I don’t have a picture of the tiny girl who followed me for a long way in Bombay in December 1983. Her motive wasn’t to have her picture taken, as it always was with the children in the villages.
I felt a tug at my kurta and looked behind me. She must have been about four. She looked up at me with big round eyes and said, “Das paise?”
Das paise means ten paise – one tenth of a rupee. Even in 1983 that was very little, but not absolutely nothing.
I didn’t want to give her das paise, because firstly I knew it would go to her big brother or someone like that, not to her, and secondly I’d end up being pestered by every beggar in Bombay. So I said, “Jao”, which means “go away”. She followed me, tugging at my kurta and saying, “Das paise?” – for about two miles. At that point I came across a chap selling oranges on the street – so I bought half a dozen, and gave her one. That didn’t go to her minder – she ate it there and then. You should have seen her face; it will stay with me forever.
See Take Our Photo! I for one of those village children who wanted her photo taken.
This behaviour even extends to adults – or still did in 2005, things may be changing – see Take Our Photo! II.