Tuesday, April 26, 2016

U for Umbrellas

I was born and brought up in Chennai, a city that, in the '90s, did not know the concept of monsoon rains. Also, the weather was only hot, hotter and hottest, and no one around me either used or goaded me into using an umbrella. The closest I have come to encountering the word is in books from centuries back that quaintly refer to parasols carried by ladies’ maids to protect their beloved ladies from the glare of the nonexistent English summer.

My tryst with the umbrellas started in 2008, when I was thrown into the quagmire of the Mumbai monsoons – quagmire, literally and figuratively, though the literal one couldn’t be managed with an umbrella over the head, and rain boots were (are) not really popular. If you have experienced the Mumbai monsoon, you would know that a nice, cute umbrella will be blown away in the first instance, while a large, sturdy, grandfather umbrella would not fit into the already cramped trains, shared taxis and umbrella stands outside office areas.

Anyway, this story isn’t about Bombay’s monsoons and cramped space. I love the city too much to write a 'cribby' post on it!

Despite all the experience we now have with monsoons and umbrellas, and despite packing umbrellas into our outside-India-suitcases every time, we invariably leave those 'brellas behind in hotel rooms. For, our backpacks never have space for them after accommodating the more important travel diaries, maps, iPads and mobile chargers. Thanks to this prioritization, we now have an umbrella each from every country we have been to while sadly, none of these are either fancy looking or cheap, or for that matter functional (too friendly with the wind to do their work like good old umbrellas).

The last international umbrella shop visit we made is the most memorable. We were in Ljubljana, Slovenia, walking through the shopping area on our last day there when it started drizzling. Promptly, we walked into the nearest umbrella shop. Only, it turned out to be not so much an umbrella shop as a “quaint shop” housing literary memorabilia. For instance, they had this handbag (rather, a hand box, that would stand like a box when you hang it on your shoulder), which had “Gone with the Wind” on it; an umbrella with Pride and Prejudice; storage cabinets with a myriad of book covers printed on them. I would have loved to buy and transport the entire shop back home. Then, I halted and checked the price on the first handbag with the GWTW on it. It was priced at 200 Euros, Made in Italy.

Since I could not swish my imaginary magic wand to disapparate myself and the shop from there without paying a penny, I left empty handed, but not before wondering how life does come full circles many times – from books that referenced umbrellas and parasols, to umbrellas with book covers printed on them. 

P. S. This post is the twenty first in the A-Z blogging challenge series for April. 

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