Top hat of Mandrake
by Sunil Sharma

It was a top hat coveted
by us, the kids, the comic-book addicts,
roaming enchanted regions through the strips

in the house of maternal grandpa that we visited
in the long summers, we dreamed of wearing one
and turning into the opposite of real-time selves

I insisted on wearing the dark one suspended on a hook
in the dark attic, a mystery object, antecedents unknown to us,
it beckoned, whenever I was there, in the gloomy space crowded with
artifacts and bric-a-brac

one hot afternoon, while everybody slept in the big household,
and an angry wind roared
I picked it up and placed it, crown-like, on my head, looking into
an old hand-mirror.
I was my opposite!
A shy, pale-faced child,
turning into Mandrake, the Magician,
much before the global mania called Harry Potter
I strode on the dusty floor of the attic, holding a stick
as my wand, and, making the ugly adult world disappear
some hats
they can do the miracles!

IMAGE: Cover of Mandrake the Magician: The Complete King Years (Volume One).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Childhood, comic books, toons and alluring appeal of magic combined with a plastic imagination of a child can create powerful and real realms so far away from the dull and prosaic realities of living a middle-class existence in a grim world minus that transforming magic. Mandrake could do so much. Wearing a top hat in a dusty north Indian household on a summer afternoon did that to the young wearer —  transformation of the ugly world into a livable and just place, in a magical moment. Deep down, we all search for that top-hatted magician and wish to become one.


Mumbai-based, Sunil Sharma writes prose and poetry, apart from doing literary journalism and freelancing. A senior academic, he has been published in some of the leading international journals and anthologies. Sunil has got three collections of poetry, one collection of short fiction, one novel and co-edited five books of poetry, short fiction and literary criticism.Recipient of the UK-based Destiny Poets’ inaugural Poet of the Year award—2012.  Another notable achievement is his select poems were published in the prestigious UN project  Happiness: The Delight-Tree-2015. He edits English section of the monthly Setu, a bilingual journal from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.