The Magician

The Magician
Paris Bakery, Dhobi Talao

by Vasvi Kejriwal

He stands behind the counter, beaming. Pulls out wads of sponge. Mawa. Mud. Fruit. More Mawa. I flip butter in buckets, he says. Maska in boatloads. Bags bursting with grease. The real deal. The asli ghee. True love can’t be fat-free, sugarless. True love is palm-sized towers of biscuit. Batasa. Khari. Jam-poured nankhatai. Flakes and flakes of paste, rubbed with pure Amul. Gossamer-thin, brittle— light shines through when he holds a tower against the sun. His name is Danesh. Not like the pastry. With आ matra. D-ah-nesh. He casts out edible slivers of pairidaēza from within 90 sq m of enclosed space. I watch him turn to face an older version of himself, beaming through an oval frame. The man in the photo has silvered hairs, springing straight as breadsticks. The sheen in his eyes unlost behind glass: a glimmer from a star, long gone, reflected on earth. My old man, right here, was the Caaa-ohhh. He rolls the “o” on his tongue like it is chewy dough. Desi Cow. The Asli Ghee. He babied all this in the 50s. Milkmaid and yolk, maska and shakar, fills the gap across both generations with the ease of batter filling a mould. A block of sponge appears. A blade is dreamt up, run through the domed bump. He mills a slab of baked flour beneath his fingers, firm like horse legs trampling on mud. It breaks to a mizzle of crumbs beneath the clouds of his palms. Pound of gold butterdust. Powdered on his volar. On my tongue. I am eating out of his hand. His face, calm as an almond flake. Bright, like he’s swallowed a bulb. Need a bag? he asks. I find I’ve bought the cake. I shake my head. No, a force under his tongue. You mustn’t hold a cake, naked like that, and walk. It’ll catch nazar.


This poem received an honourable mention in our 2023 Prose Poetry Competition.

Vasvi Kejriwal received her LLB from Queen Mary University London in 2019. Vasvi’s work has been shortlisted for the Troubadour International Poetry Prize 2022. Her works have also appeared in Nimrod, Rattle, SWWIM Everyday, Mekong Review, The Bombay Literary Magazine and elsewhere.


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