I had written about K Lal in February of 2011, the famous magician of Gujarat, when he was conferred with Amdavad Ratna by Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation celebrating 600 years of its existence.
I had the good opportunity of interviewing Kantilal Girdharilal Vora, famously known as K Lal, who had been entertaining everyone the world over. He told me (only a few months back he had recovered from a brain tumor. India lost her distinguished son in Sept 2012) he had “never cancelled a show” during his mindboggling 22,000 magic performances in six-decade-long showmanship.
But something he told me jarred me and made me ashamed as an Indian.
He was asked to pay a bribe of Rs 25,000 to get a Padma award. “Why should I bribe when my work speaks for itself?” he asked me.
Imagine how shameful it is for one of the leading magicians of the world to be asked to pay a bribe to be recognised. His son Harshad (K Lal Jr) is still alive and he can vouchsafe what I am saying about his father telling me about the sordid tale of Padma bribe.
It is not the system that is rotten. We made it rotten by ushering and sanctifying it in our Constitution. This quota-secular system has degraded us and ruined whatever morality was left in us from the time we were born. We are so shameless that we don’t care how the foreigners look at us. And blissfully we go about destroying ourselves and as time passes I am saddened no politician has recanted that what was set to be achieved has proved bad for India.
Of course Lal was showered with countless honors from both India and abroad. His house is flooded with honors memorablia. One of them was by the Indian Brotherhood of Magicians for spreading Indian art of magic. Indira Gandhi too had promised when she had called him to Delhi of giving him Rs 10 crore for setting up a magic institute in Gujarat when Madhavsinh Solanki was the chief minister. Nothing came of it. He was saddened by this and I could see the pain when he had recollected this incident.
Here was a man who was using lions and tigers and other animals with consummate ease and in his six decade long career had performed whopping 22,000 magic shows. He and his son had trained over 5,000 youngsters from poor families and he was dreaming of seeing Gujarat turning into Magical Tourism hub of India. “Gujarat needs a magic institute to train talented youngsters,” he had told me.
He set a record performing 3200 nights in Japan over a period of nine years visiting Japan 18 times and covering 61 cities. His show was so popular that the then prime minister Tanaka Kakuei brought his entire Cabinet and the parliamentarians to see his show. “With Tanaka’s support I organized shows in 450 towns and cities of Japan and in hotels which went houseful everyday during 1972 to 1974,” Lal said.
Lal was the one who brought his unique “Water of India” act when he began performing in 1940 to symbolize India’s unity. Water from all the rivers in the country keeps flowing symbolically from a bowl in an inexhaustible torrent. And he saw India as one nation despite politicians stressing it differently for harvesting votes.
After the interview he had invited me and my family to a show and when I went to meet him just before the show he wouldn’t talk to me. He just looked at me and except for some mild lip movement I doubted if there was any recognition. So I met his son and he was busy making arrangements for us to be seated as the show was running to full house.
I was a bit rankled at Lal for the “cold” welcome which I perceived was the case. Just when the show was about to begin Lal called me apologising profusely. “I AM REALLY SORRY. I WAS PRAYING AND I COULDN’T TALK TO YOU.” WELL, WHETHER HE WAS A MAGICIAN OR NOT HE WAS A TRUE JAIN.
He was truly patriotic son which the nation has lost. Will Narendra Modi, or any of his confidants, reading this help K Lal’s dream for a magic institute in Gujarat come true?