Tagore Hall, the biggest auditorium in the town, was jam packed. It was Sunday evening and Indrajeet, the magician from Pune, was conducting a magic show. This was Indrajeet's first show in the town.
The organizers had announced that the entire money from the sale of tickets would be donated to the Prime Minister's Relief fund set up for the victims of the Gujarat earthquake. The entire town had seen the devastation on TV, read about it in newspapers and magazines. They had felt an empathy for the people of Gujarat and wanted to contribute their mite. This was an ideal opportunity. They could enjoy the magic of Indrajeet and also do their bit for their brethren in Gujarat.
Exactly at six the curtain went up and Indrajeet entered. He was a slim man of medium height and build. He sported a thick moustache. He was wearing a black robe and sporting a black top hat. In his hand was a black wand.
He was greeted with a generous applause. He started off by removing his black hat and placing it on a table upside down. He then waved his wand and putting his hand inside the hat removed a pigeon, a rabbit and a watermelon in quick succession, much to the delight of the audience. For the next twenty minutes he continued performing and regaling the audience.
"Friends, till now you have seen tricks which you might have witnessed many a times before. But what I am going to present to you now is a trick, which I am sure, you have never in your life seen. This item I call 'Hath, pair aur topi ka; khel hai sab roti ka.' And to help me perform this trick I would like to call a volunteer from the audience."
He looked around. "Would you like to come ?" he asked, pointing to a tall young man. The man hesitated, then on being prodded by his neighbors came on to the stage.
"What is your name? Indrajeet asked.
"Abhijeet - Abhijeet Sanyal."
"What are you doing, Abhijeet?"
"I am a medical representative."
"Good. Now step back a little so that everyone can see you clearly."
Abhijeet stepped back.
"Friends you can all see Abhijeet - he is tall, fair and handsome."
He turned to Abhijeet. "So, young man can I do some tricks on you?"
"Why not," Abhijeet said smiling.
"You won't get scared?"
"Of course not."
"Okay then friends, in front of your very eyes I'll turn Abhijeet into something else. Just watch." Indrajeet stepped forward and waved his magic wand like a Zubin Mehta conducting the New York Philharmonic orchestra. He then muttered a few words. Suddenly the stage was enveloped by a strange mist. When the mist cleared the audience let out a collective gasp. A couple of women even screamed. Where Abhijeet had been standing was a weird object : a hand and leg were joined together. The hand carried Indrajeet's black hat. A voice, which seemed to be emerging from the hat, was singing - 'Haath pair aur topi ka; khel hai sab roti ka'.
"Abhijeet! What happened to Abhijeet?" the audience screamed. Some of them even got up and started advancing towards the stage.
"Hey! Don't worry, he is perfectly all right."
Indrajeet waved his magic wand and muttered a few words. There was once again mist all around and when it cleared the audience saw Abhijeet standing there with an amused expression on his face. Relief gave way to appreciation and the audience started clapping vociferously.
"Friends, I hope you enjoyed the show. I have done this magic show for a very special purpose. The money you have spent on the tickets will all go to the victims of the Gujarat earthquake. But if you, like me, feel that the people of Gujarat should get a more generous contribution from your beautiful town, then you can donate a little more. I assure you, I'll send every pie to the PM's relief fund. As you leave, you will find a box at the main door. Please put your donations inside and God bless you."
Half an hour later Indrajeet, along with his assistant Dhumal, was driving along in his Maruti van. It was seven in the evening and they had reached the outskirts of the town. He had to reach the next town which was around a hundred kilometers away, by nine. Indrajeet stopped the van at an unmanned railway crossing. He could hear the train approaching from a distance. He switched off the ignition.
He heard a sound and looked into the rear-view mirror. A jeep had stopped right behind the van. Two men got down and casually walked towards the van. One of them approached the driver's side and did a Namaste.
"You are the famous magician, Indrajeet aren't you?" he said. He was a tall, burly man with broad shoulders. He was completely bald and had a large face. Behind him was another man - short and muscular.
"Yes, I am," Indrajeet answered as the train thundered past.
In a flash Baldy pulled out a gun.
"Come out magician, or else I'll blow your brains out," his voice cut through the still night air like a laser.
Baldy gestured to his companion who ran to the other side, opened the door and yanked Dhumal out.
Indrajeet and Dhumal were made to stand behind the van.
"So, magician, you think you can escape with all the loot?'
"What loot?" Indrajeet asked.
"The loot you collected in the name of the earthquake victims. You think I do not know. You too are a dacoit just like me. The only difference is that I am branded and you are not."
"Don't talk rot, you rascal" Indrajeet hissed clenching his fists.
"Search the van," Baldy shouted to his companion
"Hey you," Indrajeet said his face turning soft. The man turned to him the gun, pointing straight at Indrajeet. "You are a smart fellow. You have guessed it. Why don't we share the loot fifty-fifty?"
"Ha! I knew it. I knew it," gloated Baldy.
"But one thing my friend, you say you are a dacoit and you try to scare me with a carrot?"
"A carrot?" Baldy looked down. He saw a long, red carrot nestling in his hand. He threw it down.
In a flash Indrajeet jumped forward and picked it up.
"Hands up," he said pointing it straight at Baldy. The goon stared in horror at the black and gleaming gun in Indrajaal's hand.
"B..b..but...", Baldy yammered unable to believe his eyes.
"Hey you," Indrajeet shouted to the other goonda. Come and stand beside your boss."
Indrajeet then quickly instructed Dhumal to tie up the thugs to the seats of the van. And while Dhumal kept a watchful eye on the pair, the gun pointing straight at them, Indrajeet drove straight to the police station.
The next day the papers were filled with the story. The two goons carried between them an award of Rs.1 lakh which was given to Indrajeet. The one lakh award and the fund collected from the magic show were sent to the PM's relief fund.
"But how did you turn the gun into a carrot?" a journalist asked Indrajeet while interviewing him for a newspaper.
Indrajeet looked at him and with a wink declared, "Just magic, my friend."