Whoo! First my computer goes down with a "flu" and gets fully reformatted. Then one by one, starting from the youngest, my family members succumb to a bout of stomach flu - the least said the better! Now, except for the excoriated throat of our elder son, we are okay! And to free to start blogging once again!
Magic - somehow after Harry Potter (movie review later!) - the kind that we see on a stage has lost its attraction and wonder for me. I think the movie The Prestige had a lot to do with it too(Hugh Jackman in a grey role!! :-( ). To think that all the tricks that make us ooh and aah are the feats of just a clever engineer and some very good distraction tactics somehow makes it all tawdry. The last magic show that I enjoyed was two years ago. It was a corporate event for kids and the magician was speech-impaired. I really marveled at his performance because a magician's best tool after his sleight of hand is his verbal skill and this magician really did well in spite of not being able to talk.
As far as magicians go, Malayalis are proud to have a world-class magician amongst us, our very own Gopinath Muthukad - he of the splendid fire escapes and disappearing things. He is a magician with a mission, a very well-spoken and passionate human being, very easy on the eyes and occasionally goofs up in public (remember the Thiruvananthapuram Mayor and the big bang?) which only makes him appear more human. We've seen him judge musical prodigies in a music reality show. He is the ultimate showman. What I did not know was that he has a talent for writing - till I picked up this...
Memoirs at so young an age? (He's just 47.) This is a question Prof. ONV Kurup poses in the poetic introduction to the book. But as he says, a magician's story is certain to pique one's curiosity. But it is the nostalgic language that describes rural Kerala life in the 70s that really makes this book dear to my heart. The story of a budding magician is interesting in itself, but I doubt it would have been so beautiful if the setting had been anywhere but verdant Kavalamukkatta, a tiny village near Nilambur in Malappuram. His memories of the route he took to school and back are enough to take us back to the time when there was no TV, let alone HD channels.
After reading the book, I marvel at how privileged I have been to have had a childhood that spanned both the worlds - there was the materially rich apartment life in Saudi Arabia with lots of chocolate, cartoons and Sesame Street. There were also carefree vacations and life after moving back to Kerala in the late 80s. I too have had lots of friends and cousins to play with, swimming contests in flooded fields, quiet reading sessions atop a favorite guava tree and lots of fresh fruit year round to share with friends and relatives. Lots and lots of time to just moon around and leisure to see the sun setting beyond the paddy fields adjoining our backyard. Those days seem so precious now.
To get back to the book - Muthukad as a boy was as passionate about magic as he always has been - except for the time he did so well in classical and folk dance that he might have made his mark in that field! The pranks and sacrifices that he got up to get other magicians divulge their tricks to him and the disillusionment that often came with these experiences are all described with a disarming candor. His neighbors and various local people make entertaining appearances in the book, but it is his family, especially his parents who stand out. His mother who fought back cancer and his father who appreciated his talent for magic, but wanted him to earn his bread as a lawyer are clearly the lynchpin of his life. His relationship with them and the values he imbibed or were made to imbibe from them have formed the magician we all know and love. His parents seem to have been pretty progressive and understanding for their time. Muthukad also remembers everyone who helped form the man and the magician with endearing gratitude.
All in all, a very good read, especially for a rainy Karkkidakam afternoon. Do go out and get a copy of Ormakalude Manthrika Sparsham for yourself.