i won’t start singing but hoisting that umbrella over my head and dashing out onto the glittering rain lashed zebra crossing i did feel like mary poppins the other day.
remember ms poppins? she who sits on a cloud and pulls lamp stands out of her carpetbag? and sings a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine…? and flies off with you to who knows where?
whenever i think umbrella, i see her sitting on a cloud, powdering her nose, then gliding down to earth holding that umbrella of hers aloft. it’s even got a jabbering parrot handle. i really don’t want to say anything more.
one shouldn’t have a strong feeling for an inanimate thing, you might argue, but i do have an allergy to umbrellas. they’re heavy, they swing for no reason, they take too long to open when you need them, they drip all over your clothes when you try to close them, they fall apart spokes asunder and poky as you try to open or close them, and they get left behind here and there, refusing obdurately to come home with you.
actually, while you’re trying to manage yourself and your bag, which has become as heavy as a heart that hasn’t seen a handsome man in centuries thanks to the bills and other pointless things stuffed in it (and you can’t be expected to clean/organise bags all the time), do you really want to add to the burden by grabbing an umbrella? even when it isn’t raining. just to be prepared.
folding, unfolding, black, multi-coloured, plastic, fine fabric, with or without parrot handle, umbrellas are irritating.
and yet, i had to capitulate.
i go for weekly walks around singapore with my ambling partner aj. we trundle out around ten a.m., when the sun is about to get blazing hot. soon it has that angry white hot look, and the heat is at scorch point, your ears catch fire, but the sky is now spectacularly blue and the clouds the whitest you’ve ever seen; and you whip out your phone, and point and shoot. every picture looks great. almost every.
so even though you’re not too happy with what the sun is doing to your head (it’ll ache surely) and your skin (there will be dark spots and a bleak tan), you shrug it off, and go back home, pleased with your discovery of a new spot and those pictures. i can’t explain it maybe, but these walks are really good for the spirit, and feel like something worthwhile.
whenever i mention the glare, someone or the other is bound to ask me, why i don’t wear a hat. i don’t like to. why not an umbrella then? i wish people wouldn’t be so helpful.
as i said, i was willing to tackle the discomforts of being in the sun, but the umbrella decided otherwise. it gave the contract to that very star, the ever effulgent tropical cosmic one, said to stand still in space as we whirl around it, never breaking pace, never changing path, never questioning this endless spin.
almost overnight, the deity to whom the egyptians have prayed, the mayans have offered sacrifice, and the gayatri mantra is chanted to even today, found new ways to torture me. the headaches got more severe, the spots darker, a fine crop of rash appeared on several parts of my face. red and weal like rash, pretty it wasn’t. in the latter half of one’s fifth decade on this our whirly planet, it’s hard enough to look passable, now we had the rudolph problem. i mean the red nosed reindeer of course.
we cancelled our walks a few times. then we thought, why not evening walks. why not, is really because you can’t see anything much and the pictures are just blotchy. i thought maybe it was a sign. though of what i couldn’t tell.
finally i started missing the walks so much, that aj carried back a sun hat for me all the way from bangkok, hoping that would solve the problem. but i don’t really like wearing hats. so now what.
the parrot green umbrella hanging on the wall insisted on catching my eye. i looked away. but i knew it had me.
finally, overcoming my ancient and sincere resistance to the object, i picked up an umbrella, that same green one, and off i went for a walk. the sun was kept at bay. it started to rain. often does in the middle of a bright sunny day here. the roads gleamed, the rain drops hit the ground and splashed back, playing around my feet, i had a peculiar mary poppins moment. would i just fly off to a cloud if i kept holding the umbrella over me?
a weird sense of magic can catch you in the middle of concrete, glass, led lights, and traffic noise sometimes. perhaps it was the umbrella.
i have given in completely now. but don’t think i was not right to distance myself from this calculating canopy, which has severe construction issues, and malice at heart.
just now, as i stepped out to go to the bank in pouring rain, i grabbed the green thing and took it along. downstairs, i pressed the little spring that’s supposed to open it. it did open, but not quite. i peered to check what the matter was. the ribs around the top notch at the centre had started to come apart. so while one side stretched out as it should, the other didn’t. it nodded and bobbed as i walked.
when i tried to close it after boarding the bus, the whole thing had a meltdown, spokes jutting out, ribs clacking, spring stuck. water dripped all over my clothes.