As the monsoon recedes I find many of my umbrellas borrowed quite often without me knowing, suddenly returning, just when I don’t need them anymore, and looking at them today, brought back memories of their ancestors who adorned my life ages ago!
My first working monsoon in the city, money being scarce, I decided that instead of going to the big shops and buying myself an expensive one, I would instead buy one from one of those gullies just outside the local railway station.
The man at the counter opened the umbrella with a flourish.
“Best umbrella sir,” he said, “slightly transparent, so you can see the sun”.
I paid the thirty rupees he asked for, and it seemed the weather gods wanted me to try it out right away. The rain fell, I opened the umbrella with the same flourish, I’d seen the shopkeeper do and walked straight into the downpour, a sneer on my face as I watched other ill prepared brethren running for shelter.
The spray that gently washed my face under the umbrella was at first pleasant but slowly made me suspicious. I looked up into the transparent fabric and saw a hundred cute little fountains gently spurting water onto my now very wet head. “For thirty rupees what else you will get sir?” asked same shopkeeper but finally gave me one with a thicker cloth.
This one had a ferocious looking handle that one day decided to hook itself firmly onto the center rod of the local train’s door. Round and round I went with passengers entering the compartment pushing me in and those rushing out shoving me out again, till I had to make a heartrending decision of either letting go of the umbrella or my life.
I made my choice and live to tell the tale.
The next one did not have a hook at the end, only a small curve which I was sure was just right for travel. I got into a city bus the same day and tried to balance myself with one hand and pay the bus fare with the other. The bus gave a jerk and the hand which held my umbrella went straight up by reflex; the scream that came from the middle aged lady next to me, made all the passengers look back and me look down in horror to see part of my innocent umbrella handle latching onto poor woman’s skirt, being pulled up as I caught the bus rail to steady myself. Alas! Not many in the bus thought I was as innocent as I looked.
The ‘returned’ umbrellas grin at me as if to tell me that these were the very reasons they had disappeared during the rains, since I’d proved inadept at handling them in my youth, I agree, and suddenly am grateful for my own writer’s life style that hardly allows me the use of these treacherous contraptions..!
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