Shishir (Winter) 2019, Short Stories - Akanksha Singh


The Big-Blue Umbrella

By Akanksha Singh 


A skinny,eleven-year-old girl, clad in tattered salwar-kameez came running to the umbrella shop. Her uncombed hair flew wildly in the mild wind and a cloth bag hung heavily on her small, bony shoulders.The shop was still closed which meant theshopkeeper was a little late today than the usual. She rolled the bag around its contents and sat down near the entrance of a small temple across the street,to wait and catch her breath.


The hours were still early, but the sun was shining at its brightest, marking the beginnings of the scorching summer season of tropical northern-India. Devotees returning after offering their prayers gave her spare fruit or sweet, few even gave her money. She hadn’t had a proper meal in days but still appreciated the money over the eatables knowing very well that her mother would be happy with the coins.


Since last year she had beenstealing one coin daily from her daily total; her mother had no clue about hernew habit.All her savings were for an umbrella which she hadselected months before.She came to check on it daily to see if it was still there, praying daily that it would be. God seemed to hear her prayers on this subject; maybe he knew that every year during the rainy season her mother got sick,she wondered.


The loud rattling noise of the opening of the shop-shutter alerted her; the umbrella store was finally open. She at once spotted the one which she wanted from the outside- the big one in bright sky-blue colour with two little birds drawn on it.


Excited, she crossed the narrow lane with long steps and was at the entrance in a second. The shopkeeper was lighting incense sticks in the small makeshift temple in his shop while muttering some prayers under his breath. He was a middle-agedman in late forties but looked older due to salt and pepper hairs and big potbelly. Before she could have stepped inside, the half-closed eyes of the shopkeeper opened completely and irritation flashed in them.


“Hey girl, stop! What do you want?” he growled.


She quietly stepped back not afraid of his anger, she was used to this treatment.


“I want an umbrella”, she said with sheer excitement in her voice.


“I don’t have any old umbrellas to give you, come back later. Now go, don’t waste my time.”


“No, you don’t understand. I want to buy one; I have money.”


The irritation of the shopkeeper was replaced with curiosity by now.


“How much money do you have?”




The girl took out a plasticcontainer from her old bag and emptied it on his counter. Coins, lots of them, sat in a small heap on the shopkeeper’s counter.


“Please count these.”


“1, 2, 3 …256, 257 … 363.”


“You have three hundred and sixty-three rupees in total. Which one do you want to buy? Look around, take your time.” He asked her knowing very well that there was a small spectrum which she could choose from.


“That one in the top right corner- the bigone in bright sky-blue colour”, she replied in a heartbeat without even sparing a glance to others.


The shopkeeper smiled at her innocence and contagious enthusiasm;he knew the umbrella was way out of her budget.


“Why this one? You hardly looked; look again, maybe you will like something else better.”


“No, I want this one. Amma will like it”,she said with a distant look in her eyes, a soft smile played on her lips.

Her mother has always loved clear skies; she often says that it’s because of the sunshine and colours, but even as a little girl,she knows that the reasons are much more pragmatic than just the colours and sunshine. Their life on the road is much easier when there is no rain and the sun shines.More people are there on the streets to beg from. Without the rain, it is easier for them to find a place to sleep; the more uninterrupted the day, more the coins collected which means more food. The list went on but she didn’t tell all this to him, the last thing she wanted was his pity.


“My mother loves a clear blue sky with birds. How much this costs?” she said with a small pause.


“Why do you want to buy an umbrella? You can buy yourself a decent dress; it will be more useful”, said the shopkeeper looking at her old salwar-kameez which had pieces sewn from different prints at a few places.


“I have clothes; I need the umbrella”, she said with a small voice.She had caught him looking and was self-conscious now.


He was amazed at the girl’s selfless love for her mother; he decided to give her the umbrella.A little monetary loss seemed okay to him this time.


“Here, take this. Sixty-three rupees is your balance.” He handed her the umbrella, showed her how to use it properly and put sixty-three coins back in her plastic can.

“Bring it back whenever it breaks down, I’ll fix it for you.”


Quickly she put her plastic can in her bag, took the big blue umbrella and walked out of the shop with a big smile on her proud face.


She knew that she can’t have beautiful things andthat her mother would be very angry once she sees the umbrella;she would probably beat her up in frustration. All of this didn’t seem to upset her one bit; she was content knowing that when the rains will come this year, Amma will have a personal clear blue sky, protecting her.



Akanksha Singh from India identifies herself as an avid reader and a passionate writer. She enjoys writing fiction in all shapes and forms some of which gets shared on her personal blog. After completing her post-graduation from IISER Mohali in the field of Life Sciences, she is studying for a masters in political science. Her other interests include cooking and travelling.


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