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I saw him everyday on my routine walk home from work. He lingered around the corner from Secunderabad wines, the local alcohol shop. He was middle aged but he always clutched a walking stick. It was brown and mostly made of wood. It didn’t look fancy but the gold rim on top added a little class to it. Sometimes, I caught him twirling the stick around his head. He seemed crazy or perhaps just drunk. But who started drinking at 7 pm, I always thought. Some other times he would sit in front of the crowded wine shop and talk to his stick. He looked like he locked eyes with the stick’s imaginary pair of eyes. And through the expression on his face and the movement of his lips, I assumed she was someone special.

But my favourite memory of him was late one evening when he stood cradling the stick in his arms. The stick hovered a little above the ground but I assumed that was on purpose. Tilting the stick slightly behind, he hummed a tune. He had a serene smile plastered on his face as he grooved to the non-existent music. He twirled the stick like it was a woman taking a graceful turn before facing him again. He did that over and over again, lost in the magic of his imagination. I watched for a while before I went on my way.

I always wondered if the proximity of his location had anything to do with the strangeness of his acts. But I never toughened up to approach him. I just watched him from a distance, with amusement. Maybe I liked it believe it wasn’t alcohol and he just had an active imagination.

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‘There’s no magic in the world. Not today, anyway,’ she said as I tucked her into bed.

‘Once upon a time, there lived a little girl, who didn’t believe in magic. She saw the world a certain way and shut out all the light,’ I said.

‘I didn’t say that,’ she screeched.

‘Well, you almost did,’ I said.

Magic was what kept me going. By magic, I don’t really mean magic. But the beautiful things that shape our lives; the happiness that the world has. I wish my 5 year-old would see it. Instead she carried around the weight of the world ever since she lost her pet rabbit.

I didn’t blame her or the darkness surrounding her. But the light was within reach. She couldn’t see it from behind those grey clouds.

‘I will read you a happy story tonight,’ I said.

‘No. I have a story I want to tell,’ she replied. I nodded to encourage her to continue.

‘There was a little girl who had a bright blue pony that she rode to school. The pony helped her avoid traffic and allowed her to move between classes easily. She loved her pet pony, Rodeo. The pony loved her too. Even at home, he slept by her bed and kept her company all night. He never, ever left. The end,’ she said.

I sat by her tiny bed speechless. I ran my hands through her hair as she stared back at me with her innocent eyes. It wasn’t a superb story but it was a personal for her. I could understand the sense of loss she felt. I kissed her forehead. She knew I understood the sub text in that story.

I knew, the light in her life was bound to emerge again. And with it, the magic.

Till then, these stories would hold us up.