Saturday, July 6, 2013

Naseeb Bazigar

Naseeb Shah and son Ayasan Shah. 1987.

"He begins by letting them doubt that greatness, his skill and power, by briefly allowing them to think their perceptions are valid and their reasoning is effective. In teaching me this cups and balls routine, Naseeb demonstrated how to make it look like I was concealing one of the balls under one of the cups. The move was subtle - it had to be done slowly enough to make sure the spectator saw it, and yet quickly and deftly enough so that the spectator would believe that he was not meant to see it, that another observer, someone not quite so sharp, would have missed it. This prepares the spectator for the revelation that the magician is always one step ahead of him, and for the realisation that his perceptions are being controlled by the magician, but at first they must think they know, that they see through the magic:"You put it in the other hand! It's under your foot! It's in the fold in your pants!" And if they don't shout the words, Ayasan does their heckling for them, voices their thoughts and suspicions. Then, all at once, they are shown that what they saw did not happen, what they thought was untrue, and what they believed was unreal. There is then the surrender, the yielding to their need, out dark longing, to be deceived; the roadside crowd gathered around a vagrant con man and a scruffy little boy becomes the spellbound audience at a persistent play, a cosmological, social, domestic, and psychological drama, that everyone has at some time seen in some sacred sanctuary or darkened theatre, in some room or dream."

~ From the book 'Net of Magic: Wonders and Deceptions in India' (1991) by Lee Siege. [Google Books, Flipkart]It offers one of the most insightful and detailed look into the live of a street magician in Kashmir. And along the way brings alive the street scenes of Kashmir from 1987. We also get to know things like: in Kashmir 'Chinese Stick' trick (one trick I actually witnessed as a kid in Jammu) was performed by naming one stick as Hindu and another as Musalman.




Naseen is still around in Srinagar and was recently featured in this film on his disappearing tribe:

Tomorrow we Disappear.




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Previously:

Ghulam Da'en, the three card trickster

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- A Snake Charmer in the New Bazaar, Srinagar, Kashmir, 1892.  J. E. Goodall. Illustrated London News.

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