We have traveled to India almost every year since 2003 performing in orphanages, hospitals, Leper Colonies, Centers for Cerebral Palsy children, Day Programs for the mentally ill, homes for sexually trafficked girls rescued back from the sex trade, centers for Street Children and hundreds of other places. We have performed all over India, doing hundreds of magic shows in the immense city slums and in the isolated tiny villages. India is a continual source of amazement and enchantment. We will continue to perform and teach in India bringing magic and hope to many of her poorest and isolated people.
Since 2009, we have been working with a marvelous organization in Mumbai, Prerana located in the heart of the Red Light District of Mumbai and dedicated to putting an end to second generation sexual trafficking. Prerana works with the children of the thousands of prostitutes who are trafficked in the brutal brothels. We have been training a group of these children to become magicians, going every three months to teach them magic and in the process help them to develop self-confidence, self esteem, focus and discipline. They have begun to perform magic in schools and orphanages and are developing the qualities they will need to awaken and nourish dreams of finding a life outside the unspeakable life of the sex trade they have been born into. The social workers at Prerana are thrilled with the ways in which magic has given these children a sense of confidence and hope for a brighter future.
Of the thousands of performances we have done since 2003, perhaps our favorites are the shows we have done at the largest orphanage in Asia for mentally ill children. When we first contacted the director of this orphanage, The Mumbai Home for Defective Children (MHDC), she said, “I don’t think doing a magic show for these children is a good idea, they won’t really understand what you’re doing.” We called her back two more times and she finally agreed to let us perform for the children.
As we drove into the MHDC on our first visit we past the sign, “Home For Defective Children,” dangling from one corner by a rusty chain. That dangling, neglected sign seemed like a perfect image for what we were about to see. As our car pulled into the courtyard we were immediately surrounded by half naked, drooling, smiling, babbling children. When we stepped out of the car, many of the children approached us to shake our hands, to give us hugs or to just get a closer look at these strange people.
From the first, it was obvious the home was filled with many different kinds of children. Some obviously had Down Syndrome, others had the look and feel of Schizophrenia, some just seemed sad and perhaps only learning disabled and others seemed primarily physically handicapped, probably with Cerebral Palsy where the physical and mental are often confused. Overall the home, as we later were told by numerous people, was a dumping ground for children who were seen as a stigma or a curse or who had become unmanageable for families. Many of them were simply dropped off at the Home and never seen again.
We were greeted by the director and she led us into a large hall where we were to do the show. As I was setting up, La Fleur did her meet and greet as the children came in and sat down on straw mats on the floor, girls on one side, boys on the other. They arranged themselves in perfect rows. As La Fleur walked among them, dusting and tickling them with her feather duster and greeting them with her silly handshakes, squeals of laughter began to fill the large space. With the delight and laughter filling the room, I knew it was going to be a good show.
As with every show, we invited one or two people to help us with each trick. Some of the children couldn’t speak, some had to lean on me for balance, and yet all of them were delighted and pleased to be part of the magic. About half way through the show I noticed the director standing up against the right wall. As I often do with the Principal of a school or Director of a program I walked over to her. I reached toward her and pulled a flower out of her ear, another one from her other ear and a third one from her hair. With each flower the squeals of delight coming from the children got louder, and louder. The children love to see the “boss” becoming part of the show and looking a little embarrassed or silly. As I pulled one final flower from her ear I noticed tears streaming down her face. She looked at me and said, “They’re loving the show, I hope you’ll come back again.” We’ve returned to MHDC, on every visit to India since then.