Magician – 1

May 1, 2010


When I was in the primary school, we were told one day that a magician will be performing for us tomorrow, after recess . This was the first entertainment programme that I was attending in school. Also, this was my first instance when there will be no studies and only fun in the school. Naturally, I was super excited. So were others in the class. We were asked to bring 10 Paisa each the next day and buy a small booklet written by the magician that contained some elementary tricks.

The 10 Paisa donations were gathered in earnest during the first hour of the school next day. After recess, we assembled in the open. Our Head Master delivered a short speech in the praise of the magician. His name as I remember was Rana The Great. He was in a magician’s outfit alright, but he did not show a single trick. Instead, he told us some boring stories about towns in India that he had visited. He then distributed the booklets along with an advertising handbill which said he will be playing at the theatre for seven days, the tickets will cost so and so and we should bring our families to watch him perform. Children would be charged half. We hooted and booed him for not showing any tricks. As a result, we were told that the school is now over. That was something, because it was Saturday- early weekend.

We could read!!! The cover page of the booklet was a drawing of a man, who was one when viewed upside up, resembled the then vice president Radhakrishnan, and other when viewed upside down. Good. But inside, the book was written in Hindi language. We did not know any Hindi. The book was thus found useless for learning magic, albeit we used the cover figure for quite some time to entertain visitors and to refine our sketching abilities.

On that weekend, our neighbour Josie called me over the fence and asked if I shall accompany her and her parents to Rana The Great’s show that night. She had a few free passes. I pestered my Grandma all day and I was allowed to accompany her. We were in the front seats and perhaps we were honourable guests because Rana The Great actually bowed to me before starting the show, which was awesome.

This was the first magic show that I was attending. The acts were, Water for India – incessant stream from a jug, Paper for India – eating shards of paper and reproducing roles, Umbrella for India – which gave you any sweet you named, the blindfold archery.

However, what I liked most was the Record Dance (that is what they were called, because a record was played and a woman and Magician’s assistant in shiny satin clothes danced). I remember the song – “Tera Jalwa Jisne Dekha Who Tera Ho Gaya, Mai Ho Gayee Kisikee Koi Mera Ho Gaya”…Actually, the song is now permanently etched in my mind because of that dance and the magic.

In between, one of our friends was invited on stage and Rana The Great produced a bottleful of milk from his chest (which made him a permanent target for ridicule until he graduated). As soon as the act was over, he was beaten left and right in the theatre itself by his parents for volunteering. I was then invited for a trick on vanishing ring and I promptly refused after I saw what happened to my friend.

The show was watched by most of my classmates and their families during the next week. Everybody thought it was good. Regrettably however, everybody was telling the other that Rana bowed to him/her before start of the show.

Then somebody living near the theatre said, Rana the Great stays in the theatre premises and he can be seen washing his clothes in the morning…lot of elders meet him during day time. Without informing parents, four or five of us grouped with this friend and went in search of the magician.

Yes. He was meeting people. His assistant- she was his daughter as we learnt later- was also with him. But the Magician was in plain clothes. Not plain, actually in night pyjamas and shirt and the assistant was in soiled Sari and looked like a tired and ordinary lady. We loitered there for a few minutes and came back with mixed feelings. Joy, because we had seen the magician off-stage, anger because he had broken his image. Notwithstanding, we visited the Theatre during daytime again just to see the Magician from distance two or three times. We watched him wash clothes, gargle loudly and meet people. A lot of people actually.

As expected, all of us were beaten up or reprimanded by respective and other’s parents for performing the vanishing acts after school timing.

Two or three days later, there was a rumour that the magician and his assistant were arrested and sent to jail for deceiving people. It was in the newspapers also. However, nobody told us any details, and the subject was always avoided in the households.

The book of tricks was with me for many years. Eventually I learned to read Hindi and therefore, the book.

However, it took me very long time to understand the back cover page. When I could, I understood why so many people were eager to meet him and why the two faced Rana The Great might have been arrested for deception.

The back cover was the invitation to visit the magician for sure-fire black magic cures. Venereal diseases, impotence, EDF, trouble from neighbours, troubles from in-laws, women’s special, juvenile special… etc. etc. The list was endless. All conceivable names and descriptions and fees for treatments.

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6 Responses to “Magician – 1”


  1. Good one! I have a similar memory of the time our school had organized a magic show in its courtyard. I don’t remember the name of the magician though. We were little kids and loved and gasped even at some silly tricks. I remember he had these kits on sale which contained the resources for about 7-8 simple tricks, and I got it and tried them on my mom and my friends as soon as I got back home that day! Obviously this was a different era so there must have been lots of things different from your experience. For starters, he didn’t bow as dramatically, but it was fun nonetheless, and that was important 🙂

    I liked the part where you talk about the magician’s image with and without his ‘stage-clothes’!

    I hate to sound like a broken record, but the way you link different aspects of a story (e.g. the booklet and it’s contents) in a movie-script-like fashion probably makes your anecdotes more enjoyable to read 🙂

  2. Ranjeet Elkunchwar Says:

    @ Pa, nice one. I love the narration. I envy your memory .. I fail to recall such instances when I try from school. Also, it shows how different your “playground” was as compared to us. Hmm…now that I think of it, I remember a couple of instances, a snake show (not really a show, organized by the WWF for educational value) and a ventriloquist. May be food for blog 🙂

    @ Nik, going to patent “Food for blog” as your “IPLgate” 🙂

    • rajeevelkunchwar Says:

      Thanks Nikhil, and Ranjit. I am satisfied that some of the readers like it. Just wanted to document it before I permanently forget it. Rajeev

  3. Rajeev Says:

    Thanks Ranjeet and Nikhil. Wanted to document so many things before they will finally fed out. These are collective reflections of many people at that time.


    • If you are writing about your anecdotes for the sake of documenting your experiences, you are donating some very important literature for all of us!

      I second Ranjeet on what he says about your memory of these incidences. I can imagine how they are related to many people around you, but still the others can only fill in for about 20%-25% max. The rest of the memories have got to originate from you, which in itself is amazing considering how detailed these articles are!


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