Tuesday, January 5, 2016


It was first day of January of 2016. I was at the bus stop to drop a friend off. It was almost 2 pm and there was no sight of the bus. I saw a familiar lashing sound along with the drum beats. I saw a  Potraj mother and child passing by the shops.The child, smeared in turmeric and kumkum, wearing colorful rags was whipping himself. His mother, with another baby on her back, was beating a small dhol.
The child, who was barely 6 or 7 years old came to ask me money after it finished the regular whipping show. I asked him if it hurts and he smiled back saying a big"No". I  have always wondered how whipping with such intensity doesn't hurt and why must one resort to such torture to get alms. India has some strange customs like Devdasi, Potraj which are regressive. I normally wouldn't give money but this time I did. I dug into my bag and gave him a 10 rupee note. The child's face broke into a super lovely smile. He took the note, took to his lips and did a lovely flying kiss with it and that too with such ecstasy that I was completely unprepared for. No beggar ever, ever has done this . Me and my friend, both burst out laughing at his cheeky cuteness.That smile and that gesture stayed with us through the day.

Thank you, child, wherever you are for making my day special. I am grateful to you!

Note: The Potraj are a fast vanishing tribe that hail from the Western state of Maharashtra. They are worshipers of a goddess that is referred to as ‘Kadak Lakshmi’.
The Potraj are nomads who get alms for displaying what must be an extremely grueling profession. The women balance a small platform with their deity perched on their heads and play a drum to a foot-tapping beat while the men dance, twirl and smack themselves with heavy whips made out of woven coir or leather. The whips may weigh in the region of 10 kg (22 lbs) each and are knotted for added measure and land on the backs of these performers with a resounding ‘thwack’. Children are thrust into this profession at a very early age so that they may grow up and be able to bear the crack of the whip on their backs. Young boys may start as early as the age of six with lighter whips till they reach puberty and their teens and graduate to the heavier ones. Apart from the gruelling treks between cities, nights spent exposed to the elements, unrelenting sun above their heads the entire day and the unforgiving rope whip on their backs, the members end up living a hand to mouth existence on what can only be described as meager charity.


  1. Earlier i was also giving small notes / coins to small children who are begging on street. But when i learnt that i was indirectly helping the child to become a begger when grownup, i stopped giving the notes. Instead i, when i feel such emotion i put the amount in kitty bank and a lumpsum amount give to an organization that helps to teach such small kids / children. I shared my views if it has hurts your feelings directly or indirectly Sorry. Regards - raja sanglikar (Don't give fish, teach fishing)

  2. I agree with you, I also had similar view earlier . off late I think that Little money may get that child a meal. As I know whatever I do that child will not move out of that profession. And no I dont think you have hurt me by any comments. So no worries there.