The House of Magic

Starting a blog in English was a conscious and carefully picked choice for me. I did not want to have just Bengali readers. Especially because my social circle consists of people from all communities. And it's a coincidence that someone I deeply care about doesn’t know how to read a single word of Bengali. And yet there are times when I wish I wrote in Bengali too. Although they are more like fleeting moments. Like right now, when I am writing this post I so badly want to give it the title of ‘Jaadu Ghor’. Jaadu Ghor. The house of magic. That’s what Indian museum is to us Bengalis. That big, old, white mansion on the intersection of Sudder Street and Chowranghee that has been emanating the aura of mystery and wonder for more than two centuries. The mystery of the bygone. The obscurity of what happened on this very earth hundreds, thousands or maybe millions of years ago that we would never get to witness firsthand. Well, nobody invented a time machine yet. But that 203 years old building? That is no less than of a time machine. All you need to do is to head to the ticket counter and get yourself in. The moment you cross that threshold everything will magically change around you.

My first encounter with Jaadu Ghor or Indian Museum was at the age of nine or ten with my father. It was part of our father-daughter day trips to get to know the city of joy. The room full of dead animals, the ancient, lonely mummy lying in the casket so far away from home, the skeletons of giant beasts and the broken idols of Buddha did not take much time to get etched into the super fertile mind of a socially awkward but highly imaginative child. So this is the world you run and hide into when mother beats you or cousins bully you or grandmother makes you cry with her mean words. I remember my father telling me stories with utmost seriousness of how everything woke up there in the dead of night when the mortal world was asleep. I had lived and played my very own version of Night at the Museum in my head long before that franchisee even came into existence.

Indian Museum bears a different appeal to another large mass of population in the city. It is one of the best spots to bond over the bygone for those young couples who do not have enough pocket money to visit multiplex theaters every week. One of our friends once took his newly acquired girlfriend there and got a little carried away in the middle of the tour. A guard had to come and tell him that the nooks and crannies of the galleries were not as romantic as they seemed as CCTV cameras were lurking on every single corner.

Now, my readers, if you thought that the girl had grown up and she had realized how na├»ve her imaginations were, well then, you are sadly mistaken. Indian Museum never lost its appeal to that forever child in her. It rather increased with age. Like a safe haven protecting that bruised little girl from the harsh realities of life. And who said you can’t believe in fantasy stories once you grow up? I still believe the 4000 years old unknown Egyptian man wakes up every night after we go to sleep. By now he must have made friends with everyone in the building and probably no longer misses his home so much. The ancient pillars in Bharhut gallery whispers the stories of a great India whose ruler was a great king who single-handedly spread the words of Dharma to half of the world. All those dead animals from all across the globe come back into life and tell each other how they ended up here. Can you possibly imagine the conversation among the different idols of Buddha? “Hello there, I was made when the great Mauryan Empire ruled our India. You look quite odd, not like an Indian.” “Oh never mind, I come from Gandhara. I have Greco-Bactrian influence in me.” The intricately curved Yakshini also gets life in all those dangerously alluring curves and bends on her body. Did anyone fall in love with her yet? Maybe that Neanderthal man did. You will never know. You will keep wondering and maybe someday some other troubled kid will walk into the mystic universe of Jaadu Ghor and that will change their life forever.