He begs -
to help impoverished women marry
Carrying a bowl in his hands, he wanders around barefoot, seeking
alms from people - not for his own survival, but for solemnising
the weddings of impoverished women!
As he sets out bedraggled from a dingy hut for his "family
business" of begging, Narayan Nat finds people lined up, waiting
politely for their turn not only to drop coins into his palm but
also to get their civic and other problems addressed!
Apart from a beggar, Nat now has a new identity - gram pradhan or
village head. The new head of the Shahbarsa village in Uttar
Pradesh's Badaun district - he was elected last month - had never
dreamt of achieving the status he enjoys today.
"It still appears like a dream...I cannot imagine people giving me
respect and talking to me in a polite manner. It's unbelievable,"
Nat, aged around 60 years, told IANS on a mobile phone arranged by
someone in Badaun, some 300 km from Lucknow.
"I still don't know to what extent I will be able to discharge the
duties and the responsibilities that come with the new post. But
believe me, I will make sincere efforts to help the villagers," he
"After all, they (villagers) have made me achieve all this.
Moreover, it was the villagers who till now helped me and my
family survive by giving alms," he added.
But Nat, who is entitled to receive a Rs.1,500 monthly honorarium
fixed for village heads in the state, is in no mood to quit his
"family business" of begging or take up other means for survival.
Like Nat, who is illiterate, all in his family - his wife and
eight children seek alms.
"It's (begging) our family business. From generations we are into
it. I am not going to take up any other medium for survival and
will continue to beg as usual. I have no complaint to the almighty
for making me a beggar. In fact, I am thankful to god as I get
sufficient alms and help from the villagers for survival," said
"I have been told that I will get a fixed amount of Rs.1,500
besides other financial grants for taking up developmental schemes
in the village. But I would spend my monthly honorarium also on
development," he said.
"I don't have to worry about my survival as I know I would
continue to receive alms - may be more than the usual as people
will now come to me in large numbers to get their problems
addressed," he added.
How Nat reached the chair of village head is an interesting story.
Said Badaam Singh, local owner of a small eating joint: "A group
of villagers made Nat apply for the post. We thought that the
former village heads had not performed satisfactorily in carrying
out developmental projects."
"Though there were 11 candidates vying for the post of village
head, we found none of them suitable. So we thought of making
Narayan a candidate. We took the decision just as an experiment,"
The group made Nat file the nomination paper for the post of
Pradhan and even campaigned wholeheartedly for him.
"Narayan did not have to spend a single penny to contest the
elections. We managed everything and ultimately he emerged
victorious," said Dharan Kumar, who runs a dairy.
Asked to spell out his priorities, Nat said: "To be very true, I
actually don't know about the responsibilities of a gram pradhan.
I only know he has to look after the development of the village."
"I am thankful to some of the locals who are making attempts to
explain to me the work of a gram pradhan. Even some local
journalists have joined them and are making me aware of my new
job," he added.
The four-phased panchayat elections were held Oct 11-25.
(Asit Srivastava can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)