October 18, 2011

Modern India - The Mysore Magician

I have an amazing tale to tell from my visit to Mysore, India.  Allow me to set the stage…..SueReno_MysoreMagician,Vintage
When I was studying at the University of Mysore back in the 70’s, I grew familiar with many of the street performers in the city.  This particular magician and busker was a favorite of all the foreign students, and we would often watch him do his act, chat about his family--he had 4 sons and 2 daughters he was very proud of--and give him a generous tip.  I posted this picture, and others, in my Vintage Mysore post, and in preparation for this trip I had the photographs printed out to take with me.  This turned out to be a brilliant move.

I returned to Mysore this summer on a day trip from Bangalore, travelling with my daughter Alice.  After a stop to admire Shivanasamudra Falls, our intrepid and excellent driver Ramakrishna took us to the Hotel Sandesh for an early lunch.  Afterwards we conferred with him on the agenda for the rest of our day.  We wanted to visit a few of the standard tourist attractions, but my main agenda was to revisit the University and some of the neighborhoods that were the scenes of past adventures.  At this point I pulled out my photos, to reinforce the point that I had lived here previously and show him some of the half-remembered locales.. Ramakrishna looked through them with a mix of incredulity and amusement, then pulled out of the hotel parking lot with a thoughtful mien.

He suddenly stopped, backed up, and called out to the hotel doorman; they had a conversation (in the Kannada dialect) for a few moments.  The doorman ducked around a corner of the hotel, and a minute later this man came over to our car:
SueReno_MysoreMagicianHe looked somehow familiar…..and we discovered he is the son of the magician I knew in the 70’s. He is also a street magician and busker, and one of his hangouts is the parking lot of the Hotel Sandesh. 

Ramakrishna’s grandparents were from Mysore, and he had visited as a child.  My picture sparked his remembrance of the father, from other trips shuttling tourists he knew of the son,  he made the connection, and located him at that hotel at that very moment.  The level of coincidence and serendipity that allowed all this to happen is just staggering to me.

The magician lived to a good age, but had long since passed away.  His family didn’t have any pictures of him, until I gave this one to his son:
He did his act for us, pulling out the tricks of his trade from his bag.  Astonishingly,  many of them I recognized as the exact same tricks his father had done.  It was like déjà vu.
I have some short videos that will give you an idea of his repertoire and his pleasing personality. First up, the standard ball and cup routine:

Next, a card trick. I’m still not sure what the point of this one was, but he sure was a whizz at shuffling and misdirection:

This one involves fire and a large quantity of rusty nails, and is not for the easily squeamish:

And last but not least, a performance on the fiddle.  Watch his fingers, and listen to the great tonal characteristics he pulls from his very basic instrument:
We tipped him very well!

In general I emphatically am not a magical thinker, but in my personal history Mysore has assumed  a mythical role.  A bit of searching found this definition of contagious magic:
“magic that attempts to affect a person through something once connected with him or her, as a shirt once worn by the person or a footprint left in the sand; a branch of sympathetic magic based on the belief that things once in contact are in some way permanently so, however separated physically they may subsequently become.”

Parts of that seem applicable here; I’m not sure how to apply my usual logical processing to the situation.  I’m glad that there are mysteries in the world, and that I’ve been privileged to experience a few of them.

If you are new here, you can view all of my India travel posts by clicking on the appropriate tab at the top of the page.  Thanks for sharing the journey with me!


Cynthia St Charles said...

What a great story! Thanks for sharing.

Gerrie said...

What a "MAGICAL" story! Love serendipity.

Kate said...

I am new here....I came via the fb post about the acceptance of your Jack in the Pulpit piece to the AQS show. So in 2015 I can read about your wonderful experience in 2011 that in turn connected with your warm thought memories of living in India in the 1970s. Thank you. Beautiful.

Sue Reno said...

Thank you so much Kate, and welcome!