The window of her one-room apartment looked out on the busy road. The honk and screech of a perfect Monday morning. Sipping a cup of water, she turned away from the window. It was 9 already. Shoving the last piece of toast in her mouth, she quickly picked up her bag and made a dash for the stairs.
‘Way before deadline, yet again!’ she thought to herself triumphantly. Her impossible-to-impress boss till now had been more than satisfied. She never had a problem staying back late and working. In fact, she was so obsessed with it, she even volunteered to take it home!
Speeding down the road, she tried not to look at the PWD building. ‘I can blink,’ she assured herself, “at least I can blink.’ It was a hard bargain. That frustrated genie wouldn’t settle for anything else. After all that had happened, she had stopped believing in fairy tales. She learnt the hard way when she expected a friendly genie to come out of that stupid old rusty lamp she found one night, stranded in the rain near the PWD building. When a skinny little apparition wearing Winnie the Pooh pajamas emerged from the lamp, she could hardly suppress her amusement. Hell, she pointed at him and laughed so damn loud – even louder than the sound of the rain smashing against the asbestos roof. The genie looked at her disapprovingly.
“Do you, young lady, have any idea about what you just did?” he asked her, gingerly removing curlers from his hair.
“Oh, I’m sorry,” she said, still giggling. “All this was, well, lets just say, a little unexpected. Anyway, so how about, all the money in the Swiss Bank, a yacht and the ability to go invisible, huh?”
“What do you mean?”
“What do you mean what do I mean? Don’t I get my three wishes?”
“Hah! The three wishes. Everybody knows about the three wishes. I must speak to the union about this. We need more people to know about the curse.”
“Ah, that if you wake up a genie, one who has had an experience of five years or more, he is entitled to curse you howsoever he pleases.”
“Oh, puh-lease! You weren’t sleeping. And who makes lame rules like that, anyway?”
“Dear lady, you’ll be glad to know, this one came from moi. Came up with it just yesterday.”
“Would this be the right time to say ‘uh-oh’?”
“Yes my dear, I’m going to curse you with an inability to sleep or blink – ever!”
“Is this really happening!!???!!”
“No blinking??? C’mon, you can let a girl blink, can’t you? This is just too harsh.” She tried sounding as calm and composed, as she wasn’t. After what seemed like a billion years, she could convince him to let her blink, at least. “You say you made this rule yesterday. Now, do you think this is a really good way to see how well this works? Giving such an extreme and harsh one right in the beginning?”
Sleepy and irritated, the genie was finding it hard to sustain the argument any longer. “Bah! Blink all you want. But you can sleep only when it rains. Now, push off, you, before I throw another one at you. Run along. Shoo!”
She entered office just in time. Pooja met her at the door, where she had stopped to punch her card. “Oye, Gulati expects the presentation today afternoon. You done?” “Yup!” she replied, looking at Pooja’s rolled up jeans. “What’s with that?” she asked.
“Oh!” she relied, rolling them back down. It rained in my part of town today. I heard the Met department say monsoon begins July. Can you imagine, pre monsoon showers already? I mean, for the… hey! Hey! Wait up! Where are you running off to?”
She ran into Gulati’s office, and breathlessly, slammed her papers on his desk.
He looked up coolly. “Yes Sonali, I can see you’re done. What’s the panic?”
“Sir,” she asked him, sheepishly, “can I please take an off for all of July?”
(This story was the second runner up in a competition in the recently held Fiction Workshop in Ramjas college, Delhi University. Kim Arora is a regular writer for The Viewspaper Fiction Section and pursuing a degree in English in Lady Shri Ram College.)