Three generations of magic

Three generations of magic

The face with the kohled eyes gazed at me from the newspaper evoking old memories. ‘P C Sorcar Magic Show at Town Hall’, said the small announcement. That was enough to roll back the years for me.

I was in Calcutta again, a young teenager accompanying my parents and siblings to see the original P C Sorcar. Dressed in a turban and a long glittering coat, even the look of him was strange and mysterious. How...what...? With squeals and gasps, we stared unblinking at the stage as trick after trick unfolded.

Flowers and posies and handkerchiefs emerged from a small cylinder which, we had been shown (and believed), was completely hollow. The lady was sawn in half, the disappearing trick. Isn’t that what magic and delight are all about? “The suspension of disbelief,” as the poet Coleridge so imaginatively said?

The finale of the show is still fresh in my mind’s eye. P C Sorcar was on stage and announced that he would vanish. “Look at me and do not shift your eyes elsewhere,” he intoned, and we obeyed faithfully. The lights went off and as we sat breathless with excitement and some fear, we heard a booming voice from the back of the hall say, “Here am I! P C Sorcar, the magician!” The lights came on and lo! It was he. Did he have a twin bro­ther? How could he transport himself in seconds? We did not try to find ans­wers. To ask was all. We went home wrapped in that wondrous world of the unknown.

So now, here we are, my daughter, her son and me, at the Town Hall to see P C Sorcar, the grandson, perform his magic. Sitting on the edge of our seats, we are each in our own thoughts. Mine go back to P C Sorcar, the first. My daughter might well have been remembering being taken with her siblings to a show by P C Sorcar, the son — or “The Young” as he is known now — at this very Town Hall.

And my 9-year-old grandson? It was the turn of P C Sorcar’s grandson, a suave and sophisticated young man, to hold him in thrall. The sense of tradition and continuity was all too evident as the items followed the same sequence I had watched open-eyed more than 60 years ago. The swords flashed as they were thrust into the cubicle holding the young woman. The next moment, she sprang out unharmed.

Then came a special moment. The second generation P C  Sorcar was called on stage to perform his speciality. This was the man with the X-ray eyes! Volunteers were called on stage. The blindfold was tested and then he began. He moved slowly and spoke haltingly, though his sense of humour was undiminished. But wait a minute, hadn’t we heard these jokes before? The laughter was weak, the applause even more so.

The magic was slowly peeling away at the edges and even the bucket holding the “Waters of India” seemed a sad relic of the past. As we walked out, we tried to keep the wonder alive while we exchanged notes. “ I wonder how he read the words on the board” said my daughter; “I liked it best when he brought out the ‘bards,’ from the cylinder,” said my grandson with an impish smile. I said nothing. I could only remember that young girl who watched unquestioningly and with awe. Three generations and oh, the change that has happened. Indrajaal no longer holds sway.
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