Chapter 7

THE BLUE UMBRELLA

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First the summer sun, and now the endless rain, meant that the umbrella was beginning to fade a little. From a bright blue it had changed to a light blue. But it was still a pretty thing, and tougher than it looked—and Ram Bharosa still desired [wanted] it. He did not want to sell it; he wanted to own it. He was probably the richest man in the area—so why shouldn’t he have a blue umbrella? Not a day passed without his getting a glimpse of Binya and the umbrella; and the more he saw it, the more he wanted it.

     The schools closed during the monsoon, but this didn’t mean that Bijju could sit home doing nothing. Neelu and Gori were providing [giving] more milk than was required [needed] at home, so Binya’s mother was able to sell a kilo of milk every day: half a kilo to the schoolmaster, and half a kilo (at reduced rate) to the temple Pujari. Bijju had to deliver the milk every morning.

     Ram Bharosa had asked Bijju to work in his shop during the holidays, but Bijju didn’t have time; he had to help his mother with the ploughing and transplanting [planting again] the rice seedlings. So Ram Bharosa employed [hired, gave the job to] a boy from the next village, a boy called Rajaram. He did all the washing-up and ran various [different kinds of] errands. He went to the same school as Bijju, but the two boys were not friends.

     One day Binya passed the shop twirling [spinning] her blue umbrella. Rajaram noticed that his employer gave a deep sigh and began muttering [speaking softly] to himself.

     “What’s the matter, Babuji?” asked the boy.

     “Oh, nothing,” said Ram Bharosa. “Its just a sickness that has come upon me, and it’s all because of that girl Binya and her wretched [awful] umbrella.” 

     “Why, what has she done to you?”

     “Refused to sell me her umbrella! There’s pride for you. And I offered her ten rupees.”

     “Perhaps, if you gave her twelve . . .”

     “But it isn’t new any longer. It isn’t worth eight rupees now. All the same, I’d like to have it.”

     “You wouldn’t make a profit on it,” said Rajaram.

     “It’s not the profit I’m after, wretch [awful boy]!  It’s the thing itself. It’s the beauty of it!”

     “And what would you do with it, Babuji? You don’t visit anyone—you’re seldom [rarely, not often] out of your shop. Of what use would it be to you?”

     “Of what use is a poppy in a cornfield? Of what use is a rainbow? Of what use are you, numbskull [thick head]? Wretch! I, too, have a soul. I want that umbrella, because . . . because I want its beauty to be mine!”

     Rajaram put the kettle on to boil and began dusting the counter, all the time muttering, “I’m as useful as an umbrella,” and then, after a short period of intense thought [thinking really hard] he said, “What will you give me, Babuji, if I get the umbrella for you?”

     “What do you mean?” asked the old man.

     “You know what I mean. What will you give me?”

     “You mean to steal it, don’t you, you wretch? What a delightful child you are! I’m glad you’re not my son or my enemy. But look, everyone will know it has been stolen and then how will I be able to show off with it?”

     “You will have to gaze [look] upon it in secret,” said Rajaram with a laugh. “Or take it into Tehri and have it colored red! That’s your problem. But tell me, Babji, do you want it badly enough to pay me three rupees for stealing it without being seen?”

     Ram Bharosa gave the boy a long, sad look. “You’re a sharp boy,” he said. “You’ll come to a bad end. I’ll give you two rupees.”

     “Three,” said the boy.

     “Two,” said the old man.

     “You don’t really want it, I can see that,” said the boy.

     “Wretch!” said the old man. “Evil one! Get me the umbrella and I’ll give you three rupees.” 


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