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Chapter 1

Rahul was not at all happy. In fact he had not been feeling happy for a while now. Things had changed at home and at school since the birth of his sister Ria. They say she is a ‘blue baby’. Rahul had never heard of the term blue baby before. He had thought may be her skin was tinged with blue like the hero of his favorite movie ‘Avatar’ that is why she was called that. Now though his parents have explained it to him that Ria’s heart is not as healthy as it should be. She sometimes has trouble breathing and her face and finger nails do take on a kind of bluish hue then, hence the reason for the name.  Even his parents had no clue in the beginning but Ria was getting awfully tired while eating or crying so the doctors did some tests and figured out that she was a blue baby. It is not that Rahul does not love his sister, he does, but because of her condition his parents have to spend so much time at the hospital and pharmacies that they scarcely have any time for Rahul these days. They seem to be drifting apart from him. Before Ria was born they used to help him with his homework, with the preparation for tests and a lot of other things but now it is just Ria and her doctors. They are always doing thousands of tests on her. Rahul is left at home all alone. He does his homework, watches TV, everything all by himself. His grades have begun to slip miserably. His parents see his failing grades but never utter a word! It is as though Rahul’s failing a test does not really matter, it is certainly not as worthy of worry as little Ria’s heart condition. It’s not that Rahul does not want to do well for the tests, he does, almost desperately so but he has always had trouble with following the Maths lessons in class. The teacher goes too fast for Rahul to grasp what is going on. Before the birth of Ria his mom or dad used to explain how the sums should be done and everything would be crystal clear in his brain but now they have no time to teach him Maths.

His friend Ishan commented, “Everyone knows Sharma Sir travels faster than a jet plane! It is not his fault either because he has so much to cover. I have a private tutor at home who explains everything to me. Why don’t you ask your parents to get one for you?”

Rahul had approached his dad with that solution but his dad had merely shaken his head, “Sorry Rahul, you have to study on your own for a while. Ria’s tests and treatments are expensive and the bills are mounting so a private tutor for you is out of question at the moment. We’ll try to make some time to teach you.”

However, they had never been able to find any time for him. Rahul used to be among the top five in his class but now he had slipped down to eighteen! He had been miserable ever since he had looked at his report card earlier that morning. Nothing seemed to cheer him up. On top of everything else yesterday night he had heard his parents talking that they planned to give up the house to the local promoter. The house that they lived in was a two storey one, built by Rahul’s grandfather. All around their little house were tall multistoreyed buildings. Rahul’s father had been approached several times by the promoter guy but he had been resisting until now. The thought that their house would be raised to the ground and a huge building would be built there was enough to send Rahul into depths of despair. Plus there was the fact that they would only get one or two flats and the rest would be occupied by hordes of unknown people.

They were showing a cricket match on TV but Rahul didn’t feel like watching. He wandered from room to room trying to absorb the aura and feel of the house. At last he went to the roof top. He could hear screams from the neighbouring houses, someone had probably hit a four or a six or may be a wicket was down. Munni’s grandmother was collecting the clothes that she had hung out to dry out in the fourth floor balcony of the house next door.

She saw him wandering alone and asked, “Rahul dear aren’t you watching the game? Everyone is watching at our place. They are driving me crazy with all that yelling in the drawing room! Are you upset about your sister?”

Rahul just muttered something intelligible. The old lady would probably have asked him more questions but luckily her daughter, Munni’s mother, came looking for her and took her inside with her.

The beautiful blue skies, the gentle breeze, the chirping of the birds did nothing to lift Rahul’s moods. The rooftop was also not an ideal place to be in as people were beginning to stare.

“Rahul, hey Rahul!” someone called.

Rahul turned and looked. It was Priyansh from his class. He lived on the third floor of one of the adjacent high rise buildings and he was all dressed up.

“Why are you calling? Did you need something?” Rahul asked.

“No, just wanted to tell you that I am going to the circus with my parents, then we’ll have dinner at La Plaza. It is a treat for my excellent results,” said Priyansh bursting with pride.

“OK,” was all Rahul said.

Priyansh vanished after delivering the news. Rahul would have loved to go to the circus and have dinner at La Plaza as well but who had the time to take him?

Feeling really despondent Rahul went and sat in a corner. He could see some kites flying. Last year he had flown kites with his dad from up here. It had been a lot of fun. This year his father would probably not have the time. Then he remembered, if the promoter took over this house this rooftop would also not be there. There would be a roof of course but that would belong to a zillion other people also. The little attic room would be demolished. Suddenly Rahul had an idea, ‘Hey what about the key to the attic room?’ he thought.

His mother never let him go in there. She always said, “Oh Rahul it is terribly dirty and grimy. No one has ever cleaned that space after your grandpa and grandma passed away. I don’t even dare to go in there myself. I have to hire a couple of people to clean it out.”

However, that was before the advent of Ria and her illness, now the attic was just about forgotten by everyone except Rahul.

He ran downstairs and got his mother’s knick knack key ring. He kept trying one key after another and finally one of the keys worked! Rahul was ecstatic. It had been a long time since something had given him this much pleasure. After taking lock out he slid the bolt open. It was dark inside but there was a light switch near the door. The room was flooded with light as soon as he switched that on. His mother was right, the room was excessively dirty and smelled musty. Everything was covered with dust. The floor was cracked and uneven. There were a couple of metal and wooden boxes but they were all locked. Lots of books and utensils were strewn all over the place. The books were all pertaining to astrology. Astrology had been his grandpa’s hobby and he used to read all these bulky books.

There was not a single fun thing inside the room, Rahul decided and was about to leave when he tripped on a broken piece of tile on the floor and fell down with a resounding crash. Not only that, he fell on top of some utensils making his fall painful and the noise tenfold!

“What a mess!” Rahul thought as he tried to put the utensils away. That’s when he saw the lamp. It looked exactly like the lamp he had seen in the pictures in the story and the cartoon movie of Aladdin and his magic lamp.

Finding the lamp was fun for Rahul.  ‘Let me pretend to be Aladdin,’ he thought and tried to rub the surface of the lamp. Nothing happened, there was no thunder or lightening and no genie appeared! Getting bored with the imaginary games after a while Rahul locked the attic door and went downstairs. The rays of the sun were losing their intense warmth as evening was approaching.

“I wonder how much longer Mom and Dad are going to be. I feel so hungry!” Rahul said to himself. He went into the kitchen and after pottering around for a bit got some rice crispy and peanuts to eat. He was pondering whether to switch the TV on when a stout shirtless man came strolling out of the bedroom, making Rahul scream with terror! The man looked quite afraid himself and came to sit beside Rahul!

Rahul asked in a scared voice, “Who are you? What do you want? Are you here to kidnap me? How did you get in?”

The man looked around and said, “Oh, your yelling gave me such a terrible fright! I thought there was someone else in here! Now I realize you were shouting because you were scared of me! Whew! Don’t ever scream like that again, I was about to get a heart attack! It can happen you know! When you get old sudden and unexpected things tend to frighten you! You however are very foolish considering the fact that you summoned me and now you keep asking me a million questions about who I am!”

Then he looked at the bowl in Rahul’s hand and said, “Can I have some peanuts and rice crispy as well? I haven’t eaten in days!”  

Rahul kept staring at the stranger. He did seem familiar.

“You have to tell me who you are first, and why you are here.”

“Oh for heaven’s sake you were the one who was rubbing the blazes out of the lamp to summon me and now that I am here you don’t even recognize me! I am the genie of the lamp of course! Now can I get some rice crispy and peanuts?”

Rahule felt really excited! The genie of Aladdin’s magic lamp was sitting right there in his living room with him, how extraordinary was that! His friends would all be so amazed to hear that! He went to the kitchen to get the rice crispy and peanuts for the genie. The genie was absolutely huge, hopefully a bowlful would be enough for him. Rahul could be in trouble if he ate all the food in the house.

The genie seemed pleased to see the bowl.

“I’m glad that you didn’t bring a lot. I was about to tell you to go easy on the quantity. I am getting old and these days I have a lot of health issues, especially digestive problems.”

Rahul was very relieved to hear that the genie would not eat all the food in the house.

He seemed to be enjoying the rice crispy and said, “This is really good. The food that they have at Aladdin’s palace is so rich! It always gives me indigestion, though I am better now. Ok, are you ready?”

“Ready for what?”

“Rahul! For an intelligent boy you are acting mighty dense! Don’t we have to hand the lamp over to its rightful owner and heir?”

Rahul’s eyes goggled, “I thought the since the lamp was in the attic it belonged to my grandpa and grandma, didn’t it?”

The genie looked a trifle exasperated, “No, of course not! Everyone knows that the lamp belongs to Aladdin!  Haven’t you read the story?”

“Yes, and I have watched the cartoon movie too!”

“Uh oh! Don’t ever mention the cartoon movie before Aladdin. He doesn’t like it one bit! Apparently a lot of facts were not quite right in that! I for one don’t fancy myself in blue body color! Anyway, the lamp belongs to Aladdin and it is now my responsibility to take it to its rightful heir. But as you can see I am old fashioned and outdated that is why I need your help.”

“Doesn’t Aladdin want the lamp anymore?”

The genie scratched his head, “Looks like you don’t really know anything. I thought you knew! Alright, let me explain the matter to you in detail. The thought came to Aladdin one fine day. The moment he thought of it he wanted to execute the idea. He called his wife and asked, ‘Do you know where my lamp is?’

His wife was really surprised, ‘Is something wrong? You have remembered the lamp after so many days! I have kept it in the bank locker along with my jewellery. It’s not safe to keep something as valuable as that lying outside.’

Aladdin scratched his head and said, ‘Alright, then you have to go to the bank tomorrow and get it out. I have to talk to the genie of the lamp.’

The next day Mrs. Aladdin went to the bank and brought the lamp home. Aladdin was very happy to see it. He rubbed and scrubbed immediately to summon me. I was supposed to appear right away but after the really long sleep it took me a while to spruce myself and show up! So I was about five minutes late and Aladdin was not happy!

‘What’s wrong? Why are you late? For a moment I thought that the lamp had lost its magic!’ he said.

I told him the truth, ‘It’s been a while since you have called me so you cannot really blame me if I had fallen asleep. Then when I tried to get here I found that the roads had all changed. This place looks so different that I got lost first but finally figured out the way and here I am! So tell me what I can do for you. Why did you need me after so long?’

‘As you are aware I haven’t called you in years because I haven’t needed you. I hope I shall never need you again. I already have everything I wish and desire for, thanks to you. Now I want to give the lamp to someone who will use it for the good of the world.’

I said, ‘How about giving it to Superman or Batman or any other similar guys? They try to do good don’t they?’

Aladdin shook his head in negation, ‘No, they already have magical powers. There’s no point is greasing already greasy palms!’

‘What about your kids?’

‘No, never! They should never ever get hold of the lamp. They are all extremely selfish, plus I have already taken care of all their needs a long time ago. We have to find someone who will use all your powers for the good of mankind. I am giving you the responsibility of finding a worthy heir for the lamp!’

I was overjoyed to hear that! Finally I had something to do!

So Aladdin has thought and researched a lot to create a list for me. I will check out all the people on the list and the most deserving one will get the lamp. However, I am not very good at judging people so if you …you know help out with that kind of things then it will be really convenient for me. You name was also suggested by Aladdin. We wanted a smart kid and since your parents are busy with your sister they will not notice if you are absent from home for a while in order to accompany me. The lamp was kept in the attic room so that no one else but you could see it. But the room was so dusty and dirty! I was feeling like sneezing all the time I was there. Thank goodness you came in when you did otherwise I surely would have contracted asthma!”

Rahul began to feel a sense of elation, “Our school is closed tomorrow on account of a staff meeting. Will your work be done in a day?”

The genie was very happy to hear that, “Definitely! This is great! Let me take the list out.”

Then Rahul remembered something, “Wait! There’s something that I must tell you. I am ready to go with you but not if you are going to be dressed like that! It will be highly embarrassing for me if you roam around bare foot and shirtless!”

The genie looked positively crestfallen, “What should I do? I can’t do anything for myself, that’s not allowed!”

“Grandpa’s clothes are in the attic. He was a big man like you and my dad has big feet. His shoes might fit you.”

Rahul fiddled with the keys and managed to bring some clothes for the genie, ones that did not look too outdated. The genie looked weird but at least it was better than nothing!

“There are five names on the list. I was thinking that maybe I should talk with each one of them and if they seem suitable give them the lamp, but Aladdin vetoed that idea. He is really clever. He said that talking to them was not enough. Unless they got the lamp in their hands to use their true nature would never be revealed! We will never get a clue as to who is good and who is evil unless we give them the lamp for use, maybe once or twice. Once we see what they are asking for we’ll know for sure if they are really worthy of the lamp.”

“What if they ask for something really bad in the first go? Like destroying the earth or something?”

“Oh no! You don’t understand! It will be like a trial run. It is up to me to grant or not grant their wish and you will be with me as well. If you think that things are not going the way they should then just let me know. There’s really no need to be scared. If they ask for something they should not then the three of us – that is you, me and the lamp shall disappear for good from there!”

“Who are the people on your list?”

“They are either famous people or ones that are really good at heart. They all want to do good for the mankind. There is no mistake in that. The lamp could easily have been given to any one of them but as they say greed can change a person. No one knows that better than Aladdin so he wants to be absolutely sure before giving the lamp. Nothing could be worse than the misuse of power!”

“What if they are good with us but turn into evil minds later?”

“Don’t be such a pessimist! I have learnt a lot from Aladdin and you will be with me as well. Together we will definitely find the worthy heir to the lamp, you’ll see!”


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