Tiruchy: Many of us would have come across the familiar sight of blind musicians performing atop a van at traffic intersections and vantage points. While the vocalist crooned popular Tamil numbers, with the musicians playing the accompanying notes, another visually challenged man, helped by a volunteer, went around with a box collecting money from motorists who stopped at the signal. Many donate generously. Ever wondered where the collected money went to?
In fact, an inquiry with the members revealed that they handed over the entire money they collected (donation) to the contractors who owned the vehicles. At least 50 such visually challenged musicians from different parts of the district went around in five-odd vehicles in the city. Their bosses would designate the spots where they would have to perform. Normally, they would begin their ‘duty’ by 10 am and wind up around 9 pm, especially at spots where the flow of people was higher. The contractors owned open vans that carried the musicians and the instruments.
The first-known street-side performance by visually challenged artists was held on July 22, 2002, in Pollachi. It was organised by a visually challenged person, Ramamurthy, who is no more, as part of a fund raising programme during the Kargil war. Ever since, such street-side performances transformed into a business model for those who owned open vans and could put together an ‘orchestra’ group.
“Our contractors will ask us to perform on any day and we will go on performing on the street-side. We will give all the collected money to them (contractor) who, in return, will give us a fixed amount at the end of the day”, R Samuel, treasurer of Visually Challenged Light Music Artists Association, told Express.
Samuel said there were about 30 such vehicles going around the state. Those playing instruments would be paid `300 a day while the singer would get Rs 250 a day, apart from food and tea. “They will keep the rest of the money for themselves,” he said. “At times, the contractors will reduce our wages to half when the collection is poor. But, if we give them more than the normal collection, we will not be given incentives,” Samuel, who played keyboard for one such group, lamented.
Meanwhile, the association members who convened a meeting recently resolved to urge the government to provide opportunities to these artists to perform in government events. They also resolved to press the government to disburse bank loans to purchase musical instruments so that they could develop a musical troupe. They also resolved to appeal the state government to distribute Kalaimamani awards to visually challenged artists.