The first week of November (2012) turned magical for Bangalore with the rather unexpected visit of James Randi – the world famous skeptic, thinker, magician and debunker of fake psychics. Randi who was on his maiden visit to India as a featured speaker at the THiNK FEST in Goa, made a special trip to Bangalore to meet his fans from across India.
The evening of November 5th saw The Magic Space host a special meet and greet session with the Amazing Randi. Over 30 magicians, many of whom had travelled from other states, gathered at The Magic Space to meet the legend in person.
Living up to his stage name, the 84-year-old Randi amazed the gathering at the open session sharing his journey in magic and performing some of his trademark effects. The stories that he shared captured everybody’s imagination, and his hilarious anecdotes with magical legends had people in splits. Whether Randi was sharing aspects of his life or performing some breathtaking effects, he had the Indian magicians eating out of his hands.
DJ Grothe, the President of the James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF) who had accompanied Randi on this trip to India, apprised the gathering about the activities of the Foundation. Among the various things he highlighted, the Million Dollar Challenge took the cake: a standing offer of One Million Dollars in reward to anybody who can perform a genuine miracle! Needless to say, this reward remains unclaimed!
This was followed by a question and answer session where the magician attendees made full utilisation of this opportunity of a lifetime to interact with the Amazing Randi. James Randi was at his wit’s best pulling no holds on his immense sense of humour. You really had to be at your attentive best to catch the one-liners or risk looking foolish as the others that were listening, laughed hysterically!
Among the stellar audience was Shankar Junior, a magical legend in every right, who took stage to honour James Randi on behalf of The Magic Space. Shankar Junior also presented James Randi with a commemorative plaque on behalf of the two active rings of the International Brotherhood of Magicians (USA) in India: Ring 261 and Ring 177.
On the next day, James Randi addressed a gathering of nearly 100 people, comprised of rationalists, magicians, and general public. Presenting his talk “A Life Among Mysteries,” Randi stressed on the need for rational and critical thinking. Highlighting that most of us get fooled and taken in to scams and frauds only because we assume things, Randi elucidated how expert knowledge in one field need not necessarily make you foolproof in another.
Randi won the hearts and minds of all those gathered with his wit, charm, and knowledge in the topics at hand. Godmen, fake psychics, blind, and homeopathy were among the topics that Randi poked holes at. His magical demonstrations enthralled the audience, and most of them repeatedly attempted to get him to divulge the methods behind the miraculous performances, to no avail.
Indeed! Randi has mastered answering the questions aimed at seeking the methods behind the magic performed: “How did you do that” gets you a “Very well I thought”, while a “And how did he do that” mostly leads to a “same as me I think” response! Gets a lot of laughs too.
Over the three days in Bangalore, Randi met a lot of his fans from all across the country, via the various public and private events organised by The Magic Space. Here, and later in Mumbai where he addressed a magician gathering (organised by the Society of Indian Magicians) Randi continued to mesmerise each and all. All those fortunate enough to attend any of these meet-ups with the Amazing Randi realised just why he was counted among the best three speakers at THiNK and emerged as the talk of the conference!
As Randi walked into the Mumbai airport to board his flight back to the United States of America, all I could wonder was: “When is he visiting India again?” After all, these six odd-days spent in the company of the Amazing Randi – at the THiNK conference in Goa, in Bangalore, and in Mumbai – easily figure among the best memories I cherish and hold dear.
Like most others who got a piece of the Amazing Randi experience, I look forward to our next meeting. Here’s to James Randi’s next trip to India.
Note: This much-awaited article originally appeared in the December 2012 issue of the GIMMICK MAGAZINE – a magician’s monthly e-zine published by Magician Solyl Kundu.