A few years ago, three students met Magician Nath after his show at a women’s college in Kerala. They confessed that they were addicted to drugs.
Barely a few hours ago, on stage Nath was describing the repercussions of drug abuse, which left an indelible impression on the students. They were scared and had been clueless that consuming drugs could destroy them mentally and physically. However, Nath was not surprised.
He has heard out many such confessions during his 35-year career. What makes Nath different from other magicians is that he uses his skills to educate the public on various social ills.
For many years, he has carried out awareness programmes for governmental agencies including the Directorate of Health Services, Kerala State Aids Control Society, National Rural Health Mission, and the Regional Cancer Centre, Thiruvananthapuram, against drug abuse, alcoholism, and AIDS.
“I do not advise people through my show but just portray the adverse effects such ills can cause. It is a quick way to educate people,” he says.
But even after 20 years, things have not changed for the better. “This is a concern for me,” he says. “Only culture can bring about a drastic change. And every child can bring about a sea change. Hence, I have shifted my focus from adults to children.”
From inside his magician’s hat, he pulls out a string of pan masala sachets with his wand and enumerates the ill-effects of tobacco one by one.
“This is an easy way of capturing a child’s imagination. I will make them ponder upon how human organs are affected and how chewing tobacco destroys mental health and family relations,” he says.
Nath narrates an incident where he had conducted a campaign on AIDS for the Kerala State Aids Control Society (KSACS) and Hindustan Latex, Ltd.
“The campaign was so successful that there was a queue to buy condoms after the show,” he says. “It is ignorance which lands many people in trouble.” As a result, KSACS offered him a contract to perform 500 shows. On their instructions, he travelled extensively along the coastal belts, creating awareness on AIDS.
To highlight the dangers of alcoholism as well, Nath has conducted over 10,000 shows. “There was a time, when many people died in Kerala because of consuming hooch. Still the state is not free of alcoholism. This has forced me to undertake frequent campaigns without caring for monetary benefits,” he admits.
Traffic safety is also connected to alcohol consumption. “When you are intoxicated, you cannot drive properly leading to accidents,” says Nath.
Earlier, Nath used to conduct road shows by using a bus as a mobile stage. One side of the bus had been removed to make it look like a stage.
“I would travel with my family [wife Reji and sons Bhagya and Jeeva],” he says. “Today, because of heavy traffic I have stopped mobile shows.”
Nath began his career in the 1980s and started out by proving the scientific basis of most customs.
“I illustrated through my show that there is a scientific reason why people are able to walk on embers, able to withstand pain by body piercing and the like. It was made to believe that the devotees could do all this by faith. But I proved them wrong,” he says.
Nath says earlier he could undertake more shows as there was ample support from the government. But today he is dependent on support from private organisations. “This places certain impediments on me,” he says.
Next, Nath is all set to stage shows on the newest addiction of the present generation—the mobile phone.