There are many who wonder why I don’t have an umbrella, or even a raincoat this monsoon, and let me assure you it’s not due to the lockdown. It’s just that in my mind I did visit an umbrella store: “Are you an activist sir?” asked the pleasant looking salesman inside the store.
“What difference would that make?” I asked irritably.
“For activists we have extra strong steel ribs inside, able to defend you against a lathi charge!” he said, “And instead of cloth we use tarpaulin to withstand water cannons during a morcha, bandh or candle light vigil!”
I told him I wasn’t an activist and we moved into the interiors of the shop, “Would sir want a transparent one or one which will safeguard his privacy?”
“What privacy is there to safeguard in the rains?” I laughed and the pleasant looking salesman laughed with me, “I assume sir is single?”
“Why should you assume that?” I asked a little crossly.
“Because if your madam walks a little close to you in the monsoon, or if sir has forgotten to put his top shirt button, the moral brigade will catch you and beat you up!”
I told the young salesman curtly that my wife and I kept a decent social distance between us, during and after the rains, “And I always wear my top button!”
“Ah, but sir you have a beard!” said the owner of the shop coming quickly as soon as he heard my raised voice. “So what?” I asked.
“You could be mistaken for a terrorist!” said the owner and the salesman smiled at his owner, looked at me and nodded in agreement.
“No transparent one for me!” I whispered and the pleasant looking salesman smiled his approval, as his boss went back into the shop’s interiors.
“What handle would you prefer?” asked the salesman.
I looked at the different handles and decided to take a straight one, “Don’t!” hissed the salesman.
“Why?” I asked sharply pulling my hand away.
“It’s the same shape as a policeman’s lathi!”
“So, what?” I asked, “I have nothing against the police!”
“You will find your wife running away from you!” said the salesman.
“And maybe your children also!” whispered the umbrella store owner as he came out again.
“Because of my lathi looking handle?” I asked incredulously.
“There have been so many who the police have beaten inside and outside police stations that the whole city may start fleeing if they see you with that handle!” both whispered.
I had no idea it was so difficult choosing an umbrella and walked out and into the raincoat shop next door. “Do you want the thick canvas one sir?” asked the salesman.
“To hide from the water cannons, the moral brigade and my wife and children running away from me?” I asked hysterically.
“No sir, just to beat the monsoons!” said the salesman, looking at me strangely, as I rushed empty handed and red faced out of the shop..!
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