Chapter 3





Binya seldom closed the blue umbrella. Even when she had it in the house, she left it lying open in the corner of the room. Sometimes Bijju snapped it shut, complaining that it got in the way. She would open it again a little later. It wasn’t beautiful when it was closed.

     Whenever Binya went out—whether it was to graze the cows, or get water from the spring, or carry milk to the little tea shop on the Tehri road, she took the umbrella with her. 

     Old Ram Bharosa (Ram the Trustworthy) kept the tea shop on the Tehri road. It was a dusty, dirt road. Once a day the Tehri bus stopped near his shop and passengers got down to sip hot tea or drink a glass of curds. He kept a few bottles of Coca-cola too; but as there was no ice, the bottles got hot in the sun and so were seldom opened. He also kept sweets and toffees, and when Binya or Bijju had a few coins to spare they would spend them at the shop. It was only a mile from the village.

     Ram Bharosa was astonished to see Binya’s blue umbrella.

     “What have you there, Binya?” he asked.

     Binya gave the umbrella a twirl and smiled at Ram Bharosa. She was always ready with her smile, and would willingly have lent it to anyone who was feeling unhappy.

     “That’s a lady’s umbrella,” said Ram Bharosa. “That’s for Mem-Sahibs. Where did you get it?”

     “Someone gave it to me—for my necklace.”

     “You exchanged it for your lucky claw?!”

     Binya nodded.

     “But what do you need it for? The sun isn’t hot enough—and it isn’t meant for the rain. It’s just a pretty thing for rich ladies to play with!”

     Binya nodded and smiled again. Ram Bharosa was right; it was just a beautiful plaything. And that is exactly why she loved it.

     “I have an idea,” said the shopkeeper. “It’s no use to you, that umbrella. Why not sell it to me? I’ll give you five rupees for it.”

     “It’s worth fifteen,” said Binya.

     “Well, then, I’ll give you ten.”

     Binya laughed and shook her head.

     “Twelve rupees?” said Ram Bharosa, but without much hope.

     Binya placed a five paise coin on the counter. “I came for a toffee.”

     Ram Bharosa pulled at his whiskers, gave Binya a sad look, and then placed a toffee in her hand. He watch Binya as she walked away along the dusty road. The blue umbrella held him fascinated, and he stared after it until it was out of sight.


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