Types of Sri Lankan Beggars

There is no such thing as a taking a zen walk around the city. Between the maniacal honking, the clamouring over enthusiastic street hawkers, pedestrians rushing to and fro and crows cawing away, there's always a hodge podge of activity. But if navigating and circumnavigating these obstacles seems like a handful, then dealing with the omnipresent beggars is a different ballgame entirely. Gone are the days when people begged for genuine reasons. Nowadays, begging has become a full-fledged business complete with turf wars and con artists galore. Which is why you may or may not really be surprised to know that your neighborhood beggar probably makes more money than you. 

The Storytellers 

They once had a mansion, a PhD and lived the high life, but then lady luck gave 'em the boot and now here they are. These beggars are usually well dressed with an excellent command of English. They often claim to need money for medicines or simply just for food. 

The Thugs 

They will use intimidation and aggression to terrorize you into coughing up some money. But God forbid you give them anything less than Rs. 20, they will throw it back at you with choice curse words for added effect. These are the types of beggars you're most likely to pay off for fear of your life. 

The Families 

Usually found with one or more children of varying ages, they will follow you to your vehicle or until you've walked far enough away from their territory, tugging at your clothes and your belongings claiming to not have eaten in days when you just spotted them enjoying a meal less than 5 minutes ago. 

The "Handicapped" 

Remember the guy on crutches who seemed to have lost half his left leg that you just gave Rs. 50 out of sympathy to? There he is, running on two whole legs to catch the bus to get home. Many of these beggars could easily score Oscars for their excellent acting chops with brownie points for faking disability so convincingly. 

The Roadie 

These beggars hold up traffic and continually rap on your car windows until you give them money just so they would go away. Some of them even have stuff they will persistently attempt to sell you, because your 'no' really means 'yes'. You just don't know it yet. 

The Drug Dealer 

They're not really beggars but, who're they to not make hay while the sun shines, right? These dealers impersonate beggars to they can sell their wares under the guise of accepting money from sympathetic drivers.


Rihaab Mowlana

Foodie • Bona-fide expert on Harry Potter universe • proud Slytherin • Unapologetic know-it-all • Keyboard warrior • Occasionally sarcastic • Incessant retweeter • Self proclaimed funny girl • twitter.com/ReeMowlana


  1. Sherman G. de Silva says:

    How come you omitted Lanka's omnipotent type--the kapati-suit clad 'mendicant ministers'-- who prostrate before the Bretton Woods institutions to collect their tranches while blaming their predecessors for having done so before the Chinese?

    • Don says:

      I was thinking the same. The writer appears not well informed of the upper echelons of beggary.

  2. sanath says:

    Your lack of empathy for poor and downtrodden is astounding. Have you done any research on beggars to come to your conclusions? If begging is so lucrative, why don’t you do it yourself? Probably, you will earn more than writing useless articles.

    • Archemedes says:

      I endorse Sanath's views. If the author of this article was aiming at satire, its a poor attempt. She forgets that many in this country are poor and a driven to beg out of poverty. Callous piece this is and a sheer failure of editorial control from Life Online.

    • maalumiris says:

      Agreed., Rubbishy, childish article full of self-importance Not one sentence or sympathy dedicated to the real beggar discarded by family and fallen through the cracks of society and circumstance

    • SM says:

      Your sympathy is understandable but is an example of how emotional bias affects people. Many beggars in SL are frauds (I've met very few with real stories) while there are actually poor people who need money but don't beg and work hard to make an honest living, those are the people who really could use our support. Instead of feeling irrational emotional sympathy for beggars why not set up a routine to donate to orphanages or increase the raise to ones maid? (Not to mean you directly but in general to readers).

  3. Muhammad says:

    For a paper article this is very ill informed.There are lot more types. The singers. The flute players. The well dressed man who came to Colombo for a work, lost his wallet and needs money for the train or bus. The charity ticket sellers who force the tickets onto your hands without permission. And lot more. As much as people admire satire, it has to have a good effect on people. As pointed above, some of those people are genuinely in need. These can only succeed in making people skeptical about the intentions on the next beggar they meet, making them reluctant to give money. All our great religions preach charity and it is a proud fact that lankans are one of the most charitable people in the world. Please use your writing skills for better effect. We don't need to know the intentions of the ones who ask fir help.Charity not only helps the receiver, it tremendously helps to develop the character of the giver. Most of us haven't seen the families who beg saying they're hungry, eat five minutes earlier as claimed in the article and there's a high chance they haven't eaten for ages. In the midst of thousands of hotels and thousands of people around, we don't want children to die out of hunger because some people who read a satire in a newspaper took them for frauds, do we? People in busy cities do die out of hunger in many parts of the world and I don't want that to happen in Sri Lanka.

  4. T Walgamage says:

    Look at all these butthurt comments. You guys are the same people who probably don't spare a cent for these beggars, trying to act all holier than thou in the comment section. The article is funny. These types make up an astounding percentage of beggars in the city. Why cant these able bodied beggars make an honest living like the rest of us? Instead, they choose the easy way out because there are people like you showing false sympathy for them on social media.

    • Saman (Oman) says:

      The author of the article is definitely ill informed. There are lot of beggars who really in need of help from more effluent people in the society. Just see around and look at the beggars . There are genuinely handicapped people & old people who cannot gainfully employed. There are women having small children, who cannot go for work leaving them. There may be a few rogues, but all beggars should not be put into that category. It is a good thing to share some of your wealth with needy people. You say "the article is funny". Funny at the expense of a poor and helpless segment of our society. The article is of very poor taste and in fact, disgusting. The young author should refrain from writing this type of articles in the future.

      • Ian Johnson says:

        To Saman Oman, I hope you meant 'affluent'.

    • maalumiris says:

      "because there are people like you showing false sympathy for them on social media." Yeah, I see it now - all the beggars gathered around with their iPads and computers, logged into Facebook and looking at the comments

  5. Name (*)Muhammad says:

    Fine...Why can't these beggars make an honest living just like us?Don't give a cent to any beggar. How do we know who's genuine or not? Take a fitness test? They're all probably frauds. The guy who gives a mere 20rs to a beggar is a fool..They're probably more rich than us.. Yes, there maybe few who are genuine but let them die. It's not our problem..That's a nice attitude.. Good luck with it..

  6. wtf says:

    hahaha.. thanks for this article!

  7. B fernando says:

    The article is a waste of time, the writer should find something else to write about. Very poor quality! !

  8. Farook Mohamed says:

    This is partly true, but we must not forget the really suffering ones, as nobody likes to stoop so low. Also she has forgotten the ticket vendors and the list-collectors

  9. daya weerasinghe says:

    In a country, that the politicians are corrupted crooks who steal from the whole nation....!!!...I don`t see these beggers as a problem....they are just trying to servive....at least they don`t steal...!...they begg..!

  10. garawi says:

    Taking about the disables beggars, I had a good experience two years ago. I saw this young skinny man seated on a wooden plank with his feet folded under.The plank had four ball bearings fitted to the four corners.He was struggling to push his plank up the hilly main road climb at Epitamulla, Kotte. I felt bad that while he was struggling I was comfortably seated in a car driven by somebody else! The next day I asked my driver to fetch him and tell him that I will donate him a wheel chair. To my surprise the driver returned saying that the beggars doesn't want a wheel chair as he fears loss of income!

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