I was a happy man. With my wife and daughter. In a small house. In a small village. All of us in the village were happy and content. Life was smooth. The village council was hard working, transparent, democratic, and sincere.
Then he came one evening. With long hair, drooping moustache, and a cloth bag on his shoulder. He settled under the banyan tree in the village square.
Curious children slowly approached him. He smiled. He showed them some magical tricks. They were excited and tremendously impressed. They called him magic uncle. We called him the magician. Where was he from? China? Japan? No one knew. He spoke many languages. He was highly educated. He was an enigma to us. He cast his spell over us. I, like a few others, wanted to be with him as long as possible.
In a few weeks we started approaching him for help, for advice, for conflict resolutions. His hold over us was complete and final. We did not do anything without his advice and consent.
In the next election the magician became the president of the village council, or panchayat. He had a special liking for me. I became his spokesperson. I was proud to be his lieutenant.
Soon, however, he started dictating terms to the villagers. Beautification of the village, building of a wall around the village, building roads, building wells, and many other such small and large things. For everything he collected money from us. I actively supported him. I was ready to do anything for the benefit of the village.
Several months passed. No roads. No wells. No boundary wall. Absolutely nothing. I was confused, just as a few others were. One day I asked him politely, “Sir, when do we get our roads and wells?”
He fell silent. He was thoughtful for a few moments. Then he smiled and told me, “Come, I shall show you a special magic.”
I was thrilled. A special magic! Only for me! Out of all the people in the village! Wow!
“Come”, he said.
I went with him. To his home. To a dark room. In my excitement I did not even remember that he had not answered my question.
“Sit”, he said.
I sat on a chair.
“Close your eyes”.
I did as I was told.
I didn’t know what he did. I could only hear some prayers, sound of moving objects. I could also feel his hands on my head a few times. Slowly I began to feel different. Initially it was a pleasant feeling. Like when you lose consciousness slowly. A kind of heavenly feeling. I thought I was losing weight. A lot of weight. I feared I would be blown away by the gentle breeze of the fan. I felt very weak. Then I was scared. What’s happening?
After some time (I had lost sense of the passing of the time) he said, “Now you can open your eyes.”
I could not believe what I saw. There was no I. Only a black colour. Only the shape of a man. I could see through me. Or rather there was nothing to see. My body had vanished. I was terrified. I was shattered. What has the magician done to me?
I looked at him and asked, “Sir, what have you done to me? What happened to my body?”
He said, “You have become a shadow. MY shadow.”
“Shadow?” I didn’t understand.
“Yes. From now on you have no existence without me. You will do exactly as I command. You will not be able to think or act independently.”
I was shattered. “Oh! God! Why did you do this to me?”
The magician didn’t answer me. He slowly stood up. As if stuck to him, I stood up, too. And followed him. As he said I had lost my existence. Nobody could see or hear or feel me. For them I had gone missing. But I could see and hear everybody. I helplessly watched the whole village searching for me everywhere and frantically calling up their friends and relatives. I saw my devastated family. My wife. My daughter. Several rumours went round on my disappearance. Nobody suspected the magician. In fact he led the search. He interacted with the police. Sometimes he turned to me and smiled reassuringly. It meant, “You don’t worry, everything will be all right”.
I couldn’t cry. I couldn’t kill myself which I very much wanted to do then. I cursed me for befriending the magician. For trusting him. For confiding in him. For helping him. For letting me, my family, and the whole village down. I silently prayed to God to save the village from the magician’s clutches. But it looked like God was sleeping and didn’t hear me.
The magician began to play his unholy games using me. I was forced to kill for him. I burgled for him. I stole for him. I could not resist. I destroyed the calmness of the village. I made the villagers fight each other. I made people distrust each other. I could only obey what he ordered me to do. I had no power to resist him. I was nothing but his shadow.
Maybe a year went by. Or two. Or was it three? I had lost count of weeks and months. Then one day the renegade shouted that the magician was a cheat. He climbed on a tree and shouted at the top of his voice, “The magician is a cheat. He killed people. He burgled you.”
That was the first voice against the magician. The renegade went on shouting, “Where is the money he collected? Where is the road he promised? Where are the wells he promised? Where is the peace and prosperity he promised? Where is the development?”
The villagers had a feeling that everything was not well. The renegade’s words strengthened their doubts. Also the magician’s spell had slowly begun to weaken over the years. Consequently my thinking power, too, returned. Gradually more and more people realised that the magician was not a boon, but a bane for the village.
They remembered the peaceful and happy days before the arrival of the magician. They were worried about the present pathetic condition of the village. They wanted a change. A change back to the original village, if not better. They wanted freedom. Freedom from the clutches of the magician. Freedom from exploitation. Freedom from autocracy. Freedom from corruption.
I saw the change coming over the people. I was glad. I hoped they would come forward to kick the magician out of the village. The renegade’s shouting continued day in and day out. The magician wanted to get rid of him. He also feared that his words would influence the innocent villagers. He ordered me to finish him. I was stunned. The renegade’s shouting was the only hope I had to attain my own freedom. I knew it was his tree-top revelations and shouting that awakened the conscious of the people. I had to save him somehow. But I knew I was helpless. I had no option but to obey the magician.
I told him, “Sir, if he is killed now, people will accuse you. They may even turn against you.”
The magician realised that things were going wrong. He also understood that the power of his spell over them was weakening. He was afraid that if the whole village rose against him he would not be able to stand against them. So he devised another way.
The magician then went and told the collector that there is a renegade in the village who is disturbing the peace and tranquility of the village. He, therefore, requested the collector to call a meeting of the village with the single object of expelling the renegade from the village permanently.
The collector, who had a special liking for the magician, called a meeting of the villagers. During the meeting the collector realised that things were not as smooth and as straightforward as he had been given to understand. He found that almost everybody was against the magician and blamed him for the pathetic condition of the village. The single agenda of expelling the renegade could not even be taken up. Instead the villagers wanted the restoration of the panchayat, which system the magician had abolished.
The panchayat, therefore, was restored and new members elected. The magician wanted and hoped to become the president. Since matters had gone against his own expectations and wishes, that was the only option available to him. But that didn’t happen. He was voted out.
The magician was very disappointed. He had hoped that people would once again elect him as the leader. He had, however, been humiliated by the whole village. What if they found out that he purchased his house with the money he collected from them? He couldn’t sleep that night.
The next morning he told me, “I am going out for a few days. I shall soon return. I shall take control of the village again. Wait for me.”
I pleaded, “Please restore my body to me before you go. I can go and live with my family. Please, please.”
But he did not. He, however, released me from my bond to his body. So I could stay back in the village while he went away seeking to rejuvenate his magical powers. Nearly five years had passed since he made me his shadow. My wife and daughter have learned to live without me. The villagers believed that I had run away due to some mysterious reasons.
It has been three years since the magician had left the village. I have been meditating under the banyan tree in the village square since then. I am waiting for him. Every moment, every hour, every day, every month. When will he come and restore my body?