Thursday, December 6, 2012

Ghulam Da'en, the three card trickster

Based on a random conversation with my father and some uncles. Story of Ghulam Da'en, Golaam the witch, perhaps the greatest three card trickster from Kashmir.

Every month. At the start of every month he would pocket half of my salary. He was a real  trickster. No one could catch him. He would clean your pockets with you only complying willingly. And he had all these techniques. Some so obvious. Like at first, after his cries of - Begam ko Pakdo, Begum par Lagao - had your attention and you moved in to see what was going on, why the crowd, you could always see him handing over money, to some lucky winner who had just picked the queen from three random cards. And then another one from the crowd would win. Then another. You would feel lucky. Like this day your luck would hold out against Ghulam Da'en, Golaam the witch. You too would bet. And of course, you win. Your lucky day. Crowd cheering. You bet more. You loose. You bet more. You loose. And soon you realize what happened. That Ghulam Da'en tricked you again. It was a setup. It should have been obvious. Those other winners were of course with him on it. Wearing a fur cap on his head and an old worn pheran, he would do this to random people at Pratap Park and to tourists at Boulevard Road, but his favorite haunt was Karfali Mohal near Sharabi chowk, near Parimoo Chemist, Habba Kadal where even his victims were his regulars. And fast. He could switch cards with a gentle flick of his nails. You wink and you miss. Once while dealing he showed me a deck full of queens. From the deck placed three cards down. Asked me to bet and catch. Of course, I bet and picked a card. And I lost. I lost. Then to rub it in, he turned the other cards too. Not one of them was queen. Not one. He would play you. He would play you like a fool. But some days he would let you win too. Go home with a real winning. He would show you three cards. He would show you which one is the queen. Before the serve, while the cards are still in his hand, you would notice that the queen card has a little tear on a corner, or a fold, or a quirky mark. You would memorize it. This is easy. He would lay the cards. You would place the bet, pick a card. He would flip it and of course, you win. He would give you the money. He would tell you this is your lucky day. You bet to play again. The mark is there. Raise the bet. You win. You start believing in you good stars, in God, in Ghulam Da'en's bad luck and your smartness. You raise the bet. He tells you not to steal livelihood for a poor man on his bad day. You raise the bet even higher. You want round. There is old debt to be settled. You would clean the house this time. He serves the three cards. You can't believe your luck. What treachery is this! What witchery! All the three cards this time have the same exact little tear on the corner, the same exact fold, the same exact not so quirky mark. And that is how you would lose half you salary to Ghulam Da'en. Go home to get an earful about it from your wife or parents. And you couldn't fight him over it. It was all fair and square. You definitely couldn't fight him. He once pulled a snake on me. He actually had a live snake in his pocket. That Ghulam Da'en, the three card trickster.

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3 comments:

  1. We had one in our locality, 'Mama Baizgar'. Road side magician,card trickster; though he was from a family of tonga walas. Watched him one day slicing his mouth open with a knife working his way slowly up to his ear. Sight was too grisly to watch for me. Imagine the look on my face when i saw him perfectly OK some 2 hrs later puffing a cigarette. Dinesh

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Nice name...Mama Baazigar. In some European travelogues from around 1890s, you can find these tricksters mentioned, but in the Himachal region.

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  2. I have also seen ’Mama Baz-gaar’ severing tongue of his assistant (a young boy) with a knife after hypnotising him. It was one of the last acts of his show that day. Blood dripped from the piece of tongue in his hand which he displayed to his audience & latter placed it back into the boy’s mouth. The boy laid on the ground with a sheet over him. After few other minor acts (at the end of the show) the boy was brought out of the hypnotic spell and he stood there smiling & fine, displaying his tongue. After over 30 years I still remember it vividly. The mouth of the boy was wide open and he cut it in-front of everyone without covering his face. How he did it I don’t know. It was so strange & gore at the same time.

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