EVENING SHOWED THE DAY

I was then in class VI or VII. The year was 1956 or 57. On the last Saturday of every month, the All India Magic Circle's seminar used to be organised at our residence. If my father wasn't away with his group, showing magic abroad or in some other Indian city, he used to preside over this seminar. When he was not in Calcutta, the others used to decide upon some common agenda for the meeting and fill the Saturday evening with sheer magic. All through the month, I used to wait for this fascinating Saturday evening. By then, I had built up a personal magic world all around myself. A mobile auditorium always seemed to be with me. And a thousand fictive magic shows in those days of early adolescence ... Even in reality, magic had become the quintessence of my life and doctrine. I waited for these Saturday evenings to impress others by showing them what I had learnt. I waited to assess just how novel I found their magic shows. Or to implement a new magic-idea, which I'd formed by combining someone else's magic with my own imagination. May be I'd be able to show that new magic at the next magic-meeting, a month later. May be, my show would make my father's senior and junior magician friends stare at me dumbfounded, even if my father was absent at the meeting. That would be enough to help me weave my personal existence around magic. Thus, lying in wait for a strange Saturday, my whole month used to wear on. That strange Saturday was then a magic Saturday in my life.

My days of class VI or VII were routined just like those of anyone else. Getting up in the morning, doing homework, then the regular ablutions, then going to school, getting tutored by a teacher in the evening (details of this tutorial will come later), dozing off at nine or half-post-nine, getting scolded by mother (father was always away, so his scoldings or thrashings were rare), whining my way to dinner, and then off to bed. Life was filled with such eternal little magic shows. My practical magic class was only in the evening.

Yes, this evening I had entirely to myself. This evening in the theatre of my mind, I was the world's best magician. This evening, the whole world knew me by my name. My magic had mesmerized them. Such magic as they have never witnessed before. On such evenings, my favourite pastime was to win accolades from the imaginary audience, by showing them the magic I had picked up by slyly watching my father's rehearsal. I used to play my father's role then, instruct the others in my group like him. Of course, my father didn't know about these magic shows, or my innumerable viewers. Everything was in my mind. Products of my imagination.

How could I let my father know ? Wouldn't he scold me ? He had already prohibited our entry into his rehearsal-room or his office Why we didn't know. He said that it's a one-way traffic gate'. You can enter, but you can't get out.

I didn't know what that meant. I wasn't scared, too. Because, it was the gateway to my dreamland. A dreamland stored with mysteries and fairy-tales. So, I had decided that I must enter that room, even at the cost of father's scolding. We just took care that he was never informed.

I entered this rehearsal-room, straightened my clothes, and marched to the centre. Thousands of viewers would applaud, jeer and whistle immediately. And I would beam down at them, give them humorous lectures and show them numerous imaginary tricks. The spotlight focused on me. In front of the stage, my orchestra played on brilliant music. My assistants are coming to the stage smartly, and going away. Someone makes a mistake and I am quick to make up. Every magic is followed by a tornado of applause. Thus, I went on showing hundreds of more tricks on public demand. Then, sometimes the noise of my father's car, and mostly, the sound of my mother's evening conch-shell brought me back to my senses. The senses returned , but I couldn't think that the stage and all those viewers were imaginary. My mind couldn't accept that. Even now it can't. So terribly, fascinatingly, 'more realistic than the real' was that miraculous stage, that magic show, those thousands of viewers, and their love for magic. I humbly apologized to them, and left the stage, calling it a day.

However, no one but myself knew about these magic shows, the numerous lights, instruments and the assistants on my stage, and the innumerable house-full theaters of my mind. For me, it was a daily routine.

One day, I remember, my father was in Calcutta, and at home all evening. He hadn't gone out. Which meant that my evening show couldn't start. That evening, Jhunu, a friend from the neighborhood, was standing before our house, calling my name. Our local club at Jamir Lane had a football match to play with the neighboring Agradoot club that evening. So Jhunu wanted all to go see the match and shout to cheer up our club.

Jhunu was calling me constantly : Prodip! Hey Prodip! Come out! Everyone's come. We'll go together

I peeped out of the window and told him quite loudly: 'Why have you come now ? I won't go."

"Why sit at home like girls?" come Jhunu's reply.

His comment makes me furious. My pride hurt, I tell him rudely, "Don't talk nonsense! I wasn't born to see matches. Prodip Sorcar doesn't see others jest. It's I who'll jest one day, and you all will watch."

I don't know if Jhunu knew the deeper meaning of my remark. But these genuine syllables which poured straight out of my heart had reached my father in the next room. I'd feel ashamed if I knew that he was listening in. May be I wouldn't have spoken so loud then. But, Jhunu's comment had really irked me. Did he think I stayed at home like domestic women? What would Jhunu know or understand of my regular magic shows? What would he know of my trials and tribulations on the stage, my numerous magic tricks and the outburst of applause from those thousands of viewers? Consequently, I was compelled to give expression to those hidden feelings deep within me, before Jhunu.

My father had heard my reply. Later, mother told me that he was happy. "This is just like my own childhood!" he had said. "Prodip may be playing truant, but he has the spark within him."