By Nayomini R. Weerasooriya
In an era bursting with vanity and self-promotion, ‘Siyawasaka Ridmaya,’ presented by the students of the Deaf and Blind School of Ratmalana at the Ladies College Hall, came as a soul-satisfying evening filled with music, dance and rhythm.
The evening was flavoured not with pity but with exuberance and celebration because the visually and sight-impaired children had so much to give, share and tell the rest of us that they too could be the child next door, the dancing star, the powerful voice behind the mike.
The momentum generated by the visually challenged children dancing on the stage hit a high note when the audience, and after being politely reminded by the compere, raised their hands in earnest applause instead of clapping. It was a moment that would always stay in my mind.
‘Siyawasaka Ridmaya,’ the centenary concert celebrating the founding of the Deaf and Blind School at Ratmalana, turned out to be exactly the kind of evening it promised to be. Not a pity party for differently-abled children but one that showcased the talents of their students in perfect rhythm, flawless motion and absolute harmony.
It didn’t matter that the hearing impaired students could not hear the music they were moving so beautifully to – no one knew until the compere reminded everyone that they were in fact dancing to a tempo they could not hear but to one that God put in their hearts.
Each performance must have been challenging for the students and the dedicated teachers who taught them to sing and dance but in the end, it took your breath away and brought tears to your eyes – not because they lacked sight or hearing the rest of us take for granted but because the movements and the performances conveyed their desire to sing and to dance, just like children and youngsters everywhere.
It was impossible to think that they could not hear or see – the motions were so perfect, the tempo so accurate. In their earnest desire to perform so beautifully, they gave the audience the kind of feel-good experience that made spending a Friday evening in their company a truly worthwhile occasion.
Each act had been tirelessly coached and perfected by devoted teachers whose belief in the talent of their students, it seemed never wavered. What they lacked in terms of being challenged by limited or non-existent faculties we take so easily for granted, they made up with fervor, commitment and elegance.
The young hearing impaired boys dressed smartly like any other boy band, danced their hearts out to the famous Bollywood tune of ‘Doom Machale’ - they could not hear the catchy tune but in their hearts, they had captured the perfect rhythm of their hero Hrithik Roshan, the star of Doom. A hearing impaired girl performed a flawless solo dance to yet another popular tune. They couldn’t hear but we could and we lifted our hands as high we could to show them that the applause was indeed thunderous.
‘Siyawasaka Ridmaya’ was not a mere show of talent – it confirmed to everyone that there is a wealth of God-given abilities inside each of us. Nurtured right and motivated right, talent can rise up inside each one, irrespective of their limitations.
The visually challenged children presented a drama that captured the essence of what it is like to be pitied, ignored and challenged in a society that assumes a lot and takes everything for granted. No, they don’t want our pity or our welfare that stems from a well of pity inside. They want recognition and respect – for their talents and abilities, just like we all do.
They want to play, dance, sing and do what children everywhere do. And they can – the barriers to them leading fruitful lives, it seems, exist mostly in our heads.
There were many generous donors and well-wishers without whom the children could not have presented such a magnificent show. The costumes were fabulous and the acts timed well – it could only have been a labour of love for the teachers and the staff of the school who took the time and believed in what they could do and presented a magnificent show that was second to none.