Open 2022 Vasant Stories - Ranjit Kulkarni


The Begging Girl
By Ranjit Kulkarni


At the red signal, with 76 seconds left for green, he felt someone touch his feet inside the auto rickshaw. He turned to look at his left. A girl in tattered rags, running nose and dishevelled hair stood there with a small board in her hand. It surprised him that she spoke in English. He neglected her and continued fiddling with his phone. He turned his attention to the red signal. 68 seconds still left.

“Sir, give me 50 Rupees, for school fees. Sir. give me thirty rupees, give me anything, Sir,” she said.

He turned his sight back to her. While he read the writing on the board, she continued her begging. “Give me thirty rupees, Sir. Vivekananda School, Sir. Give me anything, Sir,” she pleaded.

The board in her hand had a handwritten note. Looking at his gaze fixed there, she pushed it closer.

“I am da 9 years old. My name is da Shabnam. I study at Vivekananda School in da three standard. I need money to pay da school fee. Please help whatever. Please help da anything.”

Below this notice there were two scribbles. Vijaya 100/-, Murugan 250/- and some initials ahead of them. Then he noticed a scribble over the 250/- in front of Murugan, and 150/- next to it.

He wondered if any of these were real. He looked at the girl’s face. It filled him with mercy. But he questioned if this was a set up. Can never be sure. But giving away something won’t be that bad. The auto rickshaw moved ahead in anticipation of green. It relieved him that he didn’t have to decide anything. He didn’t feel guilty that he hadn’t given her anything. But it stopped at the turn.

He felt a small hand touch his shoes again. The girl turned up again, this time on the right.

“Sir, give me 20 rupees.. anything, give me 1 rupee also, 5 rupees,” she continued pleading.

She peeped inside the rickshaw. He saw her face clearer this time. The hair had a small pleat. An old green ribbon. One of the cheeks was redder than the other. Her eyes were

dark. She continued with her begging. She stole a glance of the red signal outside in front of the auto rickshaw. 22 seconds.
Her look evoked mercy in him again. He decided that this time before the auto rickshaw moves, he should give her something. He removed and opened his wallet. He saw that it had many 500-rupee notes. That was out of question, he decided. The other section of his wallet had the smaller notes. A 200, which he ruled out again. Who knows if those Vijaya and Murugan were real? A 100? That was too much, he reckoned. If she was another of those beggars, who gives a beggar a 100 rupee note?

“Sir, give me 10 rupees.. anything.. give me one rupee,” she said again, this time with a sense of urgency. She peeped out to see the red signal. 9 seconds.

At last, he removed a 10 rupee note from his wallet. Her face brightened up. He saw it light up. And then he took another 10 rupee note, and then another. And another.

He handed her the four notes. The signal countdown hit 2 seconds. The signal turned green.

The auto rickshaw started. He moved ahead. The girl ran away and disappeared from his sight.

“No one gives a begging girl 40 rupees just like that,” he smiled. He felt good about his act.

“No one gives a begging girl 40 rupees just like that,” she smiled. She felt good about her act too.


Ranjit Kulkarni from India is a writer of short stories, articles, and novels. His work has appeared in Literary Yard, Indian Periodical, Academy of the Heart and Mind, Potato Soup Journal, Setu Journal, CC&D Scars, Ariel Chart, ActiveMuse, Anti-Heroin Chic, Grey Thoughts, Kathmandu Tribune, Café Lit, Muse India, Misery Tourism, Scarlet Leaf Review and Writer’s Egg Magazine.


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