The lamp, reloaded.
When Ali jimmied the lock on a car for the first time, he didn’t really have any idea what he would do with it. He took it out for a long drive, enjoyed the attention it got him and that was pretty much it. The moment the fuel gauge went low, he had the feeling he was being left with an abandoned child and he just wanted to get out of the situation as fast as possible. He thought, naively enough, that he could sell the entire car, as it was and get a butt load of cash for it, which he would then use to buy himself some fancy sneakers, the latest cell phone and a pair of decent headphones, since his were always getting shot because he used them 24/7.
With that grand plan in mind, he went to his uncle, Khurpe Kaka. Well, there was obviously no blood bond there. Khurpe Kaka used to be Ali’s dad’s work buddy at an industrial unit. When the unit shut down, Ali’s dad Mansoor hit the bottle with a vengeance, while Khurpe Kaka entered the car garage business as a mechanic. Pretty soon, he had generated a strong clientele and wasn’t averse to taking on a couple of shady clients, as long as he knew that there was no blood involved. Blasé was Khurpe Kaka’s middle name.
Which is why, he didn’t miss a step, when Ali told him he had a Merc to dispose off. Khurpe Kaka smiled sagely and despite Ali’s obvious misery proceeded to dismantle the car with the dispassionate ease of a butcher. Ali could only watch as the beautiful car was broken up into pieces and sold off. He learnt two things, that day. He could go to Khurpe Kaka for anything he needed and secondly, don’t get too attached to something you steal.
That was of course, in the past. Now, at the ripe old age of 19, Ali felt like an old soul when it came to selling stolen cars, small time smuggling rackets and petty crime that had him under the police scanner, but he had a mentor on the force. Eddie ‘the Tiger’ Furtado always bailed him out and pretty much covered his ass when things got too hot. Two reasons, Eddie was Ali’s dad’s drinking buddy and loved the man too much to let his boy get caught. Second reason, Eddie despite the moniker, really was a damp squib in bed and had no cub to his credit. So, Ali was as close to a child as he would ever get.
And so with his questions about daily bread solved, and enough money to take his dad to the emergency room, whenever his busted up liver complained, Ali finally had time to do some things for himself. He loved travelling and he did that. He loved buying clothes and things for his house. He found that Chor Bazaar was the perfect spot to buy what he needed. Besides, he wasn’t getting gypped there. Although he was no longer the ‘unwashed’, there was still enough hidden grime to convince the sales staff at Chor Bazaar not to scam him.
On one of his trips to the Bazaar he noticed a particular lamp in a shop. It wasn’t a big deal, really. It was just some indeterminate material covered over by the inevitable black oxidized you came to expect in a city by the sea. But, something appealed to him and so he requested a price. Which he didn’t get. Three times. In fact, he began to wonder at this constant refusal. Why would someone not want to sell something in a shop? Was it too precious? Totally worthless? Totally dangerous? He just had to know.
Fourth time lucky, he finally made it home with the lamp. He would have set to it with the polish at once, if he didn’t have to cart off his dad to the emergency room for the 8th time that month. When he got back home, late at night, he cursorily cleaned the lamp and went to bed.
It seemed barely a second had passed when he was being shaken awake. He opened his eyes and saw an old man with straggly hair, major bald areas on his skull, wearing a tattered old muslin overshirt over something that looked like harem pants. There was a catheter bag emerging out of the harem pants and at first, Ali thought, he was at the hospital. So, he started questioning the old man, gently.
Ali: Yes, can I help you?
Old man: I believe that is my department, sire. I have come here, to do thy bidding!
Ali: Huh? Thy? Holy gobar. Okay, buddy. I am really not into this. Okay? Go back to your bed, I’ll send the nurse to you.
Old man: Sire, we are at your abode. And there is no nurse here.
Ali: What? Then, what the *** are you doing in my house, ***? Get the *** out at once, crapface!
Old man: Sire, I applaud you on the variety of names you have for me, but I normally go by the title of Genie of the Lamp. You may refer to me as Genie, if it pleases you.
Ali: No, it does not! What lamp? What Genie? Who let you in? Who sent you? Are you senile or crazy? Do you even live in this place? Start talking, before I gut you.
Old man: Sire, please, one moment. I am of course, under stricture to answer all your queries as part of my duty. I am as I said, at thy bidding. So, the lamp is the one you have shown such alacrity in buying. I am the Genie who resides within that lamp. I was allowed into your life and abode by the magical powers of the lamp. They are not who, but more like what. A natural force, I would imagine. You see, sire, I have never understood what they are. But I believe they do create marvels, which you have seen in your world. The Aurora Borealis, the colours of the sunset sky and so on. I am not senile or crazy. I am simply from another time. I live in the space accorded to me by the powers of this lamp to live, in a place between the real and illusory world. I am waiting to grant my last three wishes, so I can end my tenure as genie of this lamp and go on to choosing which world I can live in and what form I can inhabit. Please don’t gut me, it would take me a long time to recover all my bits and pieces from the stratosphere and assemble them again. As you can tell by my catheter, I am not the genie I once used to be.
Ali: Okay, okay. Way too much information, but okay. Now, go to that corner, and go to sleep. And try to stay out of my way, till I process this.
Ali spent a restless night. Partly because, he was trying to process the new information and partly because the Genie turned out to be a champion farter. Groggy after a night of inhaling centuries old hydrogen suphide, ammonia and God knows what else, Ali decided to dump the old Genie in an old age home. It was the most humane thing he could think of. But, turns out, there was a catch.
Genie: I respect your decision, sire. And thank you, for allowing me to enjoy a fate, which should actually be reserved for your esteemable father. But sadly, you can’t get rid of me, so easily. You will find yourself up against a formidable ally, who won’t back down.
Ali: Ha! Formidable ally, aka you?
Genie: No, sire. You will find the powers that be which operate this lamp do the same in your world too. I believe, it is called red tape and formalities, here. You will be defeated. But, since you have set your mind to the goal, I wish you the very best of luck in this venture.
Ali put his mind to the task. He was sorted enough to know, that the best way through red tape and formalities was to flash money, offer gifts, and if all else failed, flex a muscle or break a tooth. All of which he tried. Ultimately, he decided to throw the lamp away. The Genie of course, had his reservations, but was quickly beginning to realize his new patron wasn’t going to be deterred unless he made every effort to make things happen.
All of which proved futile. The lamp was subjected to every mode of destruction possible. Tossed into the sea, thrown into the sewers, hurled into a furnace, blasted by a welding gun, crushed under the wheel of a 14 wheeler. But, still, the lamp and the genie returned. A bit worse for the weather, but still in the wish fulfillment game.
Ali was at his wit’s end. He wanted to be rid of this pesky genie. It was taking up all his time and effort. He had to handle a lot of stuff and it didn’t help having the genie tailing him everywhere. He was tired of answering questions about him. The genie wasn’t going back into the lamp since apparently by contract, once he was out of the lamp, he was out and couldn’t go back in. Normally, he would be invisible but his personal powers were weak and he could barely hold the physical form. Besides, Ali’s dad wasn’t getting better and he was really worried sick about him. Finally, he had an idea.
Ali: Say, genie, what if you grant three wishes of mine? Huh? You can leave then, right?
Genie: Of course, sire. That is what I am meant to do! It is my calling. Thank you, thank you, for this opportunity. You won’t regret it. I can get you whatever you want.
Ali: Wow, okay, so fine. I want the latest Quechuas, the latest cell phone and the best head phones in the market.
Genie: (awkward pause) Sire, there is a problem.
Genie: Those aren’t wishes. That’s shopping. You want those items and you can buy them, any time, sire. I don’t think, you should be wasting these wishes on such trivial desires. If you don’t mind my saying so, sire. Of course, you are the boss.
Ali: So, life changing wishes and personal wishes are what you are offering, right?
Genie: Yes! And in a way that would greatly benefit you. You will never regret it, sire.
Ali: Spare me the sales pitch. It’s enough for me to know, that I will not have to inhale any more of your farts. Fine. My first wish, is make my dad okay. He should not have any more health problems.
Genie: Your wish is my command. And your second wish?
Ali: My second wish, is…I’ve been alone for too long. I want to find a girl who loves me and needs me.
Genie: Your will be done. And your third wish?
Ali: I don’t know, if I should use them all up at once. Why don’t we see how you do with the first two?
Genie: (blanching slightly) Of course, I understand your qualms. Alright, then. Sire, your wishes have been accepted and are being fulfilled as we speak.
Ali spent the next few days in a haze of hope, incredulity and impatience. It seems, wish fulfillment wasn’t as quick as it used to be. His dad was still in hospital, but he now listened to the doctors with barely suppressed excitement. He wanted to shout at them and say, his dad would be out and they would see.
Exactly a week later, his dad was out of the hospital. And in the morgue. The genie barely survived the thrashing Ali gave him and the only reason he stopped was because he realized no matter how hard he hit the damn old man, he wouldn’t die. Something about being a nature spirit. Disgusted with himself for believing that wishes could ever be fulfilled, Ali ignored the genie and got back to his life. He stoically ignored questions about the old man and ignored any attempt by the genie to talk to him. All he did was keep the genie stocked with sodas, which seemed to sustain him and of course give him enough wind.
Exactly another week later, Ali had to help out one of his friends, who was a luxury cab driver. His friend had to go on an out of town assignment and asked Ali to fill in for the night. Ali of course, filled in. He went to a swanky club with a gorgeous young man in the backseat. He waited till the early morning hours and was just dozing off, when he was woken up by a frantic tattoo on the window. He rolled down the window to see the gorgeous young man holding up a skimpily clad girl, who appeared to have puked all over herself and was passed out.
Ali: Watch the window! What is it? Are you ready to leave?
Gorgeous: No, I am not! You have to leave, though. Take her to the hospital. Please, I can’t be seen taking her there. My dad’s famous, dude!
Ali: Chill maar! Okay. Listen, I can’t take her. The company has some gobar filled rule which says that I can only take passengers they have cleared. You know, ID check and all. They want to be sure the person is above board and your chicklet seems to have puked over herself. I don’t want her doing anything nasty in the car.
Gorgeous: Listen to me! I’ll pay them enough to shut them up. Just drive! Take her to the hospital. She is going to die, soon, if you don’t move your butt.
Ali: Fine. Dump her in the back and get lost. Listen, give me some money first.
Gorgeous: How much?
Ali: 20,000. It’s a government hospital I’m taking her to.
Gorgeous: What? *** you! I won’t give you over 10 thousand.
Ali: Don’t be cheap, ***. You just shot up 50 grand worth of stuff in there. I’m not a villager who just got off the boat from Alibaug. Pay up and go pick her up, tomorrow. I’ll message you the address.
Gorgeous: No! No sms trail. I don’t want to be tracked to this. I’ll…someone will come and pick her up.
Ali drove off, furious. He hated this situation, but he wasn’t about to throw the girl into the road. He got a call from the cab company, when he went off their tracker, but he told them in no uncertain terms what they could do with their threats and where they could pick up the car. He got the girl into hospital and landed up to check on her the next day. He just had a feeling Gorgeous wasn’t going to arrange for her to be picked up or even look in on her. He was right. He kept going back to the hospital and watched the girl get better. He found out her name, which was pretty damn near being royalty in this particular city. But, he didn’t care about that. He knew her as a poor little lost girl, who needed him and he was okay with that. His second wish, it seems had come true.
It would take years of effort on both their parts to come to realize they were actually a match made in genie heaven. By then, Ali was older, wiser, father to five kids with his junkie princess, who had cleaned up, pun defintely intended, nicely. They lived happily in the junkie princess’ citadel which gave them all they desired and so there were no more wishes unfulfilled.
However, there was one wish which had to come true for the genie to be free. Ali, who by now realized that the best wishes are made for others, wished for the genie to turn into a cat, who travelled with him everywhere. The lamp was donated to a museum and since it was now just an artifact, could enjoy the attention that it deserved, finally.