The Pink Umbrella
by Smit Zaveri
Radha twirled her little umbrella over her head, as she made her way to the Mela. Dressed in her favourite yellow salwar kameez, she had plaited her hair with tiny yellow clips. Long dangling earrings with its matching pendent which her aunt had bought for her from the big city nearby sparkled under the sun. Her slippers unearthed the mud below, making the sand dance below her feet.
She hopped from one foot to the other as she made her way past Hari kaka’s farm where her father was busy ploughing the field. Her umbrella hopped with her. Made from a pretty pink cloth, it had tiny green buttas on it with the mirrors that she had picked for her mother to put on them. The mirrors made patterns on the ground reflecting the light from the sun, making them sway from side to side. She was Radha, the girl with the beautiful pink umbrella. Her mother made the best ones, and she was going to the mela to help her mother sell them to the tourists.
The mela was bigger than the last time with a lot more people and stalls. She passed the food stalls which sold everything from bhaakri and missal to ice candy and lime soda. She looked at the boys play at the games stall with the bat and the ball. Stupid boys, she thought, spending all their money on playing games. Unlike them, she had saved up all her money to buy the golden earrings that she had laid her eyes on last time. Didi had promised her that she would come back this time with her earrings.
Radha looked around for Didi’s stall as she walked towards the centre of the Sawant Maidan which was where the mela was held once every six months. There was close to a hundred stalls there but Didi’s stall was the most elegant of them all. It was decorated with oodhani’s and bells as Didi stood in the middle, sliding bangles on Daksha maasi’s fat wrists.
Standing on her tip-toes, Radha looked for her earrings, the perfect circles of gold with the pink stone at the bottom. They weren’t among the other earrings or the bangles or the rings. She couldn’t see them anywhere. Didi suddenly came up from behind her with the earrings in her hands. Radha screamed with delight as she started clapping her hands with joy, the bangles on her tiny hands singing with her. Quickly taking out all the money she had saved, 5 rupees and 50 paisa, from her little purse she took the earrings from Didi, thrust them into her
bag as she ran to show maa the treasure.
It was becoming darker as she made her way to the other side of the mela, running as fast her tiny feet could take her. Her mom was talking to some tourists about the umbrellas as Radha ran towards her pushing aside her brother. Mohan was busy packing all the items up. Maa and Mohan were leaving because it was about to rain and they didn’t want the umbrella’s to get wet. The umbrellas that where made from cloth were meant to keep the sun away from every one’s eyes but were useless during the rains. In a town like theirs it rained very little, probably once or twice a year, never more than that. What a bad time for the mela to come to town.
Radha forgot all about her pretty earring and started picking up the things that had already been bound in a plastic cover. As she walked towards the scooter to load them, the first drop of rain fell on her face. She started running back and forth trying to help out and gather as much as she could.
As she picked up the bundle that contained the pink umbrella’s she realised that she had left her own umbrella at Didi’s stall when she bought her earrings. Dropping everything where she stood, she ran back to Didi’s stall as the rain got heavier, slowing her down. Why did it have to rain today?
By the time she reached Didi’s stall, she was completely drenched. Her green salwar was muddy, her feet stained and her purse dripping wet. People were heading back home now, pushing their way through the place. She waited for the rush to clear out as she searched for her umbrella.
And then she saw it, lying on the ground.
The rain had washed all the colours away, the mirrors cracked under the feet of the people rushing through. She picked up her tiny umbrella, white in colour with spots of pink and stains of mud all over. Her favourite umbrella that everyone envied looked nothing like it had before. It was losing colour every minute in the rain.
She dropped it on the ground as she started walking towards the gate as well. The streets were now empty; everyone was warm at home, sheltered unlike her. Her hands held nothing; her feet had lost its bounce and mud stuck to the bottom of her slippers as she walked.
When she walked into town from that day onwards she was Radha, the second daughter of Gopal, the girl who used to own a beautiful pink umbrella.