The rusty black umbrella

The rusty black umbrella

The fine-point pen and the drab leather-bound diary that sits on the gold upholstered stool in the bedroom; the purple-flowered ceramic cup and the saucer lined on the edges with two green curling leaves, lying on the counter-top of the open kitchen; the tooth brush and the paste cocking their necks out of a red metal case fastened by two nails on the washroom wall; the foldable chair and table that rest folded against the outside wall of the single-storeyed house; or the pets, Bru and Coco — almost everything here has someone to call its own. All live in pairs. Sets of two.

Has it ever crossed anyone’s mind what singles go through these days, especially in this age of technology — the age in which everyone seems hard pressed for time, with very little to spare for themselves, with the desire to do plentiful in nano moments one steals from the day or perhaps the nightly hours?

It must be another age, absolutely incomprehensible to an oldie like me. Time moves faster now. Everyone seems so deeply engrossed in a world of their own. I sometimes feel like tip-toeing to each one’s room and take a peep into the esoteric spheres of which they are inhabitants. They are happy, they have money, they only complain of time. I sit in one room at the rear end, sometimes lying, putting my fragile body to rest, thinking of the time when I was useful, even some days when I was particularly sought out.

On such days, life brewed in me. The feeling of being alive filled me to the bone. I was needed. They needed me and I needed them. I remember one day when it rained. I held Ashok by his hand, his fingers gripping the cup of my palm firmly. We both walked to his office together. How I had waited for him at the reception soaking in rain. In the evening, we both came back together. It was an elemental dependency between us.

Now I feel lonely. I have a few occupants in the same room, who listen most of the time with dust settling in their eyes, with made-up attention, so alike. On some days, we huddle up in this room and engage in casual banter. We talk in whispers, even-pitched voices, sometimes loud and, on occasion, in guffaws. ‘Idlers’, someone from one corner would grumble. Stories continue of tragedies and trials, stories of love.

Then suddenly, I quieten down, squeeze, shrink and shutdown like a tortoise. I am old now, my limbs have caught rust, my black coat — then presentable — has lost its sheen. I no more perk up with a click of a finger, now a thumb is rubbed from the small of my back through the spine to help me shake out. I am an outdated black umbrella that has suddenly become full of emotions while others around me are full of none.

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