We, humans like challenges. The children like them even more, particularly when they appear to be within their capacity to meet. Last summer, I was assigned the duty of engaging our grandnephew and grandniece––Aarav (5) and Dhwani (6)––while their parents went visiting their friends.
Although I accepted the assignment, I was a bit tired and wanted to take a nap before I could join them. But it didn’t work out my way and there I was, trying to keep the two kids entertained. I yawned like a dog as I narrated fairy tales, and tales of adventure to them. Soon they lost interest and became fidgety.
When sleep seemed to get the better of me, I came up with a stratagem. I promised to show them a magic trick provided they counted the hair on my head. They found the challenge amusing. Hesitant first, they looked at my balding head and spared a thought to considering the exciting proposal. Together they felt confident of counting the very few hair on my scalp. Then, of course, there was the lure of the Magic Trick that would follow.
The deal was done; I dozed off as soon as they began counting.
Poor little things! I must have slept for the greater part of an hour as they went through the exercise (read “ordeal”). They were still counting when I got up: “…2347, 2348, 2349, …”
Now it was my turn to fulfil my part of the agreement––to show them a magic trick. “Do you know Gandhiji?” I started with a preamble, as I had to keep them engaged for another hour before their parents returned. And then, without waiting for an answer, I described the greatness of the Father of the Nation. I took time to narrate the life of the great saint and the freedom struggle of India. I ended my monologue with: “Now I’ll show you his power.”
I took out a crisp two-thousand-rupee currency note and flashed it for them to see. “Whose picture do you see on that note?”
“Gandhiji,” they chorused.
Then I slipped the currency note in a long envelope as they watched curiously. I had cut windows in the envelope for the kids to be able to see the currency note kept inside. I held the envelope in front for them to see. With a pair of scissors in the other hand I said, “Now I’ll cut through the envelope but the currency note with the picture of Mahatma Gandhi will remain intact….” With a pause, I added, “That is the power of the Mahatma.”
“Abracadabra! Here I go!” With more theatrics, I chopped the envelope into two pieces and, lo and behold, the Mahatma remained unscathed. The note was still in one piece. The two clapped with joy.
It was a win-win situation. The kids thoroughly enjoyed my sleight of hand. They also had a gala time counting the hair on my head. I enjoyed my siesta. Above all, they learnt a few things about the Mahatma and India’s freedom struggle. Since the lesson was associated with spectacular magic, they’ll remember it for long.