The 22-year-old visually impaired man, who plays violin and guitar on the pavement in San Fernando, wants to be treated with respect. And he wants to be able to earn a living despite his disability.
Adrian Ragoonanan, father of a two-year-old daughter, said he was not going to allow his disability to become a hurdle in his quest for a scholarship to earn a degree in music.
Ragoonanan has been standing outside Scotiabank, High Street, strumming his guitar. And he is rewarded by passers-by, as they drop money in his donation box.
“No one understands what it’s like to have a visual impairment,” he told the Express.
Ragoonanan was spotted playing his instruments, a violin and guitar, by Express photographer Trevor Watson.
He lives in Palmyra with his daughter, uncle and aunt.
Ragoonanan was born with a rare form of wet macular degeneration, which is an eye condition that leads to loss of the central vision. It is generally caused by abnormal blood vessels which leak fluid or blood into the macula.
This is a heredity disease, but no one in his family has this condition, he said.
Ragoonanan said he has visited several doctors, who have confirmed that very little can be done to reverse the condition. He said doctors have informed him that his condition resembles that which is found with patients ages 60 years and over.
Ragoonanan attended the Ste Madeleine Secondary School after writing the Secondary Entrance Assessment (SEA) at 11. He dropped out after two years, saying, “There was no future in regular CSEC, so I dropped out.”
He moved to the New Vision in Learning, a private school at Princes Town at age 14 and stayed for one year. He said, “I didn’t belong there; something was missing.”
His first and only place of employment was at the Blind Welfare Association in San Fernando as a handicraft worker, where he worked for five months.
Ragoonanan said it was difficult to find employment. He said, “Work is hard to find, especially for someone like me. No one wants to hire someone who can’t see.”
His past, Ragoonanan admits, is difficult to speak about, as he was “too hurt and torn by it.”
Frustrated by the many times he was rejected for employment, Ragoonanan took to the streets to earn a living by doing what he loves.
He said, “I needed to challenge myself and come out from being a reserved person. People need to see me.”
He also plays the keyboard, viola and ukulele. “I taught myself to play the guitar and keyboard and I can do tricks with the guitar.”
He began playing the guitar at age 18. And started experimenting with other instruments two years ago.
Ragoonanan said it is hard for him to see beyond two to four metres. He said constant eye straining to read music causes blurriness after some time.
Reading is especially hard and his violin tutor, Junilla Tangkai, said she buys him specially enlarged music sheets. “But it is still not helpful. He has to learn everything by ear,” she said.
Ragoonanan has attributed his love and passion for music to his tutor, who not only mentors him but has helped him to cope psychologically with his disability.
By next January, Ragoonanan is hoping to write CSEC examinations in Mathematics and English A. He hopes to get a sponsor for music lessons and instruments as he borrows them from his teacher. He also needs a special music reader tablet which can be used to magnify the sheet music making it easier for him to read the notes.
Ragoonanan’s dream is to gain a scholarship to further his studies in music abroad. He said, “Trinidad does not have the proper means to cater for someone like me with my impairment, so going abroad seems like the best option.”
His Swedish tutor has been teaching music for the past 20 years in Trinidad. She said, “He’s Trinidad’s next Stevie Wonder.”
Ragoonanan wants to be able to financially provide for his daughter to ensure she has a secure future.
His message for the public was simple, as he encouraged everyone to follow their passion and put their heart into whatever they do as he has done with his music. He said people should not lose hope no matter what their circumstances may be.
Anyone willing to assist Ragoonanan, can call 766-1174 or e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also contact him on Facebook.