If Indian capitalism has left you behind, your remaining options are begging or a scam to rip off tourists. A British journalist encountered this scam:
“I was emerging from an underpass in Connaught Place when a shoeshine man came up to me, and whispered into my ear the word “shit”. He then pointed at my right shoe on which sat, to my amazement, a small slug of brownish goo. He offered to wipe it off, in return for 100 rupees – but I suspected something was, well, afoot, and I cleaned it with a few leaves. Some months later it happened again and I had a minor altercation with the shoeshine man. One day, I decided I’d photograph the person who had squirted my shoe. But I was daydreaming as I wandered through the underpass – and was squirted again. This time, I’m embarrassed to say, I became incandescent with rage. To the consternation of passers by, and to my everlasting shame, I grabbed the man and rubbed the filth off my shoe on to his trousers.”
It seems more original than the “Come into my carpet shop – I give you good price” scam but it has a rich history:
“I also heard about older versions of the scam, in Cairo during the Second World War, and most unexpectedly in a book published in 1948, The Otterbury Incident by Cecil Day-Lewis. There is one scene in which boys hidden in a cellar use flit guns to spray the shoes of passers-by with muddy water. Two other boys are waiting a little way off, next to a sign reading “SHOE-SHINE – 3d”. Flit guns were a household device for spraying insecticide – and they’re still used in India.”
FYI: A Flit gun is a hand-pumped insecticide sprayer used to dispense Flit, a brand-name insecticide widely used against flies and mosquitoes between 1928 and the mid-1950s. Although named after the well-known brand, “Flit gun” became a generic name for this type of dispenser.