Friday, August 14, 2015

The Blue Umbrella!

Whichever part of India you reside in, ….chances are that’s it’s either raining or going to rain or just about stopped raining! Unlike the previous years, this year's monsoon has been uneven and  erratic with either too little rain in some parts or too much rain in others. While the monsoon does bring cheer to one and all and is portrayed in a rather romantic perspective in  most Indian nature writings, as a parent of young children and very young children (to which category I have been recently re-inducted) ... one can't ignore its practical implications. So whether it's the difficulty in navigating through maddening traffic on a rainy evening with young kids in tow, or re-adjusting their tennis or any sports classes upsetting an already packed  weekly schedule or being stuck indoors with hyper-active kids when you'd rather take them to a park or playground  or the rise in viral infections ( some with names you've never heard of!)  which in turn means that it's not just your little one who's taking off or the fact that clothes (read nappies!) don't seem to dry at all... the rains are just not fun anymore!:-) 

So when I stumbled upon a friend's Facebook homepage that read "Rain, Tea and a Good book" (Courtesy Reading Corner) ... I couldn't help feeling jealous! That said, there's nothing stopping you from recreating the monsoon magic vicariously.. Right? What better way to do it than pick up a story by an iconic writer whose writings on nature have enthralled children and adults alike. When it comes to writing about the hills, the trees, the rains, no one does it better than Bond! Out of his many stories, we picked out “The Blue Umbrella”, one of his most popular children’s stories in recent times that has also been made into a feature film. “The Blue Umbrella” is available as an individual novel with illustrations by Archana Sreenivasan and is also published along with his other stories in “Ruskin Bond’s Children’s Omnibus” brought out by Rupa publications. 

Revolving around a young girl named Binya and her family comprising of her mother and her brother Bijju, the story makes for an excellent armchair travelogue of the Gharwal region located at the foothills of the Himalayas transporting the reader to its lush green splendor. While taking her cows for grazing, she chances upon her a beautiful blue umbrella that has her spellbound! As she moves closer to get a good look at the umbrella, she is spotted by a group of tourists apparently to whom the umbrella belongs. Just then a woman in the group seems fascinated by Binya’s  lucky leopard claw pendant and offers anything in exchange for the pendant. No prizes for guessing what Binya asks for in return! Having bartered her pendant for the blue umbrella, Binya cant stop parading it around the entire village to everyone’s envy, including the greedy shopkeeper Ram Bharosa! Ram Bharosa is notorious for picking on poor hapless children and forcing them into parting with their prized possession under the pretext of offering sweets on credit. Ram Bharosa cant take his eyes off Binya’s umbrella and finds it unfair that a poor girl like Binya should have such a beautiful and dainty looking umbrella! So he hatches a plan to acquire it but pays a heavy price for his greed! Though all of his own making, Binya feels sorry for Ram Bharosa’s misery and she does something selfless  that not only brings in a change of heart in Ram Bharosa but also rewards them in unexpected ways! Read on as story unfolds into a beautiful tale of childhood fascination, greed, empathy and redemption!

The Blue Umbrella” has now adapted into an Amar Chitra Katha format along with another one of his stories “Angry River”. Though it makes a great read for younger kids, nothing can compare to Ruskin Bond’s brilliant narrative in the novel, detailing every nuance of Binya’s fetish, Ram Bharosa’s envy, subtly hinting at the simple and contented life of villagers and vividly describing the rain in the mountains!  So much so that even Abhay couldn’t agree more…and after a long time, we've rediscovered the joy of reading together like never before...all thanks to Ruskin Bond's  "The Blue Umbrella" ! :-) 

1 comment:

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