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The Day Out
The little boy stood outside Baskin Robins licking an ice cream. He was dressed in his school uniform, a blue shirt and white pants. The pants were a size too big and he had folded the bottom to prevent them from getting under his shoes. His parents beside him carried two fat polythene bags containing everything from torch batteries to little Maggi packs. He still had about an hour of his outing left.
“So, should we drop you back to school?” His father joked.
“No way, Dad! You come only once a term!” shrieked the boy who was adamant on making full use of that one outing he got. “My friends’ parents come to meet him every weekend.” He retorted.
“Achcha baba, What do you want to do next?” his mother asked.
“Anything, as long as it doesn’t involve entering the school gates.”
He took the two bags from his dad and foraged inside to look if he had missed anything. After a few minutes of searching, he looked up and said, “I can’t find the umbrella”
“That’s because we never bought an umbrella” his mother promptly replied. “You need one?”
“Of course! I live in Dehradun!”
It was perhaps the clear bright day that had made him forget buying an umbrella. But the boy knew that Dehradun’s weather could never be trusted.
“Fine, let’s buy you one.”
They went to Kumar stores just across the street. Kumar’s had a variety of colours to choose from. The mother picked out a bright pink one and was just opening it up when the son snatched it away and put it back. He went around looking for more umbrellas but none caught his attention. His mother was on the other end of the store. She waved at him to call him over, and showed him her latest find. It was black in colour with a huge superman symbol made in the centre. “Mom, I am not a five year old kid!” He shrieked, “You want my friends to laugh at me!”
“Okay, okay. Kumar’s doesn’t have a good collection. I remember seeing this shop near our hotel. They had a couple of smart ones.”
The three decided to have a look and took an auto rickshaw to the shop near their hotel.
It was a small shop selling sundry items. The son went up to the shopkeeper, and said, “Could you show me the coolest umbrella you have?” “Oh shut up!”
His mother retorted. ”Some umbrellas ideal for school please” she asked the shopkeeper. He brought out a long black one, “This would protect him, as well as his bag.” His mother looked at the boy, asking for approval. “Nah… too big. Something that would fit inside my bag.” The shopkeeper showed him a small one but the boy rejected that as well, “My bag would get wet!” He exclaimed.
“I think I have what you are looking for.” The shopkeeper went inside and pulled out a petite red umbrella. He pressed a button on the side, and the umbrella gracefully opened up. The boy took it in his hands. He carefully shut it back and pushed the button. His eyes went wide with fascination as the umbrella bloomed again.
“Cool!” he exclaimed. It would fit inside my bag too!
“How much?” The dad asked.
“450 rupees sir.”
“450 for an umbrella! I am sure you have cheaper ones.”
“Of Course.” Said the shopkeeper. He held out his hand to take back the red umbrella but the boy stepped away. “But dad, I want this!” He pleaded. “Son, listen…” “Pleeeease…!” He begged. The mother nudged the dad. He sighed and pulled out his wallet.
They stood outside the school main gate. His father told the boy to study hard. “I want to see a rise in your grades, okay?” The son nodded. His mother kissed him on the cheek and told him to take care of himself. “Make sure you call me regularly. Write mails more often…” He glumly toddled back inside. He could see his parents waving goodbye as he walked back to his house.
The sun was setting. It was dusk. The boy reached his house and could see his form mates at a distance, chatting animatedly about their outings. He smiled. He quickly kept the two bags in his locker, and hurried in their direction. Just then he heard his name called out. It was a senior. “Water, hurry up!” He looked up, changed direction, and was about to run off when the senior added, “And one more thing, I lost my umbi, just find me a new one.” The boy stopped dead in his tracks. His smile disappeared. He looked back and saw the senior casually walking back to his room. He slowly nodded and moped towards his dormitory, where the two bags were kept.