A little girl is begging at a crossing. She can’t be too old, around seven or eight and innocently beautiful. Her hair is the unique golden brown that a lot of kids living on the streets have. I think about just how parents elsewhere would want to beautify her and show her off in their friends circle. But she is on the street and trying to earn a living. She has an endearing smile and when she beckons me to lower the car window I do so out of curiosity. She holds up a one dollar bill.
“What is this?” She asks me. I tell her that it’s the currency of a foreign country.
“Hmmm,” She says, bewildered. “Is it far, this country?”
“Very,” I say.
“I cannot go there, so where can I use this?” she asks worriedly.
Jokingly, I tell her, “Not here, for sure”
“Will you go to this country, which is very far away?” She asks, saucer-eyed.
“I don’t know,” I reply, honestly. I tell her to keep it safely because it is worth a lot of Indian money.
She asks, “How much?” A mix of curiosity and excitement in her voice.
“Fifty rupees at least,” I reply, trying to rack my brains as to what the exchange rate might be that morning. I cannot believe the conversation I am having with this little one. But the direction it is taking is pretty clear to me.
She is stunned into silence for a while but the question she wants to ask is hanging heavily in mid-air. Will I buy it off her, this one dollar note and give her fifty rupees? This is how her mind is working, I presume. I wait…
I am caught completely off-guard when she says, ”You keep this, if I take so much money back, the parents of the other children will beat them for not bringing the same amount…..”