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London: Encounter with a ‘magician’


This part of London is Bayswater. Briskly he walked up to me, in a black jacket and with a sharp goatee and a gold-rimmed Ray-Ban dangled atop his fresh haircut. He is a short man. His eyes red – and he kept struggling with his confidence. He held a large wallet that had seen so many days, containing: laminated pictures, pieces of paper, business cards and a yellow paper carefully folded with a strange scrawl. His accent was Indo-Pakistani and his age youthful. He flashed a business card across my face, and withdrew it before I deciphered much from it. ‘Magic’ and ‘Miracle’ were in bold black font.

‘November and December are going to be good for you,’ he added. It was in October. I was taken aback. He continued, ‘Many good things are coming your way soon. You are a very lucky man.’ I was still struggling to make sense of what the man was saying. Before I could gather my thoughts he asked ‘I see it, you were not born in England.’ He was right. He seized the moment again, ‘The year 2015 has been very trying in your life’. He then asked, ‘What is your Zodiac sign?’ I don’t know, was my answer. Then he went on to say, ‘Apart from the good news, you will also face challenges, because a woman whose name starts with “N” is going to try to destroy you.’ I kept listening attentively to these revelations about myself. He moved closer and asked me to open my hand. He examined them, zigzagging his thumb across, as if tracing paths. He then said ‘You really need help, and it has to be as soon as possible’. ‘Can we sit so that I can help you?’ Even before he went this far, I had already deployed one of the tricks of shunning people and issues I observed in Nigerian politicians; which is, initiating unnecessary phone calls. But the man persists. I had to tell him, ‘Well, I have an appointment with a friend. Give me your card, so that I can call you as soon as possible’. But he has only one business card. I asked for his phone number. He obliged.

I tried calling the number in his presence, but it wasn’t going. However, when he tried mine the call went through. I was hurrying to leave him with a promise to call again, when he almost blocked me and opened his wallet. He firmly said, ‘You have to put some money here for my tea before you go.’ But I said ‘don’t worry I can buy tea for you.’ ‘No… have to put something here before you go,’ he insisted. I hesitated. He then squeezed a piece of paper and asked me to swallow and blow. I refused and started moving on, insisting we could do all that when we met again. Then he returned to the issue of my dropping money in his wallet; between pictures of monks on both sides of his wallet. Pointing at a hirsute he noted, ‘Look at me there during my spiritual training’. I never bothered to look keenly. To free myself, I dropped a two-pound coin. He rejected it saying, ‘You only put five or 10 pounds here.’ I insisted that was all I had. He insisted that was not all I had. I then tried taking back the two- pound coin. I promised to give him the amount he asked for when we met again. He hurriedly folded his wallet, and slipped it into his pocket. Walking away, from him with relief, I asked for his address and postcode. He mentioned a train station outside London.

This was my second encounter with such kind of men dealing in the business of fortune telling and magic.

The first was in July when the turbaned (Sikh) man in a black suit told me about the good things coming my way soon. He also handed me a leaflet explaining his power of breaking unhappy relationships, solving immigration problems, family troubles and debt burden. My encounter with this man was so brief because, I jumped hurriedly onto an approaching bus, as all Londoners always do.

When I told an English friend about these encounters, he told me, all his life in London they never approached him even once. This confirmed my conclusion that, these magicians, or fortunetellers, or clairvoyants choose their targets very well. They always look out for Africans and Asians whose salvation was probably life in Europe; in London, the supposed heart of Europe. The city that was a centre of imperial exploits. The market of these magicians is in Africans torn between prospect of better life and the reality of what they left behind at home – in Africa or Asia. They perhaps know that; many Africans and Asians believe they have enemies to deal with – back home. Even after settling in England, the African worries about extended family feuds and treachery. The traditional and the religious juxtaposed with reality create a crisis an African has to deal with abroad. It is this crisis that creates market of fortunetellers and magicians of London.

Every morning the free Metro newspaper’s classified advert section is dotted with African and Asian magicians seeking. They showcase their ability to resolve clients to solve challenges like, enmity, relationships crisis, family feud, spiritual jinx, palm reading, dream analysis, bareness and above all male sexual impotence! But it is not only Africans that patronise the services of magicians. I once read in the newspaper (Daily Mail possibly) about an English medical doctor who was lured into it, only to be left looking for help of the law to recover 750 thousand pounds.

It was hours after I left the magician (or is he a fortune teller?) that I recalled seeing him, sitting in the bank I was earlier. I also recalled seeing him inside the Arabic and Middle East Bookstore I walked into after leaving the bank. These recollections convinced me that, the young magician relied only on reality and good planning in choosing his targets. In doing this he never trusted the spiritual solution he was trying to sell to others and me.

Sanusi is a journalist based in Abuja Nigeria.

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