Chapter 4



The villagers used the road where Ram Bharosa’s tea shop was to go to the market. Some went to market by bus; a few rode on mules; most people walked. Today, everyone on the road turned their heads to stare at the young girl with the bright blue umbrella.



     Binya sat down in the shade of the umbrella. She put her head on her arm, and soon went off to sleep. It was that kind of warm, summer sleepy day.

     While she slept, a wind came up. It came quietly, swishing [moving] gently through the trees, humming softly. Then it was joined by other random gusts [quick, strong winds], blowing over the tops of the mountains. The trees shook their heads and came to life. The wind fanned [blew on] Binya’s cheeks. The umbrella stirred [moved] on the grass.

     The wind grew stronger, picking up dead leaves and sending them spinning and swirling through the air. It got in the umbrella and began to pull it over the grass. It lifted the umbrella and took it about six feet from the sleeping girl. The sound woke Binya.

     She was on her feet immediately, and then she was leaping down the steep slope [hillside]. Just as she was within reach of the umbrella, the wind picked it up again and carried it further downhill.

     Binya set off in pursuit [chasing it]. The wind was in a wicked [bad, evil], playful mood. It would leave the umbrella alone for a few moments; but as soon as Binya came near, it would pick up the umbrella again and send it bouncing, floating, and dancing away from her.


     The hill grew steeper [more up and down \ ]. Binya knew that after twenty yards it would fall away in a precipice [a big drop-off]. She ran faster. The wind ran with her and the blue umbrella stayed up with the wind. A fresh gust picked it up and carried it to the very edge of the cliff. There it balanced for a few seconds—before toppling [falling] over the cliff, out of sight.

     Binya ran to the edge of the cliff. Going down on her hands and knees, she peered down the cliff- face. About a hundred feet below, a small stream rushed between great boulders. Hardly anything grew on the cliff face—just a few stunted [short] bushes and, half way down, a wild cherry tree growing out of the rocks and hanging across the chasm [opening between rocky hillsides]. The umbrella had stuck in the cherry tree.

     Binya didn’t hesitate [wait for a moment]. She may have been timid [shy] with strangers, but she was at home on a hillside. She put her bare leg over the edge of the cliff and began climbing down. She kept her face to the hillside, feeling her way with her feet, only changing her handhold when she knew her feet were secure. Sometimes she held on to the thorny bilberry bushes, but she did not trust the other plants, which came away very easily.

     Loose stones rattled [made noise as they fell] down the cliff. Once on their way, the stones did not stop until they reached the bottom of the hill; and they took other stones with them, so that there was soon a cascade [lots of falling stones, like a waterfall], and Binya had to be very careful not to start a landslide [when lots of large rocks fall down a mountainside].

     Because she could climb as easily as a mountain goat, she did not take more than five minutes to reach the cherry tree. But the most difficult task [part] remained. She had to crawl along the trunk of the tree, which stood out at right angles from the cliff. Only by doing this could she reach the trapped umbrella.

     Binya felt no fear when climbing trees. She was proud of the fact that she could climb them as well as Bijju. Gripping [holding tightly] the rough cherry bark with her toes and using her knees to move slowly forward, she crawled along the trunk of the tree until she was almost within reach of the umbrella. She noticed with dismay [with sorrow] that the blue cloth was torn in a couple of places.

     She looked down; and it was only then she felt afraid. She was right over the chasm, balanced precariously [dangerously] about 80 feet above the stream. Looking down, she felt dizzy. Her hands shook, and the tree shook too. If she slipped, there was only one direction in which she could fall—far down into the stream.

     There was only one thing to do—concentrate [focus] on the patch of blue just a couple of feet away from her. She did not look down or up, but straight ahead; and willing herself forward, she managed to reach the umbrella.

     She could not crawl back with it in her hands. So, after removing it from the branch in which it had stuck, she let it fall, still open, into the ravine below. Held by the wind, the umbrella floated quietly downwards, landing in a thicket of nettles. Binya crawled back along the trunk of the cherry tree. Twenty minutes later she emerged [came out] from the nettle clump, her precious [very much loved] umbrella held in her hand. She had nettle stings all over her legs, but she was hardly aware of the pain.


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