The Magic Box
The Magic Box8 mins 429 8 mins 429
I sat in my locked room, my face buried in my hands crying profusely. The sealed box - which I had still not opened after thirty years, sat in front of me. The note about Anita’s death arrived just an hour ago, and the unbearable guilt on my shoulders just did not seem to pass. My wife was waiting for me outside – surely, she was worried.
Anita had always been like a big sister to me, though in the last few years our communication was limited to Happy Birthdays! I had become too busy until the last month, when I retired from my successful tenure as CEO of a large multinational company based out of Washington DC. I owe all of my success to Anita and her magic – and I literally mean it.
I remember vividly the evening when I went to Anita for help. I had been a complete loser – 4 years after graduating, I was still unemployed. My high school girlfriend had just moved on to marry her newly found love. My parents who were approaching retirement were more and more concerned about my attitude and my declining confidence. I spoke with Anita over the phone, and asked for help – she was a practicing doctor and mother of two and typically had a busy schedule. But she invited me over to dinner with her family, after which she said we would talk things through.
We had dinner together, and after her husband and kids retired to their bedrooms, she led me to the study. It was dark, and the room was lit by two small candles, which were placed on the table. I thought that the setting was a bit strange for a study. What exactly is she up to? I wondered.
We sat at the table and she asked me to speak. “I am lost”, I said. “I don’t know what to do, where to go, how to speak… I just don’t know what to do with life”. I told her how after years of graduation I had been unemployed – interviews after interviews, and no luck. I told her about how my friends and my ex had moved on. What was wrong with me? And then I asked her – how have you been so successful? I only wish I had some of that magic to make things happen. I don’t seem to have it at all.
Anita listened quietly and after I was done talking and crying, she said – “I can give you some of that magic you referred to”. She took out a sealed box from her drawer and handed it over to me. That box, she said, had the magic. “Keep this with you – remember, it has to remain sealed. Do not open it until you know that you have what you want. Otherwise, the magic will perish”. For a moment I thought this was nonsense. I almost said it out loud, but before I did so, she walked out of the room and brought back a cup of some lukewarm liquid. With a very serious look in her eyes she handed it over to me and said that for the magic to be effective, I would have to drink this potion. Was she losing her mind? I asked myself. But out of respect for her, I took the cup and drank the pale tasting liquid (was it cucumber juice? I don’t really know).
“You may be thinking I am lying. But as your sister, I want you to know that I will never lie to you. Keep this a secret between us – nobody other than you will ever find out about this. When I was twelve, I visited the Himalayas with my grandmother. We met an old sage there, and he handed over this magic box to granny. When granny passed away seven years ago, she handed over the box and the potion to me. Have you not seen how my life has changed since? Today I have become a renowned doctor after years of struggle. I fought infertility for years, and today I am a mother of two lovely children. Don’t you wonder how that happened?” I did wonder how all that had happened – Anita did have to struggle a lot in the past, and only 6-7 years ago things had magically changed – it did seem to make some sense now.
“I have always thought of you as my younger brother. I want you to have the box. You can keep it for as long as you want. I do not need it any longer. Just don’t open it until you know you have everything you desire.”
I selfishly took the box; for a moment I wondered if Anita would lose all that she had gained with the magic if she gave the box away. But I really needed the magic – I had been developing suicidal tendencies lately, and I was losing confidence and faith. So I took the box, thanked her profusely and went back home.
The next few days were indeed magical. I somehow had a cleaner and neater mind and had started rethinking. In my final year of undergraduate studies, I had delivered a project that was most appreciated, my colleagues and teachers. I decided to take a step back and relook at the project. I started working on it once again – making the algorithm more efficient, building user interfaces that were friendlier. If academia appreciated my online selling platform, maybe customers will too, I thought. So I developed it further. I partnered with a few sellers and put their products on my platform and started selling them. At first, I did this for a very small fee. But the convenience and low prices that we were offering brought more and more customers on to it. And more and more customers meant more and more sellers too! And thus, together we started a journey towards growth. I changed my LinkedIn & my Facebook profiles from “Engineer, Looking for opportunities” to “Entrepreneur – Creating opportunities”.
The next few years were magical – literally magical. I grew, my company grew not just in India, but internationally too. I moved to the USA, got married, and had three children. I was talked about in the Indian media as the self-created Indian origin CEO of a multi-national company. What success! My little secret of the magic box was safely locked in my personal drawer – I never returned it to Anita, as I feared that I’d lose everything if the magic left me! How selfish of me.
And now, I had just received this news about Anita’s death. The burden of guilt was unbearable. I packed my suitcase and with my wife and our youngest son we left for the funeral in India. Anita’s family – her husband, two daughters and their young families were all there. The daughters fondly call me Uncle Tim. After the initial greetings and the funeral proceedings, we all went to their house in Mumbai. I was with Anita’s husband in the study – yes, the same one where I had taken the magic potion and received the magic box. I was carrying the box in my briefcase today.
“I have a confession to make,” I said. I took out the box from the briefcase – it was still sealed and unopened. “Anita gave me this box with a cup of potion thirty years ago in this very room. Ever since my life has changed for good. I did not believe her first, but when she told me of her own experience, I accepted it. With the fear of losing all I had achieved, I never really returned the box to her, and she never asked for it. I am burdened with guilt today, and don’t know what to say, and what to do”
“Just open the box” he said. “That’s all you can do at this moment. Anita had told you not to open it until you knew you had all you need and desire. Don’t you have all you need & desire? Or do you need and desire more today?” How true, I thought – I had forgotten to stop needing and desiring. My needs and desires had become endless – why did I not think of opening the box earlier? Because there was always something more I wanted, and I believed that the box would get me just that.
Today, I was ready to open the box. It was a thirty-year old secret – the secret that had made me a “self-made success”. I opened it carefully – how small I felt today. I was not really self-made. I was a success because of that magic. Inside the box was a flat surface wrapped in bubble-wrap. As I tore open the packaging, I saw my own face on the surface. It was a beautiful mirror – and I looked at myself in it. There was a letter too –
“Dear Brother Tim,
If you have opened the box today, it means you now have all you need and desire. You are today successful, satisfied and happy. The magic that makes things happen to you is YOU. I did not give you magic, you already had that. I just gave you the self-confidence to make the Magic in YOU work.
You have made your own choices, taken your own risks, made your own mistakes and have been responsible for your own actions. You are entirely self-made. “
A roar of applause followed as I concluded narrating my life story at the graduation ceremony at my daughter’s business school where I was invited to share my wisdom as a successful, self-made business leader.
I left the stage with one message to the bright, young minds in front of me was - We are all born with Magic in us, we are all Magic Boxes – it is our attitude, passion and sincerity that makes us Magicians.