Little Razeeb was prancing on the Shishu Mela compound in the capital with his mother on an uneventful morning. Suddenly, something caught his curious eyes. He looked over to a stall where a man was making a card float in thin air using only his mysterious hand movements. The simple mind of a grade one student could not comprehend what enabled the man in the stall do something that seemed, by all means, impossible.
"That was the very first time I ever came across magic, and I knew that I wanted to do that," recalled Razeeb.
After that mind-blowing trip to Shishu Mela, what ensued from it were perseverance, years of dedication and practice transforming Sajedur Rahman Razeeb into one of the most renowned magicians in Bangladesh--Hrazu.
Born in a humble family in Faridpur, the 26-year-old always had plans circulating magic since childhood. Even though Hrazu is skilled in painting and has constantly received accolades for his drawing prowess, he chose the profession of magic over others.
"I have performed for kids, adults and also terminal cancer patients, children of prostitutes and so on. I still remember when I performed for my cancer patient grandfather. I cannot forget his smile when I took the torn-up tissue paper and fixed it. The fact that I can provide this delight to them with just a few tricks made me choose this path," said a content Hrazu.
However, the start of his remarkable journey was not smooth. He constantly faced snide remarks and demotivating comments. In a country where a career choice in performing arts usually see unsupportive responses, Hrazu had to deal with a lot. More often than usual, people would laugh at his idea of starting a career in magic and performing tricks.
"The obstacles I had to face for magic are way more than the ones I encountered for my painting. However, whenever anyone had any doubts about my future as a magician, I used to show them some tricks, and they would appreciate it," reminisced Hrazu. "I even performed for my mathematics teacher and got applauded what I still remember vividly."
Hrazu focuses primarily on street magic such as card tricks and sleight of hands. But he has plans for much bigger endeavours in the future. Since his biggest inspiration is American illusionist David Blaine, he wishes to master the art of illusion and simple tricks. However, Hrazu plans on making large acts similar to the ones of American magician David Copperfield.
"Performing street magic requires little to no equipment, and that makes it more interesting for the audience." he said.
Hrazu may be a magician doing tricks for the people but, he has taken himself to a whole new level because of his benevolence. His charity 'HRAZU Charitable Trust' has been helping people since the pre-Covid era. He has donated over Tk 0.2 million to various foundations. The trust has provided necessary commodities to 1,000 families during the Covid-19 crisis in Razeeb's hometown Faridpur.
"I believe I am in a position where I can help some people in need. So, I have started this foundation to ease the sufferings of the people," he continues, "We are constantly recruiting volunteers to broaden our operations and reach more people."
However, the primary focus of the humanitarian Hrazu is not just donating relief to the people in need. Hrazu is a vocal advocate of mental health awareness and aims to tackle all the stigmas and problems surrounding this issue which is sometimes even considered taboo.
"The number of suicides Bangladesh faces each year is unimaginable, and at the very root of this issue is mental health which most people choose to ignore. I believe if Covid-19 is considered a global pandemic, then suicide is a silent pandemic," said the anxious man.
So, Hrazu talks about mental health in the ultimate five minutes of his every magic show. He has also written a book on clinical psychology titled 'Umbrella' published at the 2021 Amar Ekushey Book Fair. His trust is working on this matter as well. At present, he is observing the status of psychiatrists in the country and looking for ways to improve the beggars' conditions.
"There are only 300 licenced psychiatrists in the country for our massive population. Moreover, not all of them are perfectly trained to handle the patients, and maintain doctor-patient confidentiality," remarks Razeeb.
Hrazu feels the lack of awareness about mental health has made the situation catastrophic. Most people do not feel inclined to spend time learning about the importance of a healthy mind. Hence, people roll their eyes at the news of depression, anxiety, which often lead to drug addiction and even death.
"My ultimate goal is to create a movement on mental health in Bangladesh and eradicate all the obstacles out there," said an optimistic Hrazu.
Hrazu is a purveyor of happiness and smiles. He is not just stopping after showing his remarkable magic tricks, he is making a difference. From helping those in financial need to declaring solidarity with the people with mental stress, Hrazu is doing things that most people hesitate to do. There is a saying, "Actions speak louder than words." And right now, Hrazu's actions are echoing throughout the country.
The writer is a BBA student at IBA (DU).