The guest of honor hadn’t yet arrived, but they had started the program anyway. Businessmen; time over etiquette, thought Ganesh.
“And for our entertainment tonight, we have a magic show by the renowned magician, Mayajalam Ganesh” announced the MC over the loudspeaker.
Ganesh walked onto the stage as the audience – the top industrialists and businessmen of the nation- broke into applause. The magician took a deep bow, erasing the doubts and fears that had crept into his mind. He will come, Ganesh reassured himself.
“So Gentlemen,” he started, a routine he had done a million times before, “how are you tonight? Fine? Alright. As the MC had announced, my name is Mayajalam Ganesh”, he smiled at the MC, “and my duty today is to teach all of you that the Reality is a hypocrite. Abra Kadabra, folks. But before I start, I must thank the members of IUF for having invited me to this party. I must say, this is the first time in my career that I am doing magic on a roof top.” He waved his hand across the moonlit landscape behind him. Turning around he gave another deep bow, but this time to the tranquil city lying thirty eight floors behind him. “And to the city which raised me”. Applause broke out behind him.
No parapet, thought Ganesh that makes it easier.
Turning around he faced the audience. Removing his top hat he placed it on the table. “Gentlemen, I’m fifty six.” Ganesh pointed to his graying hairs, “How many of you think I’m too old to be a magician?” No hands went up, as expected.
“Nobody? Wow, thanks. But seriously, nobody?” One hand went up, and a few followed it. Ganesh smiled. “Alright then, let’s make a few adjustments.”
Ganesh ran his hand through his hair a few times. “Where is it…. Hmmm…. Aha.” He caught hold of something from within his hair. A few among the suit clad spectators strained their necks to get a better view. Slowly Ganesh pulled, and a white piece of cloth emerged. He pulled, and kept pulling, as nearly ten foot of it came out. Plucking the final length from his hair, Ganesh let it drop to the floor. “Now as you can see, “he said pointing to his hair again, “I’m younger again.” The hair had turned jet black. There were a few gasps from the audience, and a few laughs as they clapped in amazement.
Ganesh smiled. “Thank you. Now, for my next trick…” He took out his “magic” wand and fell into the usual routine. The audience, already having had a few pegs, was a quite lively bunch, and it was rewarding to entertain them. But there was only one thought in Ganesh’s mind.
He was halfway through the vanishing card trick when the chief guest arrived. Ronald Feroz was a young handsome man, wearing dark glasses and a cream suit. CEO and founder of one of the fastest developing MNCs in the world, he was listed thirty seventh by TIME in its 100 most powerful men issue. Ganesh knew him very well, almost too well.
The audience got on their feet and clapped as the success story walked right between the two rows, throwing a nod here, a smile there. He came and sat down in the seat reserved for him in the front row. His personal security, two burly men with their guns kept on display at the belt, took position on either side of him. Removing his glasses, Ronald took out his phone and began tapping away.
“Welcome, Ronald sir, to my humble show.” Ganesh bowed in direction of the man, “Big fan sir.” Ronald looked up and smiled at him for the briefest of seconds before continuing with his finger tapping exercise. In that one second, Ganesh felt his blood freeze.
“As I was saying gentlemen,” Ganesh straightened up again and looked at the audience. His smile was more forced than usual. He continued with his tricks, but his mind kept going back again and again to that man sitting in the front row. Yes, he indeed was a big fan of the famous Mr. Ronald. Who wasn’t? He had often enough hoped, like most other parents did, that his son would one day become someone like Ronald. But all that had changed.
Nearly an hour later, Ganesh was almost done. He put the cut lady back together in one piece, and the audience started applauding for the umpteenth time. It was successful performance; he had even managed to capture the interest of the ever busy Ronald for a few minutes in between.
“Thank you, gentlemen,” he said once the applause had died down. This was the point at which he usually packed his bag and went home, but today, he was going to put up something special only for this crowd.
“For my last act, I have something exclusively for this gathering,” Ganesh said. A few in the audience, who were beginning to lose interest perked up, “Let me tell you this: What I’m about to do has never been done before. Not a single time. World over. Not ever. So, my dear friends, you are going to be the first ones in the universe to see it.” There was applause. Businessmen liked to be the first ones.
“I will need three volunteers from amongst you for this trick.” Several hands shot up. Ronald wasn’t even looking. Ganesh smiled at the rest of the audience, “No, put your hands down. I have a special method to select the lucky ones tonight.” He walked over to a glass jar. Inside it were a lot of strips of folded paper.
“This jar, ladies and gentlemen, has the names of each and every one of you inside it. I am going to pick the winners.” Ganesh put his hands inside the jar, swirled it around a bit and picked up one of the folded paper.
“And our lucky winner number one is…” Ganesh unfolded the paper. It was blank. “…Ronald Feroz” .The audience burst into applause. Ronald looked up at the mention of his name.
“Please come on stage sir. Please come.” This was it. If he refused, it would all be over.
Ronald hesitated a few seconds. Then shrugging his shoulders, he got up.
Ganesh sighed in relief.
Ronald came on stage. His bodyguards followed him.
“I am sorry sirs,” Ganesh said to the two, eyeing their firearms, “but you haven’t won yet”
There was some laughter from the audience, but the two men remained stony faced. “We are sorry, but protocol requires us to be at all time within fifteen feet of Mr. Ronald.”
“Well in that case, let us improvise. I need three people, you two can also be a part of this little trick.” he turned to the audience. Disappointment was written large on many faces. “Is that okay with you?” he asked, though he knew the answer. Civilized men do not protest for the trivial.
Ganesh looked at the guards. They looked at each other. They looked at the smiling Ronald. He nodded. The one who spoke earlier spoke again, “I guess that wouldn’t break protocol.”
Smiling, Ganesh took the two guards to the left of the stage. An assistant came with a rope. “I will require you both to be tied together at the legs, you know, like in a three legged race.” Ganesh motioned to the assistant and he immediately started tying up the two guards. Once he had finished, Ganesh spent a few minutes inspecting the knots. They were strong.
Ganesh went back to Ronald. A smile was playing at the corner of his lips. “You are not going to tie me up too, are you?” Ronald spoke for the first time. Ganesh forced a laugh as he guided Ronald to centre stage. A few feet behind them, was the sheer drop of three hundred feet to the concrete below.
“Look into my eyes”, Ganesh told Ronald. He could feel the adrenaline rush through his veins as he looked into the eye of the man whom he had once admired. After a few seconds, Ganesh gave him a quick rap on the forehead.
Ronald stood his position as Ganesh took a step back. Ganesh eyed him critically. Ronald had an amused expression on his face.
“Sit”, Ganesh gave a curt instruction. Ronald sat… on a chair that was not there. His expression had changed from one of amusement to panic.
“Hey! What the…”
“No need for panic, Mr. Ronald. Ladies and Gentlemen, I have hypnotized our chief guest here; his body shall obey my commands, as you can see. Stand.” Ronald stood. The audience clapped. Ronald forced a smile.
“But, any Tom, Dick and Harry can do that. As I’ve promised you, I am going to do something far more sinister tonight.” A few in the audience smiled. “But before that, let me tell you a little story.” Ganesh took a deep breath, controlling his emotions.
“A little orphan boy once lived right over there, in an obscure corner of this grand old city. He lived by selling tea on the railway and other such odd jobs. But one day, a kind hearted soul took pity on him, gave him a home and means of life. Magic. The intricate art of fooling the eye. The boy grew, married and had a child. A man now, he was content as a lower middle class man with a happy family life, and successful professional life. But then, one fine day, it all turned upside down.” Ganesh smiled at the audience, they were in rapt attention. He glanced at Ronald before continuing.
“So, as I was saying, our magician was leading a happy life. But his little piece of land stood on a plot that was being eyed for the construction of an uber mega mall. But what can he do? The house and land on which it stood was the end result of years of toil, and the company simply refused to budge. They made life miserable for him. Basic amenities like electricity and water were disrupted, threatening phone calls became routine and local goons camped in his verandah.” Ganesh saw that many in the audience were squirming in their seats.
“Pushed to the edge, the magician filed a case in the district court. The next day, his school going son was involved, in what the police described, as a hit and run.” Tears started flowing down Ganesh’s face. “The child died three weeks ago. His mother died of a broken heart. Our dear magician became an orphan again. There nothing for him left to live for; except revenge” Ganesh pointed a finger at Ronald, shaking in anger, “against Ronald Group of Companies.”
Ronald started gesticulating wildly with his face, which was the only part of his body still in his control. The two guards made a move forward, and both came crashing down face first. Their legs were tied together, and to an iron hook on the floor. Sprawled on their stomach, one of them drew his gun and aimed at Ganesh. He pressed the trigger. Click.
Ganesh held out his clenched fist pointing downward. He opened it. A dozen bullets fell out. “Sorry folks” he told the struggling guards.
The audience was in panic, upsetting chairs and trying to get away. He knew that the hotel security was being called. Time was scarce.
“Ladies and Gentlemen,” he shouted above the cacophony, “for my final trick, I’m going to make a man fly.” Nobody clapped.
He turned and walked towards Ronald. Fear was writ large on the business man’s face, even as he tried to break the mental bonds restraining him, in vain.
“ Ready Mr. Ronald? Come, destiny awaits.” Ganesh put out his hand, pointing to the buildings edge, “Businessmen first. Walk.”
Ronald body started walking body towards the edge. “Please, Mr. Ganesh. Be reasonable. I’ll pay you anything, you…you can keep the land… I’ll”
“Give me my family back.” Ganesh silently whispered. Ronald paused a minute, then he started screaming. His legs walked calmly.
They were twenty feet from the edge.
Ganesh saw his family- his smiling wife, his crying son, the evening they had spent at the beach, his marriage, his son calling him papa for the first time. Ronald saw his business empire, his multibillion dollar bank account, his current girl friend, his luxury car, the meet he was supposed to chair tomorrow. Both saw the endless night in front of them.
There a boom, like that of thunder. Ganesh felt a searing pain on his shoulder, then a warm liquid oozing. He fell onto his knees; Ronald kept walking. The hotel security had arrived, and one of them was holding a smoking gun . Two others were running towards Ronald.
No….a voice cried in his head. It sounded like that of his son. Ronald would pause at the edge, the vertigo nullifying the hypnosis. It may even be broken, and all would be in vain. Noooo…. the voice cried again.
Ganesh jumped onto his feet. Pain ran like iron throughout his blood. He started running towards Ronald. Mentally he saw the security aiming at him again.
Ganesh heard the pounding feet of the other two security guards. The young men would surely reach Ronald before him. The business man, as expected had stopped at the very edge. He was still screaming. There was no time. There was another boom.
The magician collided with the CEO in mid air, and both fell forward. Behind them the guards screamed. Ronald was still screaming, flapping his hands, once more his own, uselessly in the air that wouldn’t support him. The moon light was as serene as ever. Ganesh felt the cold air rushing through his graying hair. There was no pain. The Darkness waited with open arms for him. He felt at home.
“Abra Kadabra, folks.” he said, to no one in particular.