"Malaysia Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and the Sultan of Johor are seen in a blue Proton Saga... "When asked whether there is any tension with the sultan, Dr Mahathir said: “No, I don’t see anything because I went to see him and he drove me to the airport. I don’t want to comment on the sultans because if I say anything that is not good then it’s not nice because he is the sultan”"

Get email updates of new posts:        (Delivered by FeedBurner)

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Watching the World Cup in Lebanon / Gypsy Scams

BBC Radio 4 - From Our Own Correspondent Podcast, Watching the World Cup

"Football fandom here seems to supplant the place of Lebanon's other national obsession - politics. The same rituals, the flags, the motorcades, the fireworks, even the volleys of celebratory gunfire, they are all political at any other time of the year... during the World Cup, the usually omnipresent yellow flag of Hezbollah, with an AK-47 rifle and bayonet across it, is overwhelmed by the green and yellow of Brazil for a short time...

Lebanon's domestic football teams, much like a lot of things here, are affiliated with and funded by political parties. Their fans used to fight so much that the country banned the public from attending games for years... the World Cup is one of the few things that works to blur these entrenched sectarian boundaries here. Neighborhoods that are usually monolithic in their political and team allegiances become awash with the colours of different nations...

This is Pushkar's Gypsy camp... Dev approaches me.. Dev is what we might call a reformed trickster. Raised as a street scammer from a young age, he's now traded in his tricks to focus on traditional gypsy arts, like performing music, snake charming and magic. He sits cross-legged gripping his dusty feet and recalls a story from his childhood.

I was a beggar. But in a clever way he tells me. I was 8 or 9 years old, I would ask tourists for one chappati, one chappati. It's very cheap for one piece of bread, maybe five or ten rupees. No one would refuse. When they agreed... I walk them to the bakery. There the baker makes a bill for flour and salt. Much more expensive than the real price and the tourists for about one thousand rupees. Sometimes they pay, but most of the time they refuse and say it's too much, but instead they would give me 200 or 500 rupees instead of five or ten rupees. I did this to 15 or more people a day and I made so much money. Sneaky, I think. I recall many kids approaching me asking the same...

The gypsy women with tiny babies clinging onto their hips, he tells me. They'll say hi, ask your name and don't ask for anything more than to practice their English. They'll tell you they're happy and become your friend, then a few days later, they'll find you and things are not so good. Their baby will be sick and needs medicine. Most people want to help and offer to buy medicine instead of giving money. So then she'll take you to the medical store, where the pharmacy charges you three times the price of the medicine. When you've gone she'll take the medicine back and the money is shared between the pharmacist and the Gypsy...

We gypsy people, we understand tourists he brags. I can tell from the back of you, which country you're from. And find what your weak spot is. For girls, I'll tell them my dad beats me. For older people I'll say my parents died. If I meet you, I can see you have an interest in culture, I would say hello a few times in the market. We'll become friends. You meet my wife, drink chai, we'd show you pictures, any story to be friends. Eventually, we tell you there's a problem, we need money for the hospital.

You're unlikely to refuse.

So why did you change? I ask him, he looks down. Because I want to be a good person. Dev takes me to an unofficial school he set up in the camp to help other families break this cycle. It's giving gypsy people a bad name, he says...

A few days later I see Sonia in the market, she tells me her baby is sick and asks me to go to the pharmacy with her. I ask her about what I now know she looks down and laughs. I offered to buy her some chai and bananas instead which she happily accepts and we sit by the lake chatting, with her baby giggling."
blog comments powered by Disqus
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Latest posts (which you might not see on this page)

powered by Blogger | WordPress by Newwpthemes