The magic man..
He opened his school bag and felt the inside pocket. Through the lining the rustling sound of the crisp notes made him want to take it out and count it one more time.
Just then a dog ran towards him wagging its tail. He wondered if he should feed it a biscuit from his snack box. But he had a long wait ahead. So he merely patted its head.
Mummy said he always came to the Jogger's Park for a walk. It was a routine of many years. A walk and then a morning coffee at the nearby Barista.
He raised his water bottle to his mouth and drank deeply. What if this was the one day he decided to stay at home? He wondered..
He looked around to make sure nobody familiar was around. The elderly lady round the corner of their lane, Mrs. Mehta, liked to ramble around such parks in the morning, with false hopes of shedding some of her plenteous kilos amassed affectionately over the years.
Chikku could still see no signs of the man. Mummy and papa had been talking last night about him in tight whispers, but he had managed to catch snippets of the conversation while pretending to be playing with the archaic rail set.
When Chikku sat on his bed last night, the only phrases that circled through his mind were “he can do magic” and “he knows all the tricks”. These were the phrases mummy had continuously repeated while talking to papa. That was when she had also mentioned the walk in Jogger's Park and the coffee at Barista.
Now as he sat on the bench, Chikku painted a mental picture of the ‘magic man’, as he had started calling him since last night. From the little explanation that mummy had provided to papa, the man was thin, bearded and spectacled. Chikku took another deep gulp of water. Almost all the men in the park were spectacled. Almost half of them were thin. Many were bearded. Chikku noticed many new styles of beards in this process. He even picked up one fancy style that he decided to adopt once he got facial hair, like the other grown up boys of his school.
The magic man must have definitely decided to stay at home today. Chikku could see all his plans melting away. He had carefully decided that he would leave his home for school in the morning, but instead walk to the Park. Once he found the magic man, he would trail him to see if the man followed his walk with a coffee. Then he would promptly pull out the hundred rupees he had saved over the last one month and ask the magic man to help him.
Chikku checked the inside pocket once more for the notes and felt reassured at their touch “But where is the magic man? Why hasn’t he turned up till now? What will I do all day if he doesn’t show up at all? Maybe I will go to Appu’s house. Appu would be at school, so I would have to tell his parents that I have come to check out his toys as I need to buy similar ones for my next birthday...”
The train of thoughts was broken when an exact replica of Chikku’s mental picture walked right in front of him. “This has to be the magic man!” Chikku leapt up from the bench. He surreptitiously started following the man hiding furtively behind bushes and shrubs now and then. He took out a biscuit from his snack box and slid it into his mouth secretly.
He could not believe his luck when the man turned towards Barista after his brief walk, and ordered coffee.
Chikku slowly walked and stood next to the man.
“Hi, my name is Chikku. I know that you are a magic man and you know all the tricks...”
The magic man seemed much amused.
“Next Monday I have a Mathematics test… I have been preparing very well for it for the past one week…” He tried to look as convincing as he could.
“But I want your help in getting full marks in the test.”
The expression on the man’s face became very peculiar.
“Okay, not full marks. Even ninety or eighty percent would do.”
A guffaw from the magic man ensued. It was followed by a cursory halt for a mouthful of air and then another chortle followed. “Little boy, I know all the tricks. But sadly these are not from Mathematics but from business consulting,” the magic man gave a fatherly tap on Chikku’s head. It spoilt Chikku’s hairstyle and Chikku promptly tidied them with his fingers.
Chikku had a miserable face. “But my mother said you knew magic.”
“What is your mother’s name? Let me see if I know why she said that.”
“Mrs. Shubha Nayar,” Chikku hesitated.
“Mrs. Nayar, Mrs. Nayar, yes, of course! I had met her at the supermarket yesterday. She approached me as she had seen my face in a magazine. Then we happened to talk about my consulting practice and I suggested I could help your father in his business.”
“Don’t worry Chikku… that is your name, right? Mathematics can be fun. You just need to practice enough.” the magic man smiled.
“Yes, exactly,” Chikku stood up.
“Wait, won’t you have a cup of coffee or a chocolate cake? I will drop you home if you want?”
The magic man was oblivious to Chikku’s quandary. There was no way he could think of coffee or cakes at this time. “No! thanks,” he gripped his bag and water bottle and darted to the door.
Chikku stepped outside Barista with a heavy heart. The Bombay air suddenly seemed freezing. He walked slowly for a few seconds. Then he gradually accelerated his speed and took a particular turn. The turn that led to Appu’s house.