Previous Episode: Boy found a life !
It was a sunny Sunday. I was busy making paper boats expecting a bout of a rain in the evening as it rained every other day. The first paper craft that I had ever learnt , my friend Cnu had taught me. He was an expert in origami. He could even make a paper bird. We had plenty of the handwriting workbooks that were used. We were told to practice handwriting in our school. These workbooks were a major source for our craft work as soon as we finished the worksheets. Earlier that trimester, we made a new friend – Ravi. He was a bright student. He could solve math problems with a great ease. He did it all in his mind without the need of a pen and paper. He was not interested in the rest of the subjects. We were not from the same school. He was a newbie in our village, just as me. He used to meet us every weekend and shared with us his stories from that week. He always used to carry a pouch of malted powder of a food drink. It was a secret little treat for us.
We often heard announcements in the street from various street vendors and hawkers . That day it was different, we could hear someone describing an act he was about to perform. My mom said it was a fakir – a street magician. He was bearded, dressed up in colorful clothes, wore a lot of necklaces made from shells and colorful stones and sported a turban. I heard that they could make things disappear and also could create things out of air. I ran out to bring Cnu and Ravi as I was not sure if they had heard about this magic show.
The magician set a circular boundary with few bamboo poles stuck in the ground connected together with black wide cotton ribbons. There was already a curious crowd that had gathered around. We stood together in the front row and listened to his introductory speech. He engaged the audience with his simple questions. People applauded and laughed each time he cracked a joke. He had two assistants – a young boy and an old man. They were busy setting up his props for his performance. Later, the old man played his damru as the magician started his act and the young boy stuck to his instructions. The audience contributed money as the show continued.
The fakir announced the great Indian mango tree magic once he was done with his primary acts. My friends and I were thrilled to hear this and looked at each other in disbelief. The fakir showed us a dried mango seed and kept it in an empty pot covered under a bamboo basket and asked us to repeat after him to transform the seed into a green mango plant. He requested one from the audience to come forward and take a look by himself whether the mango tree had grown or not. The man who volunteered sat down and lifted the basket a bit and confirmed that it was empty. The magician counter questioned as without providing a fertilizer, soil and water how could a plant can grow? He filled the pot with soil as the basket still remained and his narration continued as we held our breath. As per the fakir’s request the volunteer verified once again and confirmed that he could see green under the basket. This was a total surprise to us. We were amused to see a mango plant as he removed the basket. He plucked the plant out to show us the empty pot. He kept the plant back in the pot, asked the volunteer to repeat the same chants after him to grow the plant with a ripe mango. The man appeared reluctant as he was part of the act which he couldn’t figure out. This time the fakir assured the plant wouldn’t grow big and dense if we all hadn’t applaud loud. As he removed the basket to our amazement the plant had grown further with raw mangoes in it. He showed the crowd a ripe mango which had already fallen to the ground. The fakir cut the mango into pieces as the assistant boy handed him over a knife. He offered a piece to the crowd randomly. We refused his offer and kept ourselves away so as to not to fall under his magic effect. Ravi couldn’t control his enthusiasm and had a slice of mango before we could warn him. The considerate villagers offered the fakir food grains along with the money in a reflection of their approval of skills as the performance ended with this act. We were worried about Ravi as we returned to home, praying to god so that nothing would happen to him to his daredevil act of eating a mango that was created out of vapid. We hoped the rain in the evening would continue till the next morning so we could avoid school. Ravi went to school the next day to our surprise without any difficulty.
My mom is an early riser. She would carry on the chores quietly while my sister and me were still asleep. We would dream all night and wake up exhausted without a sense of things kept organized by her for us. I believed every mother in my own little world worked for their children as rigorously as my mom did. We would sleep out in the path way next to each other when the evenings were warm and gentle. There were occasions when one of my friends would join us for a sleepover. We would talk big all through the evening until one of us fell asleep. In the daybreak, we would be numb as statues, would lazily pull up the blankets, as the rising sun banished the darkness slowly to the corners. One day we woke up to the madness of a continuous bell ringing while a man chanted conspicuously. We stared at each other, perplexed, though the state of sleepiness wouldn’t go away. We would look towards the street waiting for the noise to stop so that we could go back to sleep. We jumped out of the bed and ran to our mom as we saw a man in avatar approach our home.
He was tall as a young tree, with a thick and bushy moustache, wore a dark long gown tied with a rope belt, an orange colored shawl draped around his shoulder, sporting an occult symbol on his forehead with sacred ash that denoted the soul’s three bonds and wore paadukas – wooden sandals. We were alarmed by his appearance. Our anxiety didn’t last long as he repeated his humorous dialogues rhythmically and insistently. He would chant the praises of Goddess Amba and Lord Shiva apart from singing the folk compositions. He assured that he would speak only truth as it was passed to him by goddess Durga. We slowly felt safe as we understood he didn’t intend to harm but was trying to flatter us. He recited multiple times in all possible renditions, that there would always be happiness in our home and no evil would ever reach us. It was not only fun listening to him but also to watch as he acted while he chanted. He wouldn’t stop his sincere form of flattery and stayed in one’s compound until he was offered food grains or money. It made me immensely delighted to hear the future predictions about us. We would day dream for a while. He would play the role of a oracle and would predict the future of the members of the households. He belonged to a community of Budabukkala who were migrants. They often carried native medicines to treat ailments. He left a strong impression of a character from fiction tales we told each other.
Mid December to January was a struggle for me to take early morning showers with cold water. Winter mornings were usually chilly. I merely understood about the temperatures though the newsreader on the radio who recited the regional temperatures everyday in the morning news.
I could hear a song in a high pitched voice, along with a rhythm of heavy anklets somewhere from a distance getting closer to our street. I did not know a singer in our neighborhood who would practice traditional dance in streets. I waited in our small veranda covering myself in a winter shawl as the vocalist approached. It was a man who was dressed up in a colorful dhoti, a big bronze bowl on his head, playing a tambura in one hand and wooden clappers in the other, anklets with bells, singing the tales of lord Vishnu melodiously. I wondered how he could perform four different activities yet walk rapidly while balancing such a huge bowl on his head. The women offered him raw grains, fruits and vegetables in his bowl. I learnt from my mom that he was called as Haridasu and the bowl was Akshaya Patra. She also told me that he was on his Diksha, which typically lasted for a month during which he would visit many villages continuously singing without eating or drinking. I followed his songs in the subsequent days as they were easy to understand while he described various mythological stories around lord Hari. He endured as a messenger who brought around the festive spirits as the villagers got themselves ready for the celebrations of Sankranti.
Next Episode:The alchemist