In some ways, India can be a much crueller society than those of Africa.

On Sunday, I was in Mumbai visiting the Haji Ali Dargah mosque, located on an island just off the coast in the south of the city.

As I walked along the causeway linking the islet to the mainland, I must have passed nearly 50 beggars, many with various deformities and almost all in a desperate state of poverty. There was an even space between each of them, in the same manner that market stalls would be laid out.

Thirty minutes later I walked back along the same causeway and they were all gone.

At the start of my journey back, I saw two policeman – a man and a woman. The woman was looking fierce and determined. The man was kicking newspaper and cardboard, which the beggars had been using as makeshift seats, into the sea; this is what is pictured above.

The beggars had all been successfully removed from their perches, to a place where they wouldn’t offend the sensitivity of any passing tourists.

This must happen on a regular basis.

During my five days in Mumbai, this is the scene that stuck most in my head and deeply saddened me – but it was so upsetting mostly because it was emblematic of India’s wider poverty problem.

It seems that, if you are disabled, deformed or desperately poor, you are all but forgotten by society. The cast system, something about India I’ve never been able to properly appreciate, simply makes things worse: if you are at the bottom of the pecking order, then you simply have to live with that. Everyone has their own place in society. But somehow this just doesn’t seem right.

I love India. But the poverty, desperation and unhappiness is deeply troubling.

Of course, Africa has many of the same problems. But through the poverty and hardship, you’re never really alone in Africa. At least not in the same way.


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