A couple of days ago, news of a Russian tourist found begging outside the famous South Indian shrine of Kancheepuram went viral.
The backpacker from Russia, Evangelin apparently arrived in India recently. On September 24 he travelled from Chennai to Kancheepuram. After visiting a few temples in the town, he went to an ATM kiosk but was unable to draw money as his debit card’s PIN had got locked. After he was unable to withdraw money from the ATM, he got desperate. On seeing some beggars sitting outside the Sri Kumarakottam Temple, he joined them and started seeking alms using his cap.
Videos and pictures of Evangelin ‘begging’ went viral and media and digirati went wild over the story. The local police in Kanchipuram stepped in, and after verifying his documents, offered him some money to enable him to go to the Russian consulate in Chennai for assistance. This saga also prompted Indian External Affairs minister Sushma Swaraj to tweet
Evangelin – Your country Russia is our time tested friend. My officials in Chennai will provide you all help. https://t.co/6bPv7MFomI
— Sushma Swaraj (@SushmaSwaraj) October 10, 2017
The story does not end here. This week, the Russian tourist was seen begging in the busy T Nagar area in Chennai since Saturday. He was reportedly charging excited Diwali shoppers Rupees 100 (about $2) for selfies with him. Evangelin reportedly told the media that he had tasted ‘good money’ through begging and could use this to finance his travels in India.
Russian consulate in Chennai had earlier reported that Evangelin had not contacted them and that they will assist him in when he contacts them. The Mambalam police in Chennai detained him after he continued begging in the city. On being questioned, he told the police that he sought alms as per Lord Shiva’s wish and was quoted saying “I am a devotee of the Lord Shiva. I wish to travel across the country.”
Officials seem to be helplessly watching this saga unfold. The police was quoted saying “He holds valid travel documents and visa papers, and cannot be deported immediately.”
Indian entrepreneurs are exploring a variety of tourist ventures including Medical Tourism. The Evangelin saga has interesting implications for #BegTourismIndia :
- Enterprising startups may spring up offering #BegTourismIndia for backpackers
- Tech savvy tourist-beggars may take to social media by creating facebook and whatsup group, sharing tips on begging, and about tourist hotspots
- Some may offer Caucasian backpakers ‘coaching classes’ in the subtle art of begging at temple steps