Thursday, January 27, 2011

Shadows and tunes...

There is a program here in a local channel called "Storyline." Basically the program revolves around the personal narratives many different people have about their personal realities. They come from all levels in the Philippine society. I've seen them feature women cab drivers, midgets working in a local circus, famous politicians, rape victims among so many others. I try to always catch this program when I can which is not saying much because it is a hit-and-miss in my case. I never take note on what time they air. But whenever I can I find every story to be very riveting. People always have a story to tell, thus giving the viewers a view,no matter how personal, of their own world.

Just a couple of minutes ago I watched blind individuals talk about their existence and the daily struggles they all have to go through. They are singers by profession. You're probably thinking about the Stevie Wonder type who commands thousands of dollars or on a microscopic scale, thousands of people per performance. Far from it, and even far from the blind guitarist or pianist we see in many local bands around here, they are singers in our sidewalks - beggars: not by freedom of decision but by reality of survival.

There was a time when blind people were premier masseurs. Their skills at massage was renowned and so sought-after. But the burgeoning spa business and home massage services offered by many more progressive entrepreneurs have displaced blind people in the hierarchy of massage therapy. They talk about how those with sight have taken advantage of a niche they once filled. As a result of this change, many of them have lost their jobs, clientele etcetera. For them each day is a struggle economically. It's cruel.

Two of the guests in the show talked about the slow deterioration into blindness. They claimed to have been able to see and identify color when they were younger but then the whole world started to blur in a maelstrom of shadow and white. Another one talks about how she really was never able to view color from a very early age. She could only see shadows. She could not even see her Mom's face. This makes me sadder.

As a result they resort to more meager means to survive. This is the point where they resort to singing in the sidewalks. The props are simple. Cheap sunglasses for the eyes, a microphone attached to a small speaker or a big one(depending on how progressive they have become I guess!) , and a ukulele or a guitar for acoustics- you're all set! And well of course a respectable singing voice. They sing from sunrise to sundown or for as long as they can last I think. They're usually accompanied by an aide, usually a wife or a husband I guess, to make sure that the coins people drop on their boxes do not get stolen by an unscrupulous and merciless character.

This is the essence of their daily existence. Each drop of a coin is music to their ears. The shuffling of feet during peak hours - employees and students on their way home or on their way to school or work, motivates them to sing louder, adopt a catchy tune, jerk them out of their sedation....The earnings are enough to tide them through the grind of their economic needs.

I believe the only thing driving them to live each day with a renewed hope, a vigor that's unshakeable, are their dreams. They dream and wish of seeing their children, moving onto greener pastures like we all strive for. But it all ends there for them. These grandiose dreams are barricaded by the sad reality that their physical limitations have rendered them immobile and almost incapable of doing many things most normal people are capable of.

I guess I am not big enough to move their lives, to lift their economic standing, to maintain sustenance of their daily needs. It's fatal to feel sad but to be so powerless to do anything. The only thing i can do, selfish little me, is to appreciate the little things I have. I am a healthy human being who is as healthy as anyone can get. I have the power of choice over my every move in life - the people I just talked about don't.

Maybe I should watch less and less of these programs otherwise I will always tear myself away from the channel and reach for the controls to extricate myself from their sad realities....And this in itself unsettles me..

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