The story of the wish granting genie trapped in a bottle that will give you whatever you desire when you release it from its bottle is an evergreen story, with all its twists and turns. You have the versions where the genie sort of becomes friends with the person releasing it from its bottle, stories where the genie is repeatedly trapped by an evil magician, enslaved in its wish granting forever. You have stories where the genie is intrinsically evil and unless cleverly trapped in the bottle, destroys all that it gave and everyone it gave these wishes to once it is free of its obligations. Some stories have the genie as this wise old soul that has seen it all over thousands of years, and is here again, granting wishes one more time to a naïve little soul, trying to advice the young one to use these wishes wisely, but alas, history repeats itself. There are even stories of the genie being mistakenly imprisoned for crimes done by its kind even though this genie itself is quite a sweet old soul.
Whatever the antecedents of the genie and its intrinsic nature, in all these stories, the wishes are asked for with one of two goals – either power through wealth or victory, and love.
Power through wealth and victory is easy enough for the genie to grant – tons of gold and gemstones are showered upon the benefactor, whole cities built overnight, magic carpets brought to life, enemies vanquished in a single breath, nations laid waste, oases made to bloom in the desert. There is nothing the genie cannot do as far as wealth or war is concerned. On love though, it is quite another story. At best, the genie could kidnap the objects of affection of its temporary masters, create magical wonderlands where they might be held in thrall for these people, but it cannot truly make a person love another. Even in the rare version that has a semblance of such forced love, it is a shadow – a vague semblance of the original person that might look and even act like the original but is not really, truly alive.
The moral is quite clear and consistent: You cannot force love. You can have all the power in the world and all the gold in the universe, but love cannot be acquired by wishing for it.
Generations have grown listening to these stories, retelling them to new generations and yet, every now and then we hear of the horror stories of coerced relationships, people forced into relationships with their assaulters, kidnapped partners and what not. What makes it such a difficult lesson to learn and accept? Why do so many of us still find it so difficult to let go of a partner who doesn’t love us back? There is a desperate need and belief that somehow it can happen, but there is no magic.
No genie in the universe that can just snap its fingers and make love happen.
As written for The New Indian Express
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