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The 100 Rupee Umbrella

-By Arati Gurung

 

Rats. I lost my umbrella again.

I rewind the days’ activities, where did I last hold it? At the office? The restaurant? The Boutique? Or the bus? It’s starting to rain, where could it be? I can’t remember where I abandoned it, so it must have been stolen. Yes, mercilessly taken out of my bag by someone in the bus, or the waiter at the restaurant or the lady at the boutique or maybe my big headed boss – he was eyeing it quite eagerly this morning. It’s settled then, my umbrella has been stolen, not lost. There is no way I could have ‘misplaced’ another umbrella in the last 7 days, I am much too careful to let that happen. They will understand at home, I am not to blame if someone has the nasty habit of stealing.

For now, I need an umbrella, I can’t walk back home in the rain, and my new sandals are far too precious to get the rain into it. I’ve been saving up for those fabulous fake nail sets, so I really don’t want to buy another durable umbrella. Fortunately the ‘Khasa Bazaar’ is just a block away and they’ve got everything under the sun at dust prices. Of course many say the products are also as good as dust – just to use and throw. And that’s good enough for me, I’ll get one of those hundred rupee umbrella’s, as long as it takes me home today, I’m good. As it is there are a couple of durable but dull black umbrellas in the cloak closet at home.

The gulli that leads to Khasa Bazaar is tiny and the squished buildings along it seem to block off most of the rain. This must be the one time, I’m actually looking at these clutter of buildings as a savior rather than a potential life taker. I think I can get to the bazaar without getting drenched.

After folding up my jeans, I make way into the river of umbrellas. The uneven lay of umbrella’s poke at my head and arms. Ouch. Ouch. It isn’t much farther I repeat to myself. Ouch.

The umbrella shop is full of people; it seems half of Kathmandu is here. Why does everyone need an umbrella now? I squeeze into the shop anyway; I didn’t get poked all over just watch these people buy. I get a peek of the salesman at the counter and I raise my hand and my voice –‘Dai, show me some hundred rupee umbrellas!’

I don’t get a reply, but the man beside me turns around to give me a disgusting look and an equally disgusting smile. He’s close enough for me to smell the momo’s he had for lunch. I do not return his smile. Quickly shuffling my way through the crowd, I shout again, ‘Dai, a hundred rupee umbrella please!’

I finally get to the counter. The shopkeeper chews on tobacco as he shows me a couple of umbrellas. There are checks, flower patterns and plain ones too. I pick up a purple umbrella and give him eighty rupees. The man shakes his head and says ‘how can you ask for a hundred rupee umbrella and pay 80 rupees for it?’ He’s right, I can be so stupid at times - but still I try to coax him into taking it, instead he tries to take back the umbrella from my hands. I say ‘Oh come one now, you can’t even reduce 20 rupees? Don’t be a miser; everyone knows these umbrellas don’t cost a hundred rupees.’ The man gives me a shocked expression. I try all the buying skills I can think of, everything I’ve seen other buyers do. By now, the shopkeeper ignores me. I look around hoping no one’s noticed my embarrassing situation. Everybody in the shop has noticed. Even Sai Baba framed on the wall seems to have noticed; I swear his eyes seem bigger than before.

‘Okay, okay, I’ll give you your hundred rupees, but you have to know that I had bought an umbrella exactly like this, somewhere around here, for 80 rupees.’ ‘Then go and get it from there’, he shot back.

I take the umbrella and squeeze out of the shop. Outside, I bump into the man with the momo breath, he smirks with pleasure. I almost puke right there.

Thankfully it’s still raining; it would’ve been a loss had it stopped. Now I can conveniently walk under my new pretty purple, pretty cheap umbrella. I take in a deep breath, only to choke on the black fume the truck in front just let out.

As I walk down the street, I flaunt my umbrella in front of all those who are taking cover under plastic bags and shop’s roofs. I felt like a free bird, being able to walk under an umbrella when so many others had to do with just watching me walk by. Infact, I say to myself, this one is as good as my stolen umbrella, its better looking! Should they ask at home, I’ll say I exchanged the old thing for this brand new, beautiful one with the dork at the office! How they’ll be raving about my smartness!

I smile a proud smile. The rain is getting heavier, but no worries – I have my umbrella to protect me! Even if the wind blows this hard, it’s only refreshing for my umbrella has kept me from getting wet!

‘What the…’ the wind sweeps my umbrella inside out! The men standing at the corner are chuckling. A woman under a big black umbrella passes by and smiles, ‘at least my umbrella isn’t as dull and drab like yours!’ I mumble, trying to get it back to normal.

But now, the darn thing won’t open. I can feel the rain seep into my hair and work its way onto my clothes. I shake the umbrella like anything, but it won’t budge, as though its purple color implied it as lifeless. The wind now brings a cold chill that brings back my senses, the umbrella will not open.

Like everyone else, I take cover under the New Road gate. I’m shivering; I lost my good umbrella, I wasted a hundred rupees and my new sandals make funny noises.

Rats.

 

 
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