The beautiful white cups painted with pink daisies and dotted with pastel green designs, shined like the white of egg on the shelf under the old television box. When Aunty Bebe bought them from Canada, which she distinctly pronounced as Cunayda, with the roll of a tongue, Mother had treated them like ores of gold, and had placed them on the rack, where they ornamentally rested – “not to be touched or played with,” she instructed.
The Chinese porcelain made cups, a set of three, were Mother’s most prized possession. Even on her worst days, when she was down with high fever and unable to move or shake, reappearing signs of her growing old age, on days she would choose not to cook or do the laundry, she would pull herself out of bed and dust the cups with utmost care and patience. Those cups were her second, and at times Paroza feared her first, child.
She would pester and bedevil her mother as to why she loved the cups so much; why she was not allowed to touch them while she could hastily stir, pick and drop the rest of the cutlery when asked by Mother to cook the usual evening tea. Even the most faithful promise of decent and careful treatment wouldn’t win her the rights to deal with the cups.
Paroza wanted to touch and handle them more than anything in the world; when denied the privilege to do so, her curiosity would get revived like a fresh peel of potato and she would weep and howl. Just like the urge to do something multiplies when one is repudiated from doing it. Yet for Paroza it was more to satisfy her listless childlike desire than it was for defiance.
One day Mother calmly seated her on her lap, this was before she had Alzheimer’s of course, and whispered in her sweetest, honeycombed voice, “Do you know why I do not let you touch those, Roza?” She pointed a soft finger at the kingly cups.
Paroza shook her head. “You do know they aren’t just cups right?” Mother had theatrical excellence when it came to adding that beautiful arousing tone to a twist.
Paroza gasped in her lap. Her tummy tightened, her eyes locked in Mother’s, awaiting impatiently for the golden secret to be told.
“Oh!” She threw her hands in the air dramatically. “They are disguised lamps of course!”
“A lamp?” Bemused Paroza asked.
“Yes. A lamp. A Genie Lamp. Each lamp has a genie, and you must be oh-so-careful in dealing with such mysterious magical apprentices!” Her eyes widened. “If you drop them by chance, the genie might escape!”
“But aren’t Genies good mother? Do they not fulfil wishes?”
“Oh you are so innocent my love! Not these ones…genies that come from disguised lamps like these claim a life for every wish they fulfil. For every wish asked, another person gets locked inside the lamp – forever.” The last few words ringed in Paroza’s mind for days. Although she now maintained distance with the cups, she did not lose her fantasy about them, they never lost their beauty in her brain.
Ages later when Mother was in her worst days, she accidently dropped the beauties on the floor. She looked at the painted cups with a blank face. Her love for the cups had now become a faint shadowy memory in her brain, like the blurry image of a defocused picture, just like everything else was nowadays. Roza gasped.
She stared at the tumbling lamp, now rolling on the floor towards the rug where she sat. She sat there, tears in her eyes, a stump in her heart, waiting for the Genie to appear. In her mind she had already made her wish. “Heal her,” she hushed beneath her breath, looking at the dauntless figure of her once strong mother. Her tears rained down her cheeks, she had not forgotten the price of making a wish.