I was once sitting at a café in Bangsar and just before my husband walked in, I saw him passing some money to a blind man on the pavement. The waiter serving me said, “Oh, it’s probably a syndicate. He should not give him anything”.
Of course, I’ve heard about the syndicates but it’s a tough one. The kid or “blind” person that comes up to you must be leading a pretty hard life to be begging on the streets to begin with.
If the authorities wanted to close them down, they need to be getting to their bosses who are probably sitting back somewhere, leading a very comfortable existence off their “minions” doing all the dirty work.
But what if the man my husband saw was genuinely blind, which I later found out to be absolutely the case?
What is worrying is if everyone adopted the attitude that these unfortunate people were all a part of a syndicate, what would happen to those in real need?
Would people just walk past them as though they didn’t exist or avoid them on the pavement as if they were the plague?
Believe it or not, just a few days later, I saw the same blind man walking across the street. It was during rush hour and it was totally chaotic. I’m sure he felt it with every step he took.
There were cars honking and motorbikes squeezing in between car lanes to get ahead in this traffic jam. At a time like this, it could make anyone nervous crossing the road, even with their eyes wide open.
My heart went out to him because he could not move any faster. He was using his walking stick every step of the way until he finally managed to make it to the other side.
I wondered how it must be to literally live in the dark, day after day. It must be scary to be hearing the buzz of a city around you and all its impatience hoping you wouldn’t collide into anything, or get hurt.
Just as he was feeling the edge of the road to step up onto the pavement, I breathed a sigh of relief that he had made it safely to the other side.
When I was making my way to the car park an hour later, I noticed the same blind man waiting at the empty taxi stand. I wondered how long he had been standing there.
He was just lifting his hand at the sound of a car approaching but the taxi drove past without stopping. I felt compelled to approach him and when I stood next to him, he sensed my presence even before I said hello.
He said, “Is someone there? Can you please help me to get a taxi? I’ve been waiting here for a long time but still no taxis.”
The harsh reality is they had come and gone, not wanting to take him. “Sure, I’ll find you a taxi. In fact, there’s one coming right now. I’ll go and talk to him.”
The taxi driver said he was not familiar with the area, and smiled apologetically and drove off.
The following taxi driver refused outright saying, “Sorry, I cannot take him” and the next one said he wouldn’t know how to get to his house and it was too “difficult”.
I stood there for another five more minutes until a chauffeur waiting for his boss on the sidewalk said to me: “I used to be a taxi driver. Believe me, they know the area. They’re just making excuses. They don’t want to take him because he’s blind and they also doubt he has the money.”
I asked this chauffeur to ask the man in Tamil for me, since his English was limited, if he had enough cash to get back home and the blind man said he did.
To be fair, he did not look like he had much at all, so I passed him some money just in case.
This was not someone who was a part of a syndicate. He never once asked me for any cash in all that time I spent standing next to him and updating him on the taxi situation. He simply wanted to get back home.
It was so frustrating that this poor man could not seem to get a ride. When the next taxi showed up, I proactively assured the driver he had enough cash to return home and to please take my “friend” back because he was tired and had been waiting for more than an hour.
Thankfully, this driver agreed and the blind man looked in the general direction of where I was standing to say, “thank you” and then was finally on his way.
It was a reality check for me to note that no matter how tough or challenging my day gets, it’s nothing compared to what that blind man goes through on a daily basis.
It was a reminder that I should focus on my many blessings. I truly hope people will reach out more to those less fortunate than us. They may not need your money but they could definitely do with a helping hand.
Jojo Struys is the founder of OhanaJo Studio which is home to over 75 livestream and on-demand yoga, mindfulness, meditation and sound healing sessions every month. They recently re-opened on ground. You can access their online free trial or book their deeply relaxing sessions on www.ohanajo.com.