In 21st-century India's Silicon Valley.
It was only after adopting the lifestyle of a meditating mendicant that the prince Siddhartha achieved enlightenment. Those were the days when kidnapping of children was unknown and strangers were not eyed with suspicion, especially beggars.
Some 2,540 years after Siddhartha achieved enlightenment and became the Buddha after partaking of a bowl of kheer provided by a village woman and then sitting under a bodh tree to meditate, seven men and women, who went around the country’s Silicon Valley seeking alms as part of an Art of Living programme, were beaten up last Saturday in the Bangalore colony of BTM Layout by local residents who mistook them for child-traffickers.
The beating, says the Bangalore Mirror, stopped only when the police arrived and the beggars showed a letter indicating that they were part of a 21-day programme called the Buddha Process, organised by the Art of Living ashram. Those participating in this programme were dressed in rags, in keeping with the saying that clothes make the man.
Johnny Cash once wrote a song about how Jesus would have fared if he had walked around America of the 1960s when the cops tended to crack down on longhaired hippies: Mark Twain wrote a novel set in medieval England, where the prince and heir to the throne was kicked around by the gateman at his palace shortly after he swapped clothes with a pauper who looked very much like him.
Arthur Conan Doyle wrote a short story about how a gentleman in 19th century England discovered that he could earn much more money by begging in rags and looked so much like a beggar that even his wife could not recognise him without the help of no less a master than Sherlock Holmes.
And George Orwell’s book, Down and Out in Paris and London, narrates his attempt to live the life of a destitute in Europe of the 1930s. Beggars can’t be choosers, the old saying goes. In today’s India, choosers can’t be beggars!
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