Chapter 5





Bijju was on his way home from school. It was two o’clock and he hadn’t eaten since six in the morning. Fortunately, the Kingora bushes [berry bushes] were in fruit, and already Bijju’s lips were stained [colored] purple with the juice of the wild, sour fruit.

     He didn’t have any money to spend at Ram Bharosa’s shop today, but he stopped there anyway, to look at the sweets in their glass jars.

     “And what will you have today?” asked Ram Bharosa.

     “No money,” said Bijju.

     “You can pay me later.”

     Bijju shook his head, No. Some of his friends had taken sweets on credit, and at the end of the month they had found they’d eaten more sweets than they could possibly pay for! As a result, they had to hand over to Ram Bharosa some of their most treasured possessions—such as a curved knife for cutting grass, a small hand-axe, a jar of pickles, or a pair of earrings—and these had become the shopkeeper’s possessions and were kept by him or sold in his shop.

     Ram Bharosa had set his heart on having Binya’s blue umbrella, and so naturally he was anxious [really wanted] to give credit to either of the children; but so far neither had fallen into the trap.

     Bijju moved on, his mouth full of Kingora berries. Halfway home, he saw Binya with the cows. It was evening, but Binya still had the umbrella open. The two small holes had been sewn up by her mother.

     Bijju gave his sister a handful of berries. She gave him the umbrella while she ate the berries. “You can have the umbrella until we get home,” she said. It was her way of rewarding Bijju for bringing her the wild fruit.

     Binya and Bijju set out for home, followed at some distance by the cows. It was dark before they reached the village, but Bijju still had the umbrella open.

     Most of the people in the village were a little envious [jealous] of Binya’s blue umbrella. No one else had ever owned one like it. The schoolmaster’s wife thought it was wrong for a poor farmer’s daughter to have such a fine umbrella while she had just an ordinary black one. Her husband offered to have her old umbrella dyed [colored] blue. She gave him an angry look and loved him a little less than before. The Pujari, who looked after the temple, said that he would buy a multi [many] colored umbrella the next time he was in the town. A few days later he returned, looking angry and grumbling that they weren’t available except in Delhi. Most people consoled themselves [made themselves feel better] by saying that Binya’s pretty umbrella wouldn’t keep out the rain, if it rained heavily. They said it would shrivel [become smaller] in the sun, if the sun was fierce [strong]; that it would collapse in a wind, if the wind was strong; that it would attract lightning, if lightning fell near it; and that it would prove unlucky, if there was any ill luck going around. Secretly, everyone admired it.

     Unlike the adults, the children didn’t have to pretend. They were full of praise for the umbrella. It was so light, so pretty, so bright a blue! And it was just the right size for Binya. They knew that if they said nice things about the umbrella, Binya would smile and give it to them to hold for a little while—just a very little while.


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