Friday, October 29, 2010

the drummer girl

i rode a bus yesterday towards the university where my daughter is studying. i have to pay the security deposit required by her dormitory. this is to reserve the room from being rented to another. it was about 11 am, the day was hot, the sun was blazing overhead, you'll never think that just a couple of days ago we have had a lot of rain. a typhoon had just visited the country. i could have taken an airconditioned bus but the fare was a lot cheaper on an ordinary one. anyway, there are not so many passengers on my bus. lots of empty seats.

as usual on this route, the España, the main highway leading to the university belt, traffic was bad. terrible even. you really have to be a terrific driver to survive the jostling and the jockeying for position. and you have to be very patient as well. especially now when motorcycles have become a popular mode of transport. you'll have to be always on the alert when a biker will suddenly decide to test the vacant space between your vehicle and another. if he fits, good, if he brushes against you, then trouble.

the two children boarded my bus just as we lazily reached the corner of Miguelin street. both were unkempt. their faces and arms were darker than the usual brown. probably due to long hours of exposure to the sun. the taller one, a girl, had her long hair pulled back and secured tight behind her head. barely in her teens. she was wearing this sarong-like dress which was as dirty as the shirt her companion had on. the bus conductor just threw a quick look at them. i believe he's familiar with them. the girl had three drum-like contraptions slung over her shoulder. they were tin cylinders of different sizes, the ones used for infant formula milk, or powdered instant drinks, the top covers were removed and over the tops was stretched several sheets of plastic secured tightly by rubber bands much like how drum skins are stretched over real drums.

she played the drums while the little boy passed a small, dirty letter envelope to each passenger. there was a handwritten note on the envelope but i was not able to read it. i refused it when the boy got to me. she actually played well. i was amazed at how she learned this. using her fingers and her palms to nimbly tap on her drums. the beat was rhythmic and it was in time with the tune she was humming which melody i could not place. i thought i heard it before.

it was just a short performance. when she finished, the boy went back to collect the envelopes. most of them were empty. i saw the man seated beside me fish out a 10-peso coin from his coin purse and inserted it inside the envelope. i searched inside my back pocket. i was able to fish out a 1-peso coin and a 5-peso coin. instinctively i looked at the coins. the profile of two of our greatest heroes are embossed on the coins. the 1-peso coin has the profile of Jose Rizal, our national hero. the 5-peso coin has Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo, the first president of the republic. a sudden question popped in my mind -- why do we put our heroes faces on our money? is it so that we can be always reminded to show heroism, to remember how some great ones had set aside self for the greater good of many? as my seatmate handed the envelope to the boy, without hesitancy i also handed the 6 pesos to him. he gave us a thank you smile.

they say the beat of drums is a reflection of the beating of the heart. sometimes the beat is celebratory after a hard-earned victory, sometimes the beat is sad, slow, to mark a loss, or even death. for me, that hot day, the drummer girl's beat is one of dignity. they are beggars of course. a lot of our city streets are still teeming with beggars. yet, the drummer girl and the boy, they tried to give some dignity to begging by trying to give something in return, like music, in their own limited way.

still, most of the envelopes were empty.

i will never know how many coins or paper bills they got, or who are the other heroes they received yesterday, but those heroes are dead. they deserve heroes that are alive, today, persons who can set aside ambition, greed, lust for wealth, power, and fame, that can uplift them from poverty, from the streets,

that can change that drummer girl's heartbeat to one of a celebration, a victory ...


Christopher Dos Santos said...

This post was so well written I felt like I was in the bus. You have brought tears of love to my eyes my brother. Both for seeing the lesson the children were teaching and the dedication you paid to detail.

I have noticed before you have a keen sense for small details. In this fast paced world few people express this skill. In Canada we have an expression, " taking time to smell the roses ".

I have placed myself often in positions most would perceive as humility. I have eaten food from garbage cans, played hackey sack for donations, run a rickshaw for 6 years and wiped the windows of cars for donations as people wait for a light to change green. I have often been destitute requiring the need for my brothers to be compassionate. Without exception my needs were always met.
The key difference is that these children live this reality with no realistic hope of change.

In my times of need I always knew that my lack was always self imposed so, in reality, the experience was greatly diminished.

For example I ate from garbage cans because I had a one week bicycle ride from Copenhagen to Essen Germany. I could have withdrawn money from my account, instead I chose to allow the Gods to provide. I begged a little, stole a few little tidbits from stores and filled in the blanks mostly by eating from garbage cans at highway rest stops along the route. I found begging was not very tasteful but offered the greatest opportunity to learn. Stealing a couple chocolate bars was a very interesting experience in psychology and ego. The most rewarding of all was the food from garbage cans. It was the middle of winter so there were no maggots to deal with.

When I arrived at my mothers home in Germany, my step father took me out for a restaurant dinner. It was one of the most rewarding of gastronomical experiences. Each of the experiences I mentioned I chose so that I may better understand humility. As we serve others my brother we truly serve ourselves.

Take one day with your daughter, put on some dirty old clothes. Make your body filthy and smelly and beg for a day. Experience what the beggar experiences, learn what the beggars life has to teach. I promise you it will be one of the most rewarding and educational days of your life.

Life is like a candy shop of assortment, countless flavours to titillate the senses. Each expression of GodSelf being carries with it great knowledge and unparalleled value. The life of the beggar is sweet with the nectar of compassion, understanding and love. Humility is a great teacher of compassion my brother. Just because our status in life is much higher. It should not preclude us from seeking in this life a glimpse of lessons beyond our normal scope of reality.

In Lak' esh, my brother, learning more by having less...

sito saguid said...

i am now beginning to know from what deep well you are drawing your wonderful words of wisdom, my brother. you have lived Life. as henry david thoreau said it -- you have "stripped Life to its barest degree".