Title – The Umbrella Man
Author – Siddhartha Gigoo
Genre – Fiction, Short Story
“The dance of the raindrops on the nylon cloth held together by slender aluminium strips was a distant dream. It was the rain which defined the umbrella, gave it its purpose, its essence and meaning.”
“The Umbrella Man”, a Commonwealth Short Story prize winner of 2015, was recommended by a fellow runner-reader. The story is set in an asylum. Against the backdrop of a mental institution, the protagonist is referred to as just Patient Number Seven. The inmates are allowed to move out of their wards and stroll in the compound of the asylum in the evenings. Seven is the only one permitted to saunter out of the gates and spend some time in the street nearby. This is a privilege granted to him by his doctors due to his calm disposition and obedience. With the limited freedom provided, Seven cherishes his daily walks.
Seven is obsessively waiting for the rain, so he can get the chance to use his much beloved umbrella – a red and yellow striped one. He considers the umbrella his playmate, who, like him, has never seen the rain either. No one knows how Seven came to possess the umbrella – he has not had visitors in years. His other “friends” are an imaginary cellmate, and a puny little thing he encounters on his daily walks. The rest of the story leads us through Seven’s wait for the rains – would they seem as Seven hoped they would, and would his beloved umbrella be worthwhile finally? Why does he wait for the rains with more hope than he waits to be free from the asylum?
The author draws a beautiful analogy between freedom and rain. The narrative leaves an imprint of the reader, just as the footprints Seven leaves behind on a muddy trail. A beautiful read that is short yet impactful. The cover is absolutely gorgeous, with its striking bright colored umbrella set against a dull backdrop – symbolic of either the gloomy weather or the environment in an asylum.
This book was selected as part of my birthday reading goals – reading books in and around India and/or by authors from the country. Siddhartha Gigoo was born in Srinigar, and this book has been added to the category of Jammu and Kashmir. The reading goals that I’m referring to can be accessed from this link:
Rating – 5/5