21.12.2011

Κοινωνία

Midwinter Tale

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Δημήτρης Καμάρας

Midwinter Tale

These days one needs to draw plenty from the well of beauty if we have to carry on. What awaits us on the street of Europe is dire, and every moment of serendipity we gain is a state of mind highly valuable, even if painfully brief. And so it happened that strolling towards Monastiraki train station in a recent Athenian night, I marvelled at the gift the evening had thrown at me. There, amid the songs of nocturnal birds and the marble of the Ancient Agora, I realized I had travelled in time and rested.

It had been a night of music at the Cultural Centre of the University of Indianapolis. The proficiency of the Bios Chamber Orchestra of Athens had bent my imagination at its will, and ran it throughout the bodies of the instruments vibrating in front of me.

Watching the musicians moving from Handel to Vivaldi and Corelli, as well as Biber and Tchaikovsky, I could not but follow each movement of those agile hands in awe. They took my sore soul away with them, far from the crowd that scared me in the morning; when, in front of the National Museum of Greece, I perceived the sharp cacophony between the classical beauty of the building and the drug dealers, addicted, and sellers of stolen items that dwell in front of it. And as I had to zigzag among them in a hurry, they seemed a pond, a sea. I could not reach the end of them; I could not find any empathy in me, afraid and surprised at their number, their relaxed attitude, their being in control of the area.

In recalling the moment, I caught myself thinking that a musical instrument built from wood is a much more alive thing. Affected by humidity and use, as well as temperature, musical instruments are unique as no piece of wood is exactly the same as another, and every type of wood has different properties. As a result, each instrument has its own voice, colour and mood. Ashamed at my strong belief, I secretly admitted that this was so much more than what those people had in them a few hours before.

Lulled by the music, what I had seen rested at a distance in my mind. And so I recalled more of my day; my moving by bus, by taxi and on foot among millions. At one point, I walked towards the metro. There was no metro. I headed for the bus. Once on it, I found the part of the population that strives the most but with dignity, who can not move by taxi, or car, or stay home in a day like this. I listened to their determination, as to the low persistent note of the tough city, until we stopped. Cars jammed the roads: we were stuck in the traffic.

I turned my face to the right and I saw a swarm of women and children in front of a garden’s gate. During the time we stood there, only a window glass in between us, they did not notice me. They were agitated, their bellow filled the air. Looking at them, so rooted in the moment and vibrant, I asked to a lady next to me what they were waiting for.

“Come 18.00 the city distributes food. It is good.” She whispered to me in a sweet islander Greek, and as we moved away, more people gathered in front of the garden’s gate.

Dire is the thought that many children are hungry as well. Only a few hours before, a friend revealed to me that many are those who faint at school due to lack of a proper nutrition. Athens has not seen such a phenomenon from the time it was occupied, more than half a century ago. Fortunately, the Greek State is considering the implementation of a program of basic meals for children of the most deprived districts.

The music took my mind away from all of this again, but the knowledge that Greece is not the only country with such problems is ineradicable. Europe is wiped by an increasing level of unemployment; 23 per cent in Spain, 18 in Greece and 17 in Britain, to mention only a few. This offers little choice and consolation to millions of people: hunger, depression, and misery rule many lives during this winter. Some turn to crime, others to alternative and painful sources of income; those who can not face reality, and have no one close enough to help, contemplates suicide.

Carried away by the notes of Piazzola, and the violin of maestro Halapsis, I also forgot that outside the night was bright and warm, and on the roads of Athens students turn to prostitution to support themselves. They are not alone, it is happening in Britain and in Italy as well.

The concert ended. We all shared the same moment in time, the same intermission. I hardly believe it suggested the same speculations to my peers; we all know that hardship comes in many forms, and each of us shares of it in an original style. Nevertheless, immobile, grabbed by the music someone composed centuries ago, it felt as if we were under a spell long after the music stopped. Our personal voices continued to be silent for a few more moments, suspended, and travelling throughout the centuries, in beauty.

As I reached Monastiraki train station, the rough taste of our existence invaded my throat. Its sound cut right into my rested soul, aggressive. It did not frightened me as in the morning; I felt that others were able to endure much more than this in the past, we will as well.

Photo: Romana Turina

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Γράφει η Romana Turina

Romana TurinaRomana Turina is a lecturer in Communication at the University of Indianapolis. She works as screenwriter and research thematics concerning dramaturgy, memory studies, and animation as applied to the divulgation of knowledge.

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