The blind musicman
His sound tells me I'm almost home
November 1, 2000
I've almost forgotten what it feels like, having the rain fall down
on your face, feeling the wetness under your feet, accidentally stepping
into puddles knowing that you're new black shoes will have turned brown
with mud by the time you get home. How long has it been? I've lost count.
The city is growing dark, I can hardly make out the faces standing a
few feet away from me, waiting for the light to turn green. Only three
have passed by without even looking at the traffic light which is remarkable.
Usually, I'm the only one waiting there getting stares from people which
clearly say: "What a weirdo."
Of course that's just because of my own lack of moral sense; I've totally
forgotten the fact that the only reason the traffic light is standing there
is for the street to look a little brighter. Everyone's rushing to get
home, to exchange everyday problems and burdens with a few hours of peace.
. . if it can ever be found there anyways.
I see a man walk past me wearing plastic sandals. I look up with awe.
I try to take in as much air as I can knowing that I won't be able to
breath like this for a long long time to come. Tomorrow morning all the
buses and cars will turn everything to the way it was before. The smoke
will eat up the view of the mountains -- even the beautiful Mount Damavand
which I saw from the balcony today will disappear. Quite a beauty, standing
there tall and strong, unlike most of the people who surround it, but I
guess it's used to it.
When the air is clear the mountains around you seem only a few feet
away. I always wish I could sit in the middle of the street to paint the
scene while it's fresh in my mind knowing that it won't be seen again soon.
. . that is if I had the guts to sit in front of moving vehicles driven
by mad men. And if I knew how to paint.
The light finally turns green. I try to listen closely. I don't hear
him. What kind of a lunatic would sit in the pouring rain all day long,
I ask myself. As I walk closer I see that, sure enough, he's sitting in
the same old corner, but he has an umbrella above his head and a cardboard
box under him. I can't help but smile. He plays the tonbak quite well,
although that's no surprise: it's either play well or go hungry.
I see him stop for a second and reach into the tambourine to take out
the money. He puts the coins in one pocket, kisses the bills and puts them
in another. I always wonder how he tells the different coins and bills
apart. But even though he is blind I am pretty sure he can see better then
most folks. I drop the 200-toman bill that I always put in my left pocket
and walk on in the long perspective of shadows and trees. He'll be playing
long after I get home but for how long? That's something I haven't been
able to figure out.
I remember Mr. Miller, the old man who played the guitar in my favorite
shopping center when I lived in Canada. I knew many things about him, like
when he was born and where/when he had gotten married and why he had divorced
that no-good "witch" and how many kids he had. And I could have
known lots more if I had nothing better to do all day than listen to a
70-year-old blabber away. I can't even begin to count all the dollar coins
I put in his guitar case.
But things are a little bit different here. For one thing street musicians
only play the ney or the tonbak. No bag pipes, no violins, no guitars.
Not even the setar or the kamanche. And no matter how many times you meet,
no matter how many times you empty out your wallet, you're still strangers,
you'll never even find out their name much less why they divorced that
"witch". But rules are rules and my tenth one has always been:
street musicians are treasures; stop and listen then place a small donation,
no matter where on earth you live.
I don't like the ones who now live around me that much, but the blind
one is an exception. On those nights when I'm walking home, tired and sleepy,
his sound tells me I'm almost home. And on those bright, sunny mornings,
his tonbak tells me I'm one step closer. He plays the most beautiful tunes,
much different than what Mr. Miller played.
I see kids walking with their mothers looking at him, then begging their
mothers for a coin to drop in his tambourine. I remember myself just a
few years back doing the same thing. He always has on the same gray-colored
jacket and plastic sunglasses, sitting there all day, reminding people
that there's still some good in the world.
As I walk away, I think of Mr. Miller: would he still be standing there
if I were to pass by right now? He was old; can't go on playing forever
you know. And I wonder, what would happen if I pass by one day and see
that the blind tonbak-player isn't there? What if that happens two days
in a row? Or three? The thought of it makes me shudder. I push it out of
My street musician here might not have a big set of microphones and
speakers, just as Mr. Miller did. And he does not wear Nike running shoes
or a Levi's jacket. He does not play in an expensive shopping center. But
he is still a treat to listen to. He can play one hell of a tune.
Najmeh Fakhraie is a 17-year-old student in Tehran.