Posted by: cochinblogger | July 28, 2009

Adventures with My Umbrella

How many lives does an umbrella have? Three, and counting.

My weather-beaten umbrella and I have been together for at least three years , which is longer than the life of the average marriage in many parts of the world, to say nothing of marriages in certain sections of society in my own country. Three years is an unusually long period of togetherness with the same umbrella, because I tend to leave my umbrellas behind in autos and buses oftener than I care to remember.

One day, I thought I’d left the umbrella behind again, as it wasn’t where it should have been in my bag. I’d visited a bar with a couple of friends the previous night, so I cursed myself for not drinking less. (Not that not drinking ensures that I will not forget my umbrella!)

Anyway, I lost no time in buying another umbrella, a replica of the one I’d lost. A few days later, I found the umbrella I thought I’d lost — in another compartment of my bag. So, I now had two umbrellas! It was reassuring to know I had a backup.

And then I left the new umbrella behind in an auto. I was carrying an extra bag, so I had laid the umbrella on the seat. (That’s how I’ve lost most of umbrellas: I put the umbrella down somewhere and then forget to pick it up.) I realized what had happened two minutes after stepping out of the auto, but it was too late.

So I was back to square one, the not-so-proud possessor of one umbrella.

One rainy day, I hailed an auto, got in, and deposited my wet umbrella on the floor. Two minutes later I realized that the umbrella was no longer on the floor. It must have slid out onto the road. I stopped the auto and explained matters to the driver. He looked back, and said he could see the umbrella lying in the middle of the road. This was just a week after I’d lost the other umbrella, otherwise I’d have said goodbye to the umbrella and told the auto to go on. Outside, the rain was coming down in bucketfuls. I stepped outside the auto and ran towards my umbrella. If a bus or car went over it, it would break into two. I managed to retrieve it from the middle of the road, and sprinted back to the waiting auto. I examined the umbrella inside the auto. It was soaked, but looked otherwise undamaged. In fact, I was wetter than the umbrella.

A few weeks after this misadventure, while on my evening walk, I stopped one evening beside the garden wall of a residence to photograph an attractive flower peeking over the wall. To free my hands, I placed my umbrella on top of my bag. I took the shot, and turned around to resume my walk. The umbrella fell off my bag and landed in the drain next to the wall with a plop. It began sinking out of sight. I dropped frantically to my knees and managed to fish it out. In the process, my camera swung madly from side to side and threatened to follow the umbrella into the drain. In the process of stabilizing my wildly gyrating camera, and with one hand firmly clasping the umbrella in the drain, I nearly lost my balance and toppled into the drain.

The umbrella was soaked with drain water, and I worried about hygiene. How I longed for a shower of rain to sanitize my umbrella! I took to opening and shutting the umbrella rapidly while walking to scatter the water from the umbrella. This behavior attracted curious glances from fellow pedestrians, but I kept at it until the drops stopped flying from the umbrella. Even more heads turned when I began smelling the umbrella suspiciously at regular intervals. And it struck me as I resumed my walk that the expensive electronic gizmo I had in my shirt pocket could have dropped into the drain when I went down on my knees to retrieve the umbrella.

Later, nursing a celebratory vodka, the magnitude of my escape hit me: In the worst-case scenario, I’d have lost my umbrella, camera, and an expensive electronic gizmo to the gaping maws of the drain — and to add insult to injury, I’d have been rolling in the gutter as well. Was the umbrella cursed? Or was it teaching me some lessons?

And what of the flower that started it all? Was the photo worth all the trouble? Predictably, it was out of focus.

Here’s the siren flower that almost sent my most precious possessions down the drain, with me tumbling after.

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