The Loneliest Umbrella
A Short Story by Matt Seemon
July 5th, 2019
It all started the day we heard the news that one of our close friend's father had passed away. I and another buddy of mine booked our tickets in a hurry to get to Kottayam the following day. Our tickets in hand, we boarded the bus knowing full well this long bus ride from Bangalore was a somber one. Neither one of us knew what was acceptable behaviour at a funeral. What we did know for sure was that we had to dress in white and get a wreath as our friend is Christian. With just those two decisions in mind, we decided that the best course of action was to stick to ourselves unless called on for help.
In the early hours the following morning, we arrived at our destination and headed for the hotel to get a few hours of sleep. God knows we needed it after the journey we had been through. After a much-needed rest, we set off for our friend's home. On the way, however, we decided to eat parotta and erachi (beef) curry. Being the mallus that we are, we couldn't resist.
The weather was sultry and sunny, as was expected from Kottayam, and we were glad to be dressed in white. We decided to pick up the wreath on the way to our friend's place. Just as we finished our delicious meal and stepped out of the restaurant to go buy the wreath, the weather took a turn for the worse. All of a sudden, it was wet and gloomy.
This ended up posing some unique challenges for the two of us. Rains and muddy roads are not the best playmates for two adult mallu men who can't wear mundus to save their lives, especially considering they were all-white. Neither of us carried the thing we needed most during times like this: an umbrella.
I realized that now we had to pick up some umbrellas on the way aside from the wreath. My friend already had one back home in Bangalore so he suggested we pick up a giant one instead. That way I can take it back to Bangalore with me and leave it in my car for emergencies.
We hailed an autorickshaw and gave him the address to our friends' home while also instructing the driver to stop on the way for the wreath and the umbrella. As is expected of the driver of any vehicle in Kerala, our man zipped along the narrow Kottayam streets and came to a halt in front of a florist. Wreath = check. Next stop was the umbrella and after another rollercoaster ride, we stopped at a store. Umbrella = check.
After buying this cool-looking vintage umbrella with a curved wooden handle, I was beaming and ready to tackle anything in my way. We set off for our friends' home at last which would take at least fifteen to twenty minutes. To pass the time, we struck up a conversation with our auto driver about the latest Malayalam films to watch.
The irony was that just five minutes after buying the umbrella I really liked, the rain stopped. My friend and I looked at each other and shrugged. Oh well. At least I got a cool umbrella. Anyway, we finally reached our friends' home and spent some time with him before slinking into the shadows. The last thing we wanted to do was be an interference with anything that was going on over here.
The next hour or so was mostly spent waiting for the body to be taken to the cemetery to be buried. After the body was taken to its final resting place and all was said and done, we returned to our friends' home. There had been absolutely no rain all this time.
As the time to leave drew to a close, we said our condolences to our friend and the rest of his family and set off for the railway station to head back to Bangalore. We arrived in Bangalore the following morning and got back into the usual monotonous routine we have followed. The only thing that was different was the fact that I had the new umbrella in my car.
The umbrella stayed on the floor in the backseat for a couple of months after I put it there and I eventually moved it to the boot when it took up space. It kind of stayed alone and forgotten for some time.
A few years went by and the umbrella turned into a point of discussion in light of all the other things I have spent money on previously and never used. It was around this time that I needed a break from work so I planned a weekend getaway to Mumbai.
The weekend of sightseeing coupled with a jazz concert was all booked and ready to happen when I decided to travel by bus for some reason. The morning of the trip arrived and the friend who I was supposed to stay with called and said that the rains had begun there and that it was forecast to rain through the weekend.
This became an issue for the sightseeing aspect of the trip but I already had a solution: The Umbrella. As soon as the call was done with my friend from Mumbai, I called the friend who came with me to Kottayam and told him about how I could finally use the umbrella. His response was, "Finally".
With renewed excitement, I took the umbrella out of the car and kept it with my packed bags so I wouldn't forget to take it with me in the last minute. Once evening arrived, I hailed an auto to head to the bus stand. I had my bag and the umbrella with me. I got into the three-wheeled vehicle and put the bag on the seat next to me while the umbrella went on the floor.
The journey would be uneventful so I dozed in the middle. As we got closer to the destination, the driver decided that he would be able to take a turn a little too fast for my comfort but seemed confident of his own skills. I braced myself from sliding to the other end and time slowed down for the next few seconds.
I saw the umbrella on the floor sliding the opposite direction that I was and tried to grab it before it slid out completely. Unfortunately, I missed and the umbrella went catapulting out and then rolls down the road. After yelling at the driver to stop, we came to a screeching halt about fifteen to twenty feet away.
Just as a took a couple of steps towards my precious umbrella, which was in the middle of the road, three city buses run over it in succession. The only things left of the vintage umbrella with the curved wooden handle were the cloth and wiring.