I was shocked when I saw David Copperfield take to the skies on a television show. I couldn’t understand how he did it. Although, back then, the disappearing thumb trick had me tearfully confused too. I was about 7 years old. It was bewildering to see someone defy the laws of physics.
Soon after, I attended a few magic shows held in Chennai. I grew “curiouser and curiouser” about their powers. They seemed to control the forces of nature. And they kept challenging my perception of time and space.
I convinced myself that comic book superheroes were based on white-skinned versions of Indian magicians like the flamboyant PC Sorcar or the ubiquitous P James. And I started looking up to them. I believed they could rid the world of its troubles if they weren’t busy enthralling crowds.
A few years later, the art of magic revealed itself to be a disappointing optical illusion. The secret compartment. The hidden card. The terrified rabbit. The trickery was loud and clear.
I blame it on puberty. It ripped the magic out of me. Filled my insides with delusions of inadequacies. Dimmed the twinkle in my eyes. I prioritised a bunch of things over the sheer joy of discovery. Some call it the loss of innocence. I like to think of it as the death of wonderment and the birth of a new order of deception.
I may not have a clue about what goes on in their tiny heads. I don’t know the lyrics to any of their songs. And I am a few months away from turning 35. However, finding an Oriental Magpie Robin in the middle of a melody certainly feels like magic to me.
“Where’s my stash
of sunshine,” chirped
a magpie robin;
“can I have a word
with the wind
at least,” asked he.
“Get your head
out of the clouds,”
chimed the cicada,
still in his beak,
“put me down
and walk away
(Photographs: Chennai, Kodaikanal)