When the pandemic forced a street musician to put his kidney, liver for sale
Thiruvananthapuram: Before the pandemic outbreak emptied the normally busy streets and turned the city centres into ghost towns, hunger pangs have never disturbed Ronald so terribly like this.
No matter rain or shine, he used to travel to crowded beaches and bus stands here in his four-wheel scooter and sing old melodies in his profound voice, which would win him enough for his daily bread and some pennies to save for the future days.
City dwellers, for the last several years, had been enjoying the nostalgic songs which he sang sitting under the make-shift roof of his vehicle, to which a sound mixer and a tiny amplifier are fixed.
But, when the COVID-19 gripped the world and confined people within their houses, everything went upside down in this differently-abled street singer's life, which even forced him now to put his liver and kidney for sale to find a steady income for food and shelter.
A notice board, which he placed on in his tiny vehicle saying that his "kidney and liver for sale," was more than enough to understand the depth of the penury the man was suffering.
Two other placards, reading "I am hungry...please give some donations" and "The singer in me has resigned and waiting for his death", would also stare at passersby from his modified scooter.
Ronald said he was a street singer before the pandemic and now his condition is not better than a wayside beggar who did not mind eating leftover food from garbage heaps battling with stray dogs.
"There is no crowd in the street now-a-days...The once busy roads are almost deserted now. If there are no listeners, how can a street singer like me make out for the daily bread," he asked.
The 59-year old singer also said the utter penury had forced him to put the 'kidney for sale' board on his scooter.
"There is no other way than selling my organs to live without begging. I hope someone, who is in urgent need of organ transplantation will approach me and give me some good amount after accepting my kidney and liver," Ronald told P T I.
He said as he did not know any medical agent involved inorgan donation, he used to roam around the premises of the government medical college here displaying these placards on his vehicle to get some "buyers" for his organs.
His hardships have suddenly come under the media glare after some people shared pictures of him travelling on the vehicle, with display boards, on the social media platforms.
Once a watch and radio repairer, he said the gnawing hunger recently persuaded him to eat the food waste from the wayside garbage heap snatching away stray dogs.
With teary eyes, he also said his only dream was to get food everyday and buy half a cent land on his own, where he can erect a tent and stay without the nightmare of monthly rent.
A native of the capital city, the singer wasliving in a rented house near the domestic airport here till the pandemic outbreak.
"As there is no way to remit monthly, my scooter is my home...my everything now," he said.
For the last 18 long years, he had been singing on the streets besides doing other menial jobs to run his family, which comprised his late wife, two sons and a daughter. Unfortunately, none of them are with him now.
Ronald said he had even managed to construct a tiny house using the money which he earned singing on the street but had to sell it off when his children demanded a share when they got married.
The daughter is away after marrying a Tamil Nadu native while one son is in jail in connection with a criminal case and the other one is bedridden, suffering from some chronic disease.
"It is a great solace that I am getting a monthly disability pension of Rs 1,500 from the government. That's the only steady income. I used to sell the rice, which I get as ration, in a thattukada (wayside shop) for Rs 300," the singer said.
To save money for petrol and mobile recharge, he would reduce his expenses for food.
"After the pandemic outbreak, I used to buy only one food parcel daily using donations from generous people and would keep it for the whole day," he added.
A worn-out mobile phone, bought with the money gifted by a well-wisher, and the rusty scooter are the only assets of this once-popular street musician now.
Knowing his plight from the social media, Transport Minister Antony Raju, who is also the MLA of the constituency and Thrikkakkara legislator P T Thomas, reached out to him and offered all support to Ronald who is now banking on the hope that the government would extend a helping hand to him.