The umbrella

Joie de vie could just be another name for Jubeet. Even in the exam season of D.School, you could count on her to see a perpetually cheerful person…and it was infectious. “Oh Vivek, I should tell you about this”, she’d often start, her face brightening as she broke into mild laughter – and thus she started delightful stories of sweet little things in her life. When I met her and Rukma some years ago, they were besides themselves with joy, and I knew that they had a story to say.

“Ohhh Vivek, I MUST tell you this” started Jubeet as Rukma took over. “Now, Jubeet and I went to watch this movie two days ago and it was very cloudy. My aunt insisted that we take this old umbrella”. “After the movie we gladly forgot the umbrella and came out”, continued Jubeet, “and Rukma realized only after we had come out of the movie hall. Since it’s her aunt’s umbrella, we decided to go back to the hall to get it”.

By the time they reached, the hall was already empty and an old man who cleans the place walked out. Upon learning their purpose he said that he had just cleaned the place and he found no umbrella, but seeing them crestfallen he let them go in and check the place. “We went in and checked not just our seats, but the entire hall”, said Rukma. After waiting a while, the old man joined the search. In minutes, he shouted, “I found it!” and he lifted an umbrella. Jubeet who was nearby went to him but it was a huge old umbrella that was not theirs. She then pointed out to the monstrous umbrella by the wall and said, “But you know what, Vivek, he said he found it with such joy, that I did not have the heart to refuse it”.

After some good food and more stories I was ready to depart. The sky grew cloudy and Rukma insisted that I take the umbrella with me. I reluctantly took it and boarded a DTC bus to go home. Two stops down the road, an old man boarded the bus and sat next to me. I started growing uneasy as he kept glancing at the umbrella. After a few long minutes he gave me a nostalgic look and said, “I work in a theatre nearby and had an umbrella just like this. Two days ago a couple of girls came to the theatre and searched for their missing umbrella. I waited for long and then decided to tease them a little. I showed them my umbrella and mischievously said ‘I found it’. One of them came to me…and you know what, she took it with such joy that I did not have the heart to refuse it”. We did not speak after that and he got down a few stops later. I heaved a sigh of relief and vowed never to touch that umbrella again.

The characters in this story are all real. Any lack of resemblance is merely due to my limited writing skills!

About Vivek Srinivasan

I work with the Program on Liberation Technology at Stanford University. Before this, I worked with the Right to Food Campaign and other rights based campaigns in India. To learn more, click here.

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