From classroom tool to ice-breaker, the few dollar-store tricks he carries in a special pouch have charmed children (and plenty of adults) from China to Cambodia and Indonesia to India.
But he'd never actually been asked to do a show until Rajasthan.
Through our guesthouse, we had hired an autorickshaw, a three-wheeled motorbike cab, to drive us out of Bikaner and go to a traditional village. The driver, Baba, took us to Raisar, a place about 20 kilometers north where he had some personal friends. They would open the doors to the village and let us get a look at what life is like in the desert.
At first though, when we got to the village, it was awkward. The driver didn't seem too sure of his English. The friend kinda seemed like he didn't know what to show us. And, like anywhere in Asia, we were getting stared at by a dozen or so earnest pairs of eyes from a distance of, oh, about two feet. They treated us like honored guests, pulling out weather-beaten plastic chairs for us to sit on while everyone else hunkered down on the sand or on the concrete wall. We sat for awhile, the driver and his friend talking in local dialect and small (and not-so-small) children running up every few minutes for a nice long look at us and then running off again to tell somebody else about the cool thing going on down at so-and-so's house.
Tea came and we sat up stiffly wondering if there was some etiquette about who needed to drink first. While we waited to figure that out, Dan pulled out his magic bag.
“This is ten rupees, right?” he asked them, holding out a piece of money-sized paper with a cartoon rendering of Gandhi and a big ball-point “TEN” written on it.
They looked at him and nodded. Whatever you say, crazy foreigner, I could almost hear them thinking.
“No, it's not!” Dan exclaimed. And, with a bit of folding and re-folding and a generous dose of magic, he produced a real 10-rupee note. “This is!”
They all sucked in their breaths and grinned. “Aaaaahhh!” The kid who brought us the tea almost fell off the wall. The other boys, the self-appointed staring crew, broke into bird laughter. Our driver started to smile. Yes, it was going to be a good day.
We walked around after that, looking at houses, watching a camel being shorn in a decorative pattern, peeking in to a new-born camel milking its mother, and taking pictures of the kids who followed us as if we were the Pied Piper.
We stopped to greet some people the driver knew.
“Show them your magic rupees!” he told Dan.
Later, we greeted some old men with a respectful Hindi greeting: 'Ram ram sha.' We went into an adobe home home and met five generations living under one roof. We saw camel wool being woven into shawls.
“What about the magic?” the driver suggested.
Dan was famous.
A long rickshaw ride later, we got back to the family-run guesthouse where we were staying. We were tired, since we'd also stopped by the royal cenotaphs, a temple dedicated to Hanuman, the monkey god, and a fanciful concrete faux cave/temple dedicated to another manifestation of Durga.
The guesthouse owner greeted us, wanted to know how the trip went. Very good, we said.
A few hours later, he found Dan.
“Hey! I hear you're a magician! Come show my family and show the guests!”
Click here to see photos of Raisar and Bikaner