw back the coins I gave him and walked off in disgust. Was he really in need?

Shazia Yousuf March 20, 2011
From what I learnt during lessons at school, I was pretty certain that "beggars can’t be choosers". If beggars could choose, this idiom would lose its essence and we would have to come up with a modified version.

But the following incident made me rethink this saying.

One day, I was at Naheed Super Market running some errands. I was carrying a small amount of cash with me, just enough for the stuff I had to buy. When I was done, I was left with a few coins worth -- only about Rs7. I usually keep these coins in a special coin pouch and use them to give to my driver to buy roti for him from the tandoor since he is usually not too fond of returning change.

Coming back to the story, as I came out of Naheed Supermarket, I started walking towards my car. That walk is usually not an unaccompanied walk, for there are quite a few beggars right outside the supermarket.

I was followed by an elderly man. Since this man was quite aged, and I had quite a few bags in my hand, I felt bad not responding to his request for help. I wanted to give him something. So I took out my coin pouch and handed over all the coins I had.

To my sheer amazement, he looked at the coins and started saying things to me with great disgust.

I was a bit taken aback. I felt bad and politely tried telling him that it was all I had at the time. But he did not stop and just kept cursing me. I was totally put off by his attitude but keeping my cool, I told him to return the coins if he didn't find them useful.

At that very instant, he threw the coins inside the car through the open window and walked away mumbling. I was extremely shocked!

If he really had been in need, even a single coin would have been a blessing for him. But it seemed that he was there for a big business deal - not just to collect a few ‘worthless’ coins!

This incident changed my entire perspective on the beggars in our country. They have opted for the easier way to earn a living. But when money is not earned through hard work, it loses its value.

I’m sure it is not easy to stand in the sun all day and beg. But I feel obliged to rephrase the above idiom. The local version should rather be:
"Desi beggars have the freedom to choose"
Shazia Yousuf A software engineer who blogs at
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.


farmer | 13 years ago | Reply don’t bring poor islam into it- these are not beggars they are hustlers@ali:
imtiaz | 13 years ago | Reply i give only to those beggars who are physically unfit.
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