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Radha Binod Nayak
(Orissa)


Radha Binod Nayak (b.1943) is a short story writer and playwright of Orissa. Known for his impressionistic stories of ‘ideas’ during    the 70s and 80s, Nayak has five collections of short stories and two plays. He has received the Rajdhani Book Fair Award for 2004 for  his play Aranyara Swara – the voice of the woods.
Address : Lane-I, V. I. P. Road, Bhadrak-756100 (Orissa)
Phone : +94371-22100

MAGICWALLA –THE MAGICIAN
(short-story)
By Radha Binod Nayak

It was incredible yet true. Magicwalla – the magician who performed in the streets to earn a meager income, and who made utter fools of the crowd by his sleight of hand and alluring speech, did turn Binayak into the protagonist in one of his performances!
The magician demonstrated his tricks everyday. It was essential before the start of his show that he chose the appropriate venue: the unoccupied ground by the banisters demarcating the railway station expanse; the empty patch of land in front of the daily vegetable market; the vacant space beside the court premises or the shadowy patch under a tree near any road crossing jammed with men and traffic. His show began at a definite hour – between either nine to ten in the morning or four to five in the afternoon; the hour when people usually thronged these places.
Usually, the magician began with cleaning up a portion of the ground so that a semi-circular audience could be accommodated. Then he unpacked his bundle. He used very few tools that he carried in a shoulder pack: a vermilion-smeared human skull placed on a wooden slab. Behind the skull was a framed photograph of an old man, who was clad in a knee-length dhoti and kurta without buttons, had a dense beard and had wrapped a piece of cloth on his forehead as some holy men do. The photograph showed the antique man sitting cross-legged, his folded palms resting on his lap. The man appeared to be trying to break out of the frame of the photograph. My Guru – the magician said.
After this prelude, the magician took out his tattered handbag, patched with several colorful rags probably to hide his poverty, and fished out something from it. The bag quivered from insides as if a mongoose or some such mammal twirled there and that the magician was unable to catch hold of the animal. Lo! Right then the magician summoned, in broken Hindi, for Pahilman, his wrestler: ‘Pahilman, just a second…’
Pahilman was his only assistant in the performances. Within no time, Pahilman, an emaciated boy in outlandish attire sprang forth from the thin crowd – the crowd was yet to swell to its full volume – his mouth reddened from the series of fake vomiting of blood at their previous performances. Pahilman would volunteer to help his master capture the imprisoned animal inside the bag, which in real turned out to be a stuffed toy, or a tiny scarecrow resembling a snake with its hood spread. The magician placed the object before the skull and the photo of the holy man and would begin the most enchanting part of his show: warble a tune in accompaniment of his bamboo flute in his left hand and his dambru in his right hand, and the ripples of the tune would cast a spell over each passerby till they were attracted to the venue like bees to flowers, though, by then, they would have witnessed the magician’s show many times over.
Pahilman was a bag of bones. In another trick of the magician, the boy would emerge from the audience and stand before his master. The master, after letting out a good dose of slang and obscenities, would pinch his cheek and say: ‘Arrey Pahilman, we know you are a human offspring; but we shall dig out a hen’s egg from your bottoms.’
The magician would then request the audience to clap and amid their frenzied spells of clapping, a small spherical object beyond anyone’s recognition would drop into the bag fastened around Pahiman’s buttocks. The juggler would take out the object from the bag and whirl it in space to show the audience that the object, in real, was an egg and nothing else.
Later on, in yet another event, the magician ordered his aide: ‘Put your hands into your trouser pockets.’
And after the boy shoved his hand into his pocket, the master would roar again: ‘Take it out.’
Pahilman this time would fail to oblige his master as his hand inside the pocket would appear to have connected to his sexual organ. Waves of laughter would fill the place effortlessly and after some mumbo-jumbo, Pahilman would be able to disengage his hand from his pocket.
Items followed one another. The magician borrowed a ring from the audience and threw it into the sky and fished it out, to everyone’s bemusement, from a tin box. He made a small boy lie flat, and like a hypnotizer, extracted from the boy sundry information about unfamiliar objects and persons. More often than not, the magician’s shows ended on a grim note. With his sentimental appearance and years of experience at the job, the magician was a master showman; how else could he gauge the aversion and compassion of the audience for his final item? They hurriedly, against their wish though, threw a five-paise or ten-paise coin, or may be a four-anna coin at the boy, who after puking blood would be rolling in pain, and left the place. And those who usually cheated and never paid for their entertainment, left the pace slyly, nevertheless with a soupcon of guilt, and while leaving the venue often looked back to make sure that no one saw them leaving without paying.
The magician thus entertained the crowd, with his scanty equipments. Besides, our Magicwalla had the unmistakable looks of a magician: dark and pockmarked face with sharp features; thin tender moustache; kajal-lined eyes; disturbed wiry hair and above all, a dandy smile resembling Lord Krishna’s meticulously worn on his lips. His speech was a hotchpotch of several Indian languages, and also of some incomprehensible jabbering. Vulgar jokes were thrown in too to make his crowd giggle.
As a rule, the master performed something bizarre or occult in a show. In his characteristic address, Ladies and Gentlemen… he called out for someone among the onlookers. Well, that was the beginning of his spell of magic. The audience, apprehensive by then, would quieten down and Pahilman, trained by the magician, pushed himself out of the crowd and stood before his master betraying the expression that he never knew his own trainer! The audience, curious and wonderstruck would await the tricks one after another. The magic wand in the magician’s hand would be adding suspense to their perplexed minds.
Before the onset of each item the magician asked of his audience: ‘Whose Command am I implementing here?’
The answer too came from him: ‘This Command and a billion other Commands like this are coming from no other than Kamaksha, the Goddess of Occult.’
....... to be continued
(Translated by Dr. Lipipuspa Nayak)


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