The story of an umbrella

My mother was channel hopping on TV and suddenly an advertisement for umbrellas caught my attention and I smiled remembering another advertisement from another time…
I was going to join the third standard and we had recently moved into our aunt’s unoccupied home. As part of welcoming the new school year, there was a lot of activity. New textbooks, stationery, uniforms, bags, and of course umbrella! The days before the school opening will be spent in covering the textbooks and notebooks with brown paper, affixing name tags ( ones with pictures of cars for my brother and flowers for me), and writing our names on our respective books. This was followed by shinning the shoes to perfection and ironing the uniform (which my father helped me with for the longest time!).
It rains generously around the school opening making umbrella an investable necessity in my place. I had an umbrella from last year, but it was donated to someone and I was about to get a new one. The TV was buzzing with advertisements for a new umbrella and this one had a fancy contraption- a whistle! Back in the day blowing a whistle was kind of cool or so I was made to believe by the advertisements. Hence, I pressed my parents to get me the umbrella from the advertisement, the one with the promised whistle attached. While shopping I had persistently nagged them and finally got my hands on an orange umbrella with an orange whistle attached to the handle! The shopkeeper demonstrated how we could take off the whistle if we wished but I laughed at the idea. Taking off the whistle from my umbrella- no way!
On our first day to school, the whistle was forgotten amidst all the excitement. And at school, the first thing our teacher instructed was “no blowing of the umbrella whistle within school premises”. That was when I remembered my new umbrella. But since I feared punishment, I observed the rule obediently. On our way home in the pouring rain, I blew the whistle to my heart’s content. Since it was raining cats and dogs there was no one in the way from our bus stop till our home. And my ever-patient brother let me get away with it too.
So, the next day I planned to do the same. But unfortunately, nature was not on my side. That day there was no rain and an old person was walking in our opposite direction. Because we were new in the locality, we did not know who he was and frankly, I did not even notice him. I was happily blowing my whistle and hopping my way home with my brother’s protective arm around my tiny fist. And we would have reached home in about 5-6 steps when the old man loomed in front of me. He pointed a finger at me and my umbrella and then shouted out aloud, the words were lost on me, but I got the message the whistle was a nuisance. What a tragedy! More than a tragedy, what a fright! I was scared out of my wits, but my brother probably said a quick apology and we ran home.
I was thoroughly shaken by my encounter with the angry old man. I resolved that something had to be done. For a long time, I thought of lodging a petition with my parents against “the bad old man” but then I realized I did not know anything about him. But I was scared and decided it was best for my safety to part with the cherished whistle. So, without even mentioning it t anyone, I went to my umbrella and untied the whistle that was attached to the handle. Then I proceeded to hide away my whistle imagining that I will blow it when it rains with thunder. Maybe that day did not come or maybe I was preoccupied when it came, anyways I never saw the whistle again. That was how whistle lost all its glory in my eyes- it was something that got you scolding from strangers. The orange umbrella with the whistle attached to the handle was also my first brush with the obsession over an advertised product and then finding it distasteful on owning it.

I love watching advertisements even now but I don’t buy any product based on the advertisement- after all the whistle was a story that I haven’t forgotten despite all these years. 

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