Given that every year, we get into a froth about the lack of functional umbrellas in the house and end up having to play circulating library with our umbrellas depending on the “Your Need Is Greater Than Mine ” principle, this year we bought three new umbrellas. And got the three old ones repaired. Two umbrellas were placed in the car. The rest were kept at home. The child’s two umbrellas too, were repaired and checked for easy opening and shutting. A new raincoat was bought. My old trusty windcheater was taken down from the loft, washed and sundried to rid it of the musty smell which would have made folks in the immediate vicinity wonder where I’d buried the body. Rainy shoes and sandals were procured for the child and for self, the spouse refusing to stoop to rubber, preferring to ruin his old shoes in the rains. All this, kindly note, dear reader, was done in May itself, in readiness for school reopening.
The monsoon, it then didn’t come in June. Nor in July. Nor in August. I packed away the umbrellas and the windcheater and the child wore his raincoat in the shower to get some use of it.
After playing hide and seek all of June and July, and August, the monsoon finally decided to give up on the coyness and show us Mumbaikars the stuff it is made off. This meant the first week of September was the kind of hellish greyness that included sheets of water pouring down like the powers above had decided to throw down some of the wet stuff with buckets, and which would inevitably, as the law set by that good man Murphy goes, start when one was standing in the middle of the road, trying hard to convince that esteemed genus, the auto driver, to take one to one’s destination. The other day, I went across for a condolence visit. Now these visits being the solemn occasions they are, I was togged out in white. The sun was shining in obscenely blinding manner on the horizon when I set off and I ignored the alarm bells clanging in my mind about not carrying an umbrella along. Umbrellas are creatures with a mind of their own, they decide that they don’t need you anymore and would be better exploring the world on their own and conspire with the forces of the universe to ensure that you leave them in some godforsaken corner and remember you have only when you reach the opposite end of the city. The umbrellas I have lost over the past decade if lined up end to end could make it to the moon. And perhaps back. Ergo, an umbrella was not carried. It had been a bit rainy in the morning, but it was dry now and my luck would hold. Somewhere, in the background, as Plum Wodehouse would say, Fate was slipping the lead into the glove. My luck didn’t stand a chance.
I emerged from the visit to traffic that was the sort that need a King Kong to stomp through in order to clear a path. Autorickshaws passing were all already full with passengers sitting within with the kind of supercilious smugness that made me want to smack them as they passed nyah nyahing at me as I tried to hail down their autos. The heavens then decided to open up and pour down. This was not a good moment to be me, because I had a) Worn white and b)Worn delicate kitten heels. And let’s add that very important c) not carried along an umbrella. I skeetered around looking for shelter to find none except under the awning of the paanshop on the pavement. I skid into it, the hips dislodging a couple of the itinerants hanging around trying to sponge off an extra cigarette and such like, and soon realised that I was not the only one who had this great brain wave of picking this particular awning for shelter. The rain pelted down with tomato and hailstone kind of force, which was most unseemly for what seemed to be regular droplets. Having done a thorough job of drenching me to the bone in the five minutes it had taken me to teeter to the awning, I was in no mood to vacate my prime spot in order to find less populated shelter, to add to my discomfort was the fact that the drains had promptly given up the ghost as the first droplets fell and were rising threatening on the asphalt. So I waited patiently, praying that the all white ensemble had enough layers to have me not doing a Mandakini number on an unwary populace, shivering and huddling into the corner, refusing kind offers from the paanwalla to sell me Chlormint and other mouth fresheners in return for occupying the footpath before his stall. Then the rain stopped. As suddenly as it started. I put wary feet out onto the road, defying swirling drainage waters and instant death and leptospirosis to run (as much as with kitten heels that went click clack in the most annoying fashion would allow me) after passing autos to hail one to take me home. Finally I found one who didn’t not laugh into my face and zoom off at the speed of Jenson Button when I stated my destination and heaved myself into its relatively dry confines.”Behenjee, baarish ka mausam hai. Aapko chaata rakhna chahiye,” the elderly autodriver said. I grunted non committal, refusing to get into a discussion about why I had been marooned without an umbrella, the primary reason being of course my own stupidity at believing that bright sun shining was guarantee of no rain for the next couple of hours.
I now keep a little umbrella in my handbag. Of course, this is the sort of little umbrella that would have my hips go beyond its diameter and get drenched but it will have to do, even if it reverses itself on sensing a breeze. And of course, since I’ve put it in my handbag, it hasn’t rained a drop. Mr Murphy. You win.