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Updated: May 30, 2011 16:26 IST

Matchbox wizards

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When Shai saw Raju crying she wanted to help but didn't know how. She thought Arun would have an answer. So she went up to his room…

One afternoon, Shai saw Raju, the domestic help's son, crying, hiding as he did so behind a corner pillar. He was rubbing his eyes very hard and turned away quickly when he sensed his eyes on her.

“How does one stop someone else's tears?” Shai thought. She went to Arun's room hoping her older brother would have answers but he had left for his special math classes. Looking around, her eyes chanced on her brother's impressive matchbox collection. The matchboxes were tiny and beautifully designed. Some had interesting quotes inscribed on them. Shai wondered if Arun would notice if she took just one.

He had warned her not to touch the boxes, showing her a couple with evil grinning faces on them. “Don't touch them ever, okay?” he had said. “There is an evil wizard there and he will jump and grab you if you do.”

She had disbelieved him, “Are they really bad?”

“They may not be,” he had said, “but they have magical powers.”

So they would have powers to stop Raju's tears, Shai thought. She picked up a box with a Christmas tree on it and the letters 1925.

When it was evening and she saw Raju returning home from the tennis grounds where he worked as a ball boy, she ran up to him.

“Raju, here a magic box for you,” she handed him the box. “When you feel like crying, drop a tear or two in this. The wizard inside will work his magic. Believe me.”

Raju looked troubled as he took it, and then he finally said, ‘Ma says I have to stop school. There is no money for my fees. He had tears again but he smiled as he held up the matchbox. “Maybe this will really help.” And then he was gone.

Next evening, Shai ran up to Raju once again. “Did the box help?”

And he nodded, excitedly and Shai was delighted. So the magic was working. “Come, I can get you one more.” And she led him to Arun's room. Raju looked very impressed to be there for he had always looked up to Arun. They looked over Arun's collection in delight and then Raju picked one with a picture of a stern looking official, who was dressed in a cape and a fine hat.

“Curzon, 1904,” said Raju. “I know about him. He was governor general a century ago.” And Shai looked suitably impressed. That night, Arun was rummaging in his room when she heard him call for her. “Shai, you've been in my room.” Arun sounded angry and she couldn't meet his eye. “I know,” he went on. “The wizards have seen you. And you've been helping yourself to my matchboxes.”

She forced herself to meet her brother's eyes.

“I am sorry, I gave it …”

“To Raju… I know, he gave it to me.” Then he was smiling, “Silly girl, you could have told me.”

She couldn't believe her ears as Arun went on, “Shall we do some magic for Raju? I could auction my collection and raise money for his fees?”

“I thought you didn't believe in magic,” she said, and then in mock-anger, she asked, “Are there really wizards inside those boxes?” “There are,” he told her seriously, “Sometimes they do appear to tell us that doing good things is very easy. All it takes is some magical thinking.”

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