Tag Archives: A Magician and a Marriage

“A Magician and a Marriage” – Fiction by Sagnik Datta

Girl With the Broken Doll - Paritosh Sen, 2005
Girl With the Broken Doll – Paritosh Sen, 2005

Magic and marriage are major themes in our Spring 2015 issue— especially in Sagnik Datta‘s aptly-titled “A Magician and a Marriage.”

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AFTER LEARNING MAGIC FROM THE SADHU ON THE BANKS OF THE GANGES, Narayan came back to his village incognito, in a long beard and a long dark robe that reached his knees, a jute bag on his shoulder, and with a stick, almost two feet long with knots in two places. He introduced himself as ‘Naran Jadugar’, the greatest magician that Sindoor has ever seen, and spent the first weeks under the peepal tree in the bank of the Mohini River.

He attracted a good crowd on the first two days with little more than a beggar’s provisions, showing them tricks he had learnt from the sadhu, and a small number of tricks he devised on his own; but the audience soon thinned due to the repetition and monotony of the tricks. Once, a stooge was caught, and it caused Narayan much embarrassment, and there was one day when he had to show his magic in front of only a dog which wagged its tail whenever Naran Jadugar uttered a paranormal word.

Narayan’s father, who five years earlier forced his son out of his house for failing in Mathematics, heard of the magician, but did not feel the urge to go and see for himself. When a friend of his pointed out the similarities in the facial characteristics of Naran Jadugar and Narayan, Narayan’s father spit out a jet of betel-red from his mouth.

“No,” he said after heavy contemplation, “my son did not know magic, and he is not talented enough to learn anything.”

But over the next few days, more and more people came to him and spoke to him of the same thing.

“Hmm, seems like the idiot is back,” he said, spitting out the betel-red and wiping his mouth.

The reunion of father and son brought out tears in the eyes of both. Narayan left his shade, and a pigeon flew out of his back, unhindered and to the claps of the children who watched it for free. He hugged his father, his father hugged him back.

“Come home, son.”

But Narayan didn’t. His lips trembled while saying no.

He was unrelenting and showed the signs of the stubbornness that characterized his father, not even bending under the threat of a slap. Their arguments flowed till sunset, and a crowd gathered around them, periodically varying their opinions as they listened to the speakers.

Defeated, Narayan’s father returned home, reeking of the breaths of failure.

Narayan’s mother, Shashibala, heard it all. She came out of the house at night, proceeded to the peepal tree alone, with her searching owlish glances probing the darkness. She returned with her son within a quarter of an hour.

Narayan stayed in the house at night, but in the balmy mornings he would be back under the peepal tree with his magical belongings, and would sometimes show his tricks to nonexistent spectators and bask in vanity at their claps and hoots. On certain clear days, he would also venture out to the neighbouring village of Nandangram where, just like Sindoor, he attracted good crowds on the first days, but then they thinned, and one person had even thrown a ripened tomato at him once but had thankfully missed.

Yet a certain little girl, aged fourteen, with large wide kohl-lined eyes and a single ponytail hanging from the back of her head, was a regular at the show. Even after she had seen all the tricks and knew what would happen next, she would still sit and watch in admiration and silence, with her glass doll in her lap. Her name was Uma.

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