Posted by: cochinblogger | July 6, 2010

The Pain of Losing an Umbrella

The pain of losing an umbrella is not a pain, it’s agony; an agony compounded by feelings of embarrassment and humiliation.

I have detailed here ( ) my adventures with my (t)rusty blue umbrella, which has been with me through good times and bad, has doubled as both portable heat shield and mobile rain shelter, and has many a time consoled me by the simple expedient of staying immobile in its corner and keeping mum (an unfortunately all-too-rare quality in a human). Well, it is my unpleasant duty to report to you that I lost it the other day; I left it behind in an auto, which is how I believe a good percentage of Kerala’s umbrellas are lost. We await the results of an ongoing university study that will determine once and for all who generally gets to keep the “gift,” the driver or the next passenger to board the auto. Speaking for myself, all my umbrellas bar one were lost in autos. And, incidentally, not a single one was lost in a bar, which you will agree testifies to the moderation and reasonableness of my drinking.

My father, after mislaying numerous umbrellas in every nook and cranny of whichever region he happened to be in residence in, enunciated the First Law of Umbrella Security (FLUS). It states that the umbrella should always be in contact with one’s body. It is a sound law: most umbrellas are lost when deposited by the owner somewhere; the instinct to keep one’s hands free, possibly to be ready to meet any threat, is deeply ingrained in us, possibly burnt into our genome as a survival advantage by years of evolution.

And out of hand, out of mind. Out of mind, out of hand. 🙂

My father’s implementation of his law takes the following form: he frees his hands, but then either places the umbrella across his legs, or leaves it leaning against his body, usually his legs. He applies this rule religiously, and has never lost an umbrella since. I’m afraid I lack the discipline to adhere to this rule, which accounts for my occasional umbrella losses.

FLUS is why old-timers in Kerala carry the umbrella the traditional way, like this:

Faced with mounting umbrella losses, I’ve had to be inventive. Readers, I’m sure you will be staggered at a new law I have discovered, that is more general and universal in scientific and philosophical vision than my father’s and yet equally effective as a policy in preventing umbrella losses. The Zeroth Law of Umbrella Security (ZLUS) states that a person carrying an umbrella who is aware of his current dissociation count (DC) will never lose his or her umbrella.

How is the DC calculated? Well, let me illustrate with examples. You enter an auto carrying an umbrella. Your dissociation count is 2 because your identity is now divided up between your body and your umbrella. Upon exiting the auto, you must recompute your DC. Today, I entered an auto carrying my camera bag, my office bag, and an umbrella. My DC is 4 (body+umbrella+office bag+camera bag). Because this is a numerical computation, your brain will automatically be diverted from whatever it was thinking about then: it has to reserve the mental and physical resources necessary for the intense process of computation, which is not something ordinary mortals can execute effortlessly; the exceptions are human calculators like Shakuntala Devi.

The umbrella salesman in the Broadway shop was a smooth and informative talker; his spiel was irresistible. He informed me that a well-maintained umbrella can easily last five or six years. I was wondering whether to buy the cheapest umbrella in the market, the advantage being that if it was lost the financial cost would be minimal. That would have been the rational course of action, but I did just the opposite: I bought the most expensive umbrella in the shop and vowed to myself that five years to this day I would celebrate the anniversary with a blog post about five years of oneness with this umbrella. Who knows, in five years I may even be able to produce the unified theory of umbrella security, which has defied all researchers thus far.

The salesman also told me that most of his customers were people like me, who were replacing umbrellas usually lost in autos. Most umbrellas, he said, did not stop working, they just happened to get lost. I was happy to hear that I had plenty of company. That cheered me up no end. How could I not buy from him after that!? 🙂 Here is my new umbrella. I will take a picture of the umbrella five years later and repost on this blog. That is the solemn vow I made to myself in the Broadway umbrella shop.

My new umbrella

Old umbrellas, like old soldiers, never die; they just fade away.

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