“Rainbow’ of Hope” a short story
As her eyes surveyed the shop, she tugged at her daddy’s hand urging him to go ahead and search other shops. As he looked down, he saw ten small and chubby little fingers secured around his hand. Daddy wanted to buy his daughter, Piu, a raincoat but the young lady was adamant. She had wanted an umbrella but not just about any umbrella would do. She wanted a ‘rainbow’ umbrella as she had called it, the one which had many colors. And so, both daddy and Piu went off for umbrella hunting together in the busy streets of the Sadar Bazaar after he came back from work.
Piu was quite a sensitive young girl. She deeply cared for all those around her, especially the crawlies and the animals. She loved them and often kept names for almost all of them. Like the dirty little puppy, she named Oreo or the crow whom her grandma fed was named Kaw-kaw or even the snail that she rescued as Glassy. The list would just go on. Every crawly that she met was named by her, sooner or later. She would think about it for days and developed a bond with each of them, mentally. Seeing them in their natural conditions too made her think, quite deep literally about their safety.
She would often wonder, how Glassy the snail, would eat since he had no teeth to chew and took an insane amount of time just to go anywhere. And what if he fell down from the wall that he was found crossing. The glass shell would break. And from where will he buy a new shell since he didn’t have money? Piu would stare out of the window for hours thinking about all of it.
As she got ready to go to school and was busy putting her socks on, her mother called out to her father. The sky was overcast and the clouds looked ‘rain-heavy’ to her. She was really unsure whether she should send her daughter to school. But Piu was all ready and good to go. She had to show off her new umbrella to her friends. She finished her breakfast as fast as she could while thinking about how her friends would react to her treasure.
The entire day was spent in a beautiful haze. Piu spends the whole day indoors. She fervently prayed for rain, as that would be the only time that she would get a chance to open her umbrella. During her lunch break, she played hopscotch indoors in the corridor joining the two blocks of her school. As her day at school came to an end, she gingerly picked her bag hung on her shoulders and carried the water bottle along with the umbrella. She stood in a line, as part of the exercise that the students did to maintain discipline at the school.
As Piu neared the gate, she suddenly felt wetness on one of her cheeks. She looked to get a better view as to what had caused it. It took a few minutes to realize that it was a gentle drizzle that was descending from the sky. She quickly opened her umbrella and started walking towards the main gate, outside which her pick-up van stood. The children who belonged to a particular van would often stand in a group near the entrance at the main gate of the school. Once the driver and the conductor would finish counting all the students, they would ask them to make a line again and helped them cross the road to reach the van.
While they made a beeline behind the driver, the rain suddenly brought in more of the air around it. It had a very windy feel to it. It was getting visibly difficult for the younger students to even stand still, who felt as if they would fly away along with the wind. The teachers too felt the effect.
She tried her best to manage her Powerpuff Girls printed water bottle and her ‘rainbow’ umbrella. It was getting quite windy and Piu found it a struggle to keep her umbrella open. Since it was drizzling she had to keep the umbrella. The rain along with the pull of the wind was making it difficult to hold on to the umbrella.
And then it went away, just like that.
With the school bag strapped to her back, she could not have even run after the umbrella as it suddenly freed itself from her soft little fingers with that sudden whoosh of the air. The umbrella flew away to the other side of the road and disappeared from her blurring sight.
The umbrella, if it could speak would have surely spoken about its uncertain journey. From being in tiny hands it was now up in the air swaying to the moods and wishes of the wind. It kept getting stuck to the branches for a while before again being lifted to travel in the air as the wind picked up the pace. With cuts and tears in the once-shiny cloth, the umbrella looked new but battered can be a better word, though. It finally got stuck on the high-up branches of a peepal tree.
This was the only big tree nearly to the series of shanties, just as one would descend the main road. A road less traveled because people preferred the newly constructed overhead bridge and also that the road leads to the washermen colony. This part of the city was not exactly the bright spot. This tree was the only which wasn’t cut to accommodate the modernities of life and was huge enough for children to give them shade and some respite from the blistering sun.
It was one such afternoon when it had rained quite heavily in the morning and even in the afternoon, but now the sky was quite clear now. Pawan hoped it would not rain today, in the night. He looked upward to that the Almighty and mentally request him for no more rains when he saw it for the first time.
It was an elongated mass of something shiny and crumpled. He threw stones and tried climbing the tree but to no avail. The spokes of the umbrella just didn’t budge. Pawan was tired after all his non-consequential attempts to bring the colorful umbrella down. He knew that he had to call his father to get to the umbrella and bring it down. And soon it happened. Pawan along with his father and a few elder boys of the community finally managed to somehow get the umbrella down. Given the fact that the umbrella was in a fairly good condition, his father decided to take it home. Though Pawan’s mother had many plans to accomplish with that umbrella but finally decided to repair it first.
Meanwhile, Piu was a distraught soul. She had lost her ‘treasure’. And she knew that her daddy would be so angry at her carelessness. Her sobbing knew no end while being consoled by both her mother and her grandmom. She had spent just the night before to search almost the entire market to get the umbrella with her daddy and now it was no longer with her. She had lost it.
At Pawan’s house, there was a celebration of sorts as the family could have never afforded such an umbrella. In the corner, behind the main door was his father’s umbrella. A black colored one with the ‘J’ shaped wooded handle at the end, so battered that his mother had to cover the damage with the black colored electrician’s tape to make it look decent, to say the least. Now with this new addition, the family could venture out with more pride among their peers.
Piu was a complete mess when her daddy arrived from work in the evening. And he did not say a word to her but held her while she was crying her heart out to her daddy. And then, heartbroken and teary-eyed, she slept off. Little did she know that the rainbow umbrella she had lost, was now the ray of hope and shelter to an entire family.
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