Sagar had turned 12.
His sister gifted him a book and a small plant. His mother cooked his favourite potato curry. His father left early to office.
He sat that day, as usual, looking out from the window, at the long road and the trees and the endless sky up above. As usual he felt nothing. He was just an inconsequential part of a much larger reality. His heart felt nothing. He tried to be happy, but he couldn't. He sometimes thought that he was perhaps designed that way, a mistake that Lord Almighty made. He just couldn`t know Happiness. He never knew how it felt like to be happy.
Then, one day he had a dream. A dream that he was floating and falling at the same time. He could not make up his mind. Was he floating or falling?. He just knew that he felt light. He finally fell. He fell from his bed. It was dark and the lights were out. His parents were sleeping and Shilpa was still murmuring in her sleep. "Silly Girl!", he thought. He loved his sister, but was also ashamed that he so much envied her, because so unlike him, she seemed to know how to be happy despite all the chaos around her.
He walked to the kitchen, in the dark to drink some water. He groped in the darkness, struggling not to hit anything, not to wake anyone up. He enjoyed it. The darkness enveloped him and he embraced it. He felt protected and warm as the world around seemed to vanish. Somewhere he would find a new world. He reached the kitchen and found the water in the old glass jug. In the tiny stream of light that emanated from the sodium vapour street light outside, the orange lid of the jug looked red in colour. He opened it and drank the water. He could feel the water trickle and flow through his throat, chest and stomach. The chill of the water cooling his insides like those first drops of rain on parched land.
He walked to the window and looked outside. The street was eerily quiet. A cool breeze filled the street and the leaves of the neem tree whispered sweet secrets into his ears. "There is a new magician in town!", they said. He smiled and whispered back. "I know. I saw his show yesterday". The magician had walked down the street with his big trunk of magic items and secrets loaded on a bullock cart. He had a lot of tricks up his sleeve and would perform miracles and cast spells on the poor little kids who gathered around. Some grew long hair. For some their ears grew longer and thinner. Some grew fat and some could eat more than they ever thought.
It was after a long wait that Sagar could reach near the magician, with all the crowd and the balloons which never burst. He inched closer. He was both excited and scared. The magician had a long moustache and a very long magic wand that he used to cast his spells. As he stood there tongue tied not knowing where to start, the magician continued with his regular display of mind numbing spells and crafty illusions.
And before he knew it, the show had moved on. The street was littered with little gifts, blue shining rubber balls, paper planes and colourful strings. The children around him, hurried to pick them up one by one and gathered all. He was never quick enough. He always thought that he would never be able to get more than others. He had resigned to the reality that he always deserved less.
His mother pushed him hard, as he woke up. His eyelids still struggling to open, he realized it was morning. It was time to go to school.
His mother stayed up late that night. His father had not yet reached home and he lay in her lap watching the ants. They were hurrying to get their supply of the sweet that he had dropped near the balcony. As they huffed and puffed to reach the place, they kept talking and rubbing against each other with their antenna. It was as if in that one single little touch, they had passed on all the greatest secrets of life. All the great learnings that their forefathers taught them.
Sagar didn't know when he must have slept off. He woke up again in the middle of the night and found himself sleeping in the bedroom, beside his sister. He rubbed his eyes, as he made out what was the silhouette of his father's body. He got up and walked again to the kitchen window. Today he had to tell the magician, what he wanted. He had to ask for the spell that was to be cast on him.
There was no light in the street today and there was no breeze, and yet the water drops dripped from the water pipe below. The gentle symphony that they created, as each water dropped struck and seeped into the earth, gently told him that the magician was late today. He waited and waited. The other children gathered in the street and started playing their games. Some with stones, some with balls. None of them seemed to ever win in these games and they lasted for ever. No one complained as long as they were happy. Sagar wanted to join them, but as much as he tried, he never knew how to play. Try as they might, they never knew how to teach him.
And then they heard the sound of the pipes and the hoofs of the bullock from afar. The children stopped their games and screamed with their shrill noises “The Magician is coming. The Magician is coming.”
Sagar ran up ahead on the street and went right up to the magician. He started his show as usual and Sagar watched spellbound. Trick after trick and illusion after illusion, and he cheered and cheered along with all. As the little white angels danced and became white flowers and dropped from the sky, their eyes were wide with genuine surprise.
The magician was about to start casting spells, when Sagar suddenly found the courage to shout this time. Though he started loud, he ended with a whimper.
“O' Great Magician of Wonderland and Mystery. Wont you please cast your spell on me ?”. “And what is it that the quiet Sagar wants”, asked the Magician.
“Cast your spell on me, that I may ever smile. That I never see tears. That I learn to happily play”.
His eyes were blinded with a sudden white light. He felt like he was floating and falling at the same time. He could not make his mind whether he was floating or falling. The white light slowly receded and what remained was the dull yellow light from the sodium vapour lamp.
It was his sister that woke him up in the morning. His mother was cooking the usual on Sundays. His father had gone outside early in the morning. He brushed his teeth and then stood staring outside the window. He saw the long road, the vast expanse of the blue sky and the children playing on the street. He felt nothing and did not know how to be happy.
His sister gifted him a red ball and his parents gifted him a shirt.
Sagar had turned 13.