The mighty monsoon season was well under way. The city of dreams, which ideally should be waterlogged by now with all the gutters overflowing, had experienced only sparse rain. There were a few concerns raised by the meteorological department that the rain would make its presence heavily felt in a day or two, and the following week, it will make up for the lost time by clogging the city completely. In fact, the warnings stated explicitly that offices and schools might have to be shut down because of the rain clubbed with the high tides during that week.
Well, it might be bad news for the educated, the working-class who thought that rains were always troublesome. But for the students of Class five of this school, it was just the news they wanted. They were already praying that to reach the school, they would have to swim. They all knew that the raincoats and umbrellas they had hanging by their school desks would be useless as soon as the tough rain would start. For them, the monsoon season always provided opportunities for boasting about the newest and the fanciest umbrellas and raincoats.
As the school came to an end, Raghu showcased his own umbrella to the group of 10 friends how this new umbrella worked. “Look at how strong the build quality of the spokes is,” he explained to his friends as they came up with their own. He was proud of his new possession. And why not? He had a right to be. It was only after two months of cajoling, starting from April that he had convinced his mother to buy him the new, expensive green umbrella. He had confidently and proudly promised her that he would not lose the umbrella at any cost.
Like many others in his class, he had a history of losing umbrellas every year. Every year loads of umbrellas were lost either in school or in buses. The school administration had received several requests from the parents of students to collect the umbrellas and return them, but the administration had just ignored the requests, leaving it to the peons to do whatever they felt like with the umbrellas.
Raghu explained many more features of the umbrella before the students decided to go home. He tied the umbrella’s small extended strap to his backpack’s front with a knot, to show off to his friends at how great his umbrella was. “I am sure this will hold on. It has one of the best straps.” When the backpack went on his back, the umbrella was hanging away from him, but he had no reason to worry.
Unlike the other students who used school buses to go home, Raghu had to use public transport. The school bus usually took an hour to reach his house, as opposed to the city bus which would take him there within thirty-five minutes. Of course, it involved a walk of about ten minutes, but he never complained to his parents about the walk. It was a good time to hum songs while dreaming about his future.
It took him a couple of minutes to reach the bus stop. The pale-red bus arrived in no time as he hung onto the handle before swinging in. He was still standing by the bus door as the conductor indicated to the driver with the bell near the driver tolling ‘ting-ting’. It took the bus conductor’s scowling for Raghu to move up into the bus. He had to stand in the crowded bus, but he didn’t complain.
Thoughts in his mind included the food that his mother would have cooked for lunch today, what would happen on the next episode of DragonBall Z, and who would win the cricket match later tonight. The new video game CD that he was going to ask his mother was one of his biggest worries for the past month. The thoughts rotated in his mind just like the wheels of the bus. The people in the bus didn’t care about this boy in soiled school dress owing to the long football game in the Games period.
As the bus approached, he pushed himself through the several people standing in the gangway, indicating to the conductor that he had to get down. Although frustrated at him not going forward earlier, the conductor still made sure that the bus waited till the young one stepped down. “Hooh!” he sighed as soon as he stepped out of the bus.
The area where he lived was beautiful with carved trees on each side of the road. But under the trees, he could see water puddles which probably were going to stay for a few days. His eyes moved from the trees to the buildings behind them, scanning the not-so-tall buildings from the bottom to the top and finally leading up to the sky. “Oh, it might rain in some time,” he realized.
Casually taking his hand behind the bag to feel his proud possession, he could directly feel the surface of the bag. There was no umbrella! As his eyes widened with the thought of losing the precious possession, he swung his bag in front of him. No, there was no umbrella. Turning around, he could see that the bus had disappeared, so chasing it would lead to no good.
Still, he ran at the top of his speed, with a heart heavier than the three-kilogram backpack behind him.
Crying while running in the direction that the bus went, he wondered what would happen if his mother came to know that he had lost the umbrella. Havoc, total havoc. A lot of censure and lecture would follow. It took him a few minutes before he slowed down.
The journey to home was a tough one, filled with thoughts about the scolding he was going to get from his mother. She was definitely not buying him any new umbrellas. But the bigger problem was- what would he explain to his friends? His social reputation would be gone! From being a star this afternoon, he was going to soon be the biggest fool his class had ever seen. At the same time, he would lose his friends and no one would ever look up to him.
It took no time for his throat to feel heavy under the thought of betrayal by that new umbrella. As his feet kept moving towards home, he asked himself one question – “Should I tell mom today itself?” The thought was encouraging- if he didn’t tell her anything today, he would get additional time to search for the umbrella the next day at school. But Raghu was smart enough to realize that the chances of him finding the umbrella were impossible. He had seen enough monsoons.
When his mother asked him the question as he reached home, he bluntly told her that it was in his bag pretending to be tired, so she didn’t ask much. His mother had already cooked food, and right away ordered to go freshen himself up and be at the dining table within minutes. Bunty had successfully evaded the question for now.
The day ended with a lot of thinking of the possible things he could do to rectify the mistake, and how he could avoid his mother’s scolding. After his mother closed the bedroom lights that night, he twisted a lot in the bed before his mind finally numbed itself to go to sleep.
It was already drizzling as he readied himself for school. As his mother asked him to take out the umbrella while he was stepping out, she realized within a few seconds the whole matter. She was sure that her son had lost the umbrella. Fuming with the fact that Raghu had lied to her, she wanted to give him the harshest scolding of his life. But he would get late to school in case he didn’t leave now, so she let him go- “No umbrella for you today! Go and get wet. This is your punishment.”
As Raghu walked alone towards the bus stop with a hazy vision due to the tears, he knew what was coming after he returned from school. Never in his life had he seen his mother so angry. But that was a matter to be bothered about later. Currently, he had to evade his friends and craft a story to tell them. A few plans had already come up in his mind as he walked through the light drizzle.
“Oh, I just gave my umbrella to my mom today. She is sick, so she wanted it more than me,” he explained to every student that came his way asking. The story, although small, was extremely believable. But just to make sure that he had a good background of the story, he had also thought about the disease his mother had, where she was going even though she was sick, where her usual umbrella was and finally, why did their house not have any other spare umbrellas.
All the questions had apt answers with specific backgrounds. He knew the people who would ask the questions, so it was easy to prepare these answers while on the bus. And the plan worked as expected. By the time it was recess, everyone was convinced that Raghu knew how to value his possessions.
But by the time the recess ended, there was another problem, this time a major one. The rain had increased tremendously to a crashing speed now. It was pouring so heavily now that the rain had started seeping into the classroom through the closed windows. The blustery wind ensured that open classroom doors slammed hard against the walls. As a result, Raghu was left wondering how he would get home today.
The two periods still left to go were probably the longest in his life. If he stepped out, the school books would be wet within a minute, and he would have to do all homework from the start of the academic year again. He would have a running nose within minutes, thus making sure he would not be allowed to go to play video games at a friend’s place.
Most importantly, he knew that his lie was going to be detected by the end of the school day.
As the day came to a close, he waited in a corner of the classroom for everyone to leave. Still scared because of the terrible noise that the rain made as the clouds charged each other, his feet refused to move. As people passed by him, there were several instances when he could have asked people for help in taking him to the bus, but shyness did not allow him to speak with anyone. Soon, the building was deserted.
It took a lot of courage to move towards the school’s gate, but even as he put his first step out of the building, he realized how wet he was going to be. There was no way to prevent himself from the rain, no way to avoid another big scolding from his mother.
As a result, he waited there for almost an hour, noticing that there was not a single person in the school now. Tears were dropping constantly from his eyes, but they were subdued under the mighty drops coming from the eyes of the heavens. These had been the worst two days in his life, all because of the stupid umbrella he had forced his mother to buy. Had he known that the umbrella was going to lead to such problems, he would never have bought it in the first place.
He wept profusely, looking at the unmanned road that the rain had caused. Only after an hour and ten minutes of standing here could he see one single person pacing towards him. Without a doubt, he was the happiest person on the planet. “I would never lie to her in my life again. I am not going to make such a mistake in my life ever again.” He expressed to himself, as he was about to run towards his mother. But she indicated him to wait under the roof while she came to him with one umbrella over her head and another in her left hand.
A mother had felt terribly guilty because she had gone too far in her punishment. A child felt terribly guilty at having lied to the one person who came to help when the whole school left him alone. The bond between a mother and her child was strengthened because of a small umbrella.