Baksheesh

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Drawing of a female beggar holding a large bowl, 1879
Beggars in India soliciting alms, 2010
Mounted policemen in Egypt allow to take photos of themselves for baksheesh, 2008

Baksheesh (from Persian: بخششbakhshesh[1]) is tipping, charitable giving, and certain forms of political corruption and bribery in the Middle East and South Asia.

Origins and usage[edit]

Baksheesh comes from the Persian word بخشش (bakhshesh), which originated from the Pahlavi (Middle Iranian) language.[2] It is further traced back to Sanskrit "Bhiksha" or "Bheeks" which has the same meaning[citation needed].

The word had also moved westward. In the Arabic, Albanian, Serbian, Bulgarian, Romanian, Russian, Macedonian, and Turkish languages, bakshish or бакшиш means "tip" in the conventional western sense. In Greek, μπαξίσι (baksisi) can mean a gift in general. In German and French, Bakschisch is a small bribe (in Romanian as well, depending on the context; usually employed as a euphemism to şpagă, which means outright bribe).

Types[edit]

  • Charity to beggars. In Pakistan and India, beggars solicit alms by crying 'baksheesh, baba!'.[3]
  • Tipping. This does not correlate with the European system of tipping, as it also includes demonstrations of gratitude, respect or veneration. An offering to the gods may be considered baksheesh. A faqir may also ask for baksheesh but there is no thought in his mind that he is begging. In fact, in Pakistan and the Muslim world the giver of alms often salutes the beggar for having been given the opportunity to gain merit. In Egypt, baksheesh is often requested on top of fares to taxi drivers, and as service charges to waiters, doormen, shopkeepers, garage attendants, and many others employed in service sector jobs.
  • Outright bribery. For instance, a police officer may be swayed from arresting someone by a suitable bribe.

In literature[edit]

When American mythologist Joseph Campbell travelled on his maiden visit to India in 1954, he encountered pervasive begging which he called the "Baksheesh Complex."[4]

Mark Twain, after riding through the Biblical town of Magdala in 1867, makes note of his encounter with beggars and the term "bucksheesh" in his published work The Innocents Abroad: "They hung to the horses' tails, clung to their manes and the stirrups, closed in on every side in scorn of dangerous hoofs—and out of their infidel throats, with one accord, burst an agonizing and most infernal chorus: 'Howajji, bucksheesh! howajji, bucksheesh! howajji, bucksheesh! bucksheesh! bucksheesh!' I never was in a storm like that before."

Leo Deuel, the writer on archaeology, sardonically described baksheesh as "lavish remuneration and bribes, rudely demanded but ever so graciously accepted by the natives in return for little or no services rendered."[5]

Bram Stoker mentions backsheesh twice in Dracula. The log of the ship Demeter when recording the voyage from Varna to Whitby uses the word backsheesh separately during the description of two inspections by customs officers, once when the ship was entering the Bosphorus and again while on the way through the Dardanelles. [6]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Online Etymology Dictionary". Etymonline.com. Retrieved 2013-01-27. 
  2. ^ Dehkhoda dictionary.
  3. ^ Mark McCrum. Going Dutch in Beijing: How to Behave Properly When Far Away from Home. Macmillan, 2008. ISBN 0-8050-8676-5, ISBN 9780805086768/ Pg 104
  4. ^ Campbell, Joseph (2002). Robin Larsen, Stephen Larsen, Antony Van Couvering, ed. Baksheesh and Brahman: Asian Journals - India. New World Library. pp. xvii. ISBN 1-57731-237-6. 
  5. ^ Deuel, Leo (1966). Testaments of Time; the Search for Lost Manuscripts and Records,. New York. p. 367. 
  6. ^ http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=sn9W2cLuhxYC&printsec=frontcover&dq=dracula&hl=en&sa=X&ei=evRKUojPFoWI0AXw4oDABQ&ved=0CDMQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=backsheesh&f=false