"Need glasses" scam?

#1 Oct 19th, 2007, 07:29
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  • proxyindian is offline
#1
When we were in Jaisalmer for five days, we got to know the cook and his 16-year-old assistant at the hotel next door. They were very nice to us. When John was taking a cooking class, he removed his glasses because that kitchen was a broiler. The assistant and I were sitting at a table and he put on John's glasses, looked around and said, "So clear." I let him try on mine, which are rather strong, and he enjoyed how weird things looked.

I asked him if he needed glasses and he said "Yes." I wasn't actually offering to buy him any, I was just asking about his vision.

Actually, it didn't occur to me that he'd never be able to pay for glasses on his own, and I don't think that he ever will... Alas, he can't even read apart from the words that relate to the camel safaris he gets people to go on. Now I'm slapping my head and thinking "Why didn't you take him to get glasses?"

Of course, he and the cook struck us as con-artists because they had many exciting and fun schemes to make money from us, and apart from the cooking class and over-priced spices, we didin't give in. Still, we enjoyed our time with them very much... they always made things pleasant, they sang Bollywood songs to us with the radio, kept Kingfishers handy... I mean, they gave us a lot of attention.

Anothe piece of information that you should know: That assistant is one of those touts who hang out at the top of the gate. So we just never were sure on the sincerity... but they still made our stay in that town more pleasant than it would have been.

Now that I've told you all that I'm wondering this: Should I have bought the glasses or do you think he just wanted to sell them? Just because someone is a tout doesn't mean they only want money from you, does it?
#2 Oct 19th, 2007, 09:47
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#2
I would like to add, Just because someone is tout doesn't mean he is a cheat or con artist ..after all he is trying to sell at best possible price..and don't we all do it at some stage in life..
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#3 Oct 19th, 2007, 09:58
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Originally Posted by proxyindian View Post Should I have bought the glasses or do you think he just wanted to sell them?
My honest advice is once you make that decision, it's not up to you to judge what s/he does with it. No one asks you to defend what you do with your daily earnings, right.

Yes, I suppose taking them to the local optician's would have been nice. Then again I can think of many many similar occasions where I felt tempted but declined. You're no worse person for it; but it's this "what will they do with my gift" thing that maybe we need to drop first. A gift is a gift, that's it.

& Agree with Shashank btw: Touting's just another job, usually an honest one, us Westerners tend to be overstressed about the possibility of being "ripped off." It's instructive to observe how Indians deal with it, much more realistically and pragmatically, and making use of their services as and when the occasion arises. They're just intermediators, you pay for the luxury of having them do your work, if you want to do it yourself, then you don't need to use them.
#4 Oct 19th, 2007, 10:13
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A gift is a gift, that's it.
That's plain and simple! To the point! I liked that.
But I must confess I do tend to think on the lines of Proxy. When giving something to the kids I think about
1. Environment.....If i give chocolates with plastic cover they may not dispose it in the right way(if ever there is any) so I have to think on what to give.
2. Giving some gifts to the kids present might create problems with the ones who missed it. It might lead to fights among themselves later.
3. I thought of wrist watches but then what about the batteries once the one inside runs out....

blah blah blah

Phew! Sometimes I think I(we) think a lot .
a'mar kono chinta nei
#5 Oct 19th, 2007, 10:27
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Originally Posted by amyl View Post Phew! Sometimes I think I(we) think a lot .
Yes, we do

Quote:
1. Environment.....If i give chocolates with plastic cover they may not dispose it in the right way(if ever there is any) so I have to think on what to give.
It's an issue, yes. So try to give something disposable, not too hard in India, or not when I was there (I guess plastic's ever on the increase).

Quote:
2. Giving some gifts to the kids present might create problems with the ones who missed it. It might lead to fights among themselves later.
Probably, and it's good to think about. As in the above, too, though, does it beat giving nothing?

I took beggar kids to restaurants, could see their mothers waiting outside waiting for the leftovers. Next time I'll be sure to have some extra portions made, or invite them in, or go visit them, or... I don't know. All this takes time and patience, that's for sure, figuring out what is acceptable and what not, etc.

Quote:
3. I thought of wrist watches but then what about the batteries once the one inside runs out....
How's about good old non-battery ones? What's that in English, wind-up ones?
#6 Oct 19th, 2007, 15:18
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#6
Watches:

We bought a child watch for 50 rs for our son in 2005. Its still works!

Hans

Tips for trips to India with (young) children: India with kids
Our travel blog (mostly in Dutch): Reisfamilie
#7 Oct 19th, 2007, 16:44
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#7
You're all right. "A gift is a gift." I should have done more and it would have made me feel good.... However, being in India was so packed with activity and thoughts and emotions that this buying glasses thing didn't occur to me until after the fact....

My dull-wittedness and stinginess are to both to be blamed here. Hope I can learn from it.
#8 Oct 19th, 2007, 16:55
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I wouldn't worry too much over this one, Proxyindian. If glasses are really necessary he will find a way to get them - they are very cheap at local opticians. Giving to children - bananas are one of the most nutritious, easy to give foods to children. And they are non-polluting, animals will eat the skins. Better to give something like this, not money.
Every cloud has a silver lining!
#9 Oct 19th, 2007, 21:49
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most nutritious, easy to give foods
yea I have learned that. I gave up on the ideas of watches, small toys(might be expensive and logistically ummmmm a lil difficult), clothes, books. Now my all time favorite way to bring the most smiles is.... whenever you see a chance where you can give something to kids.... either take them along to the local sweet shop and ask them to get whatever they want (of course, a little thoughtful offer depending on the situation is necessary) or just walk to the shop yourself and buy in bulk, estimating the kids you see around. This way not only the kids are having a ball on some sweets the local shop keeper also gives a big smile on his/her good sell that day. At a village near my hometown back in India, the lady shopkeeper was all agape when I asked for 40 sweet items to distribute it at the nearby primary school. She was certainly happy the rest of the day . Besides all these, it also gives the kids a chance to have their choice of sweet or whatever. But yes..I felt it necessary to take permission of the school teacher if I can give some sweets to her pupils.
#10 Oct 20th, 2007, 01:09
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#10
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Originally Posted by proxyindian View Post My dull-wittedness and stinginess are to both to be blamed here. Hope I can learn from it.
Nah, at least you think about it, many never do.

It's easy for me to make it sound easy, but I'm speaking in hindsight some 10 years after the fact & from the comfort of my desktop. In reality, it never was (easy). Yes, you are inundated by pesky types; handing out to honest beggars there will always be more mouths to feed than you can muster (those waiting mothers above); besides, you're constantly beset by how to act, what to do, figuring out who's a scamster if you can at all, etc. etc., and in all of this you usually need to be swift in your decisions to boot. No, it isn't easy.

Dealing with beggars I found impossible in the metros anyway, and my only solution was to completely and utterly ignore them, hard enough in itself to learn. I mean arrogantly (and let's admit it, pale-facedly, or in my case at least, and consequently rich no matter what my income) ignoring someone throwing his leprose stump of an arm in your face doesn't come naturally to me, I'd rather build them a home then and there.

In smaller places, it gets easier; there's less pressure, far fewer of them anyway, and the feeling that the ones who are there are "legit" so to speak comes much more easily.

A very simple example is observing how Indians deal with beggars (btw let's not get this mixed up here, the original question was about giving a tout an extra, which is an entirely different class of people and a whole different ballgame -- the two get too easily mixed up here I think), and I've said this many times before, is they (or the willing types) will just keep some small change at the ready, hand this out to a couple of folks at the start of each day, and when it's finished that's it for the day. They don't make a fuss of it either, nor accept any crap for it. I guess it's a working system, as long as enough people participate.

Now as a visitor this is far less easily copied than might seem. First of all, you don't want to show your wallet doing this, so you'd preferably need to wear something like a shirt with a breast pocket, something I don't regularly do (the change will roll out of your light cotton trouser pockets when sitting down). Secondly, it's easy to have spent all that change on cups of chai and so on before those street musicians and whatnot (train scenario, and again, they're not beggars) hop on. Thirdly, you very well may be cursed indeed for giving just a few paisa, something you'll just have to accept, although again in the metros people may get very adamant about this. Most importantly, I'd often feel ashamed for giving too little no matter what I did -- only to give nothing at all as a result. (In view of the above, a silly reaction of course.)

So in short, my only resolve is to a next time try to emulate said system better. And no, it isn't easy. That scene of Jesus being accosted by a leper colony, far more than he can handle, often becomes all too real there. And a goodie two-shoes I'm no more than the next person.
#11 Oct 22nd, 2007, 15:23
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#11
To the original OP.... if you are feeling guilty that you did not buy him the glasses.... you neednt at all.
glasses can be puchased very cheaply in India. A doctor in a govt hospital will give you a prescription for free and you can buy a cheap specs for as less as 100 to 150 rupees (I have one like this for spare).... so if this person really needed it he could afford it.
#12 Oct 23rd, 2007, 02:29
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#12
Well, I'm not really feeling guilty any more about not buying the glasses for Johnny. However, I think we were too stingy with two of the guys who gave us the most enjoyment on our trip.... especially when I think about that doorman at whatever palace hotel who wanted 100 Rupees after he'd asked to be photographed (He only occupied 10 seconds of our time and we got a not very good picture). I wish that we'd been more open pocketed with those people who hung out with us.

My partner says that when we send them the pictures we took of them that we should send them some of the Rupee notes we left India with. Only thing is, they live on the rooftop restaurant of the hotel they work in. Is there any way to know if the money gets to them or is pocketed by the hotel owner? They are barely literate (I asked about education) so I don't know how to send any other communication other than through the hotel.

Any ideas or suggestions? Are we being foolish? I think I'm going to have to just rely on faith. I want to do what is right to make amends for what I failed to do then.
#13 Oct 23rd, 2007, 10:07
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#13
Proxyindian if you send rupee notes they will not reach the people concerned. They will be stolen en route. Don't even consider it - also you have had your thoughts about what you did, next time you come to India you will be a little wiser and maybe a little more generous where it is appropriate. Most good hotel owners will distribute money to their employees if it is given to them, but some won't. Some places will have a tips box at the counter, this is good - money is given and shared to all - whilst you have some who stand out, there are many poor people working behind the scenes who have no benefit like this because they are shy, quiet hardworking people and do not have the personality to engage with travellers. These are the people who also need some small 'gift' to supplement their meagre wage.
My advice is not to do this thing to make you feel better - the people here live from day to day, they are not going to be concerned with how you think or feel now. If you feel you must do something give it to a charitable organisation e.g. World Vision which I know does good things and uses your money wisely.
#14 Oct 23rd, 2007, 19:12
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#14
Aishah,
You're probably right. I thought it wouldn't reach the persons of concern. And as if to answer my concern about what to do, yesterday I got a catolog in the mail from an organization called Heifer International, which we'd neve heard of before and don't know how we got on their mailing list. They help villagers around the world by giving them farm animals. We decided to sponser a goat for a village family.

And next time we're in India, we'll be better folk.
#15 Oct 23rd, 2007, 20:27
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#15
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Are we being foolish? I think I'm going to have to just rely on faith.
Not foolish, but Amylish. Oh boy, sometimes I eat myself up on thinking about such things...never tried to send/give money indirectly to someone like your guys in this case but when trying to donate money for children, rehab programs and the likes... will it really reach the needy ones??? Or will it be taken by the suckers involved in the chain At times I end up not giving out a penny. But I think ultimately we have to do some research and use the most 'reliable' channel and rest our feelings on sheer faith, as you intend to do here.

But in our willingness to bring some comfort/smile in someone's life I think it wud be best to give them the right to choose than we deciding on what to give. You/I would think he needs glasses so as to read properly but for him some extra money might be more important so it wud be more advisable to give me the glasses worth of money than glasses. Now of course, we cannot have a say on what is important for him/her. Let him/her take the pick. As I am typing this I am getting a feeling that this wud be the best way to please someone we come across while traveling around (according to me i.e.) - Give him/her the freedom to choose!

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