I choose to call him that because rain or sunshine, he is always there for me with his umbrella.
One would think that I am going to talk about a man who lent me his umbrella when I needed it. True though it might be, he/she cannot be more mistaken if the thought process stops there.
Yes. I am going to tell you the story of the umbrella man.
The man who I see only on days when it is raining so heavily that my small backpack or handbag cannot shield me from the rain even if were to wrap it around my face like a scarf.
The man who is there at the bus stop at Redhill and takes the same bus as me, Bus No. 32 to get off at the next stop. With me.
The man who wears a white tee shirt with grey shorts, blue cotton shirt with white trousers, cream coloured shirt that says “I am different” in brown stitched fabric with khakhis or a Venetian green shirt with denim trousers. And I can say safely that you will find him in one of these combinations. I cannot tell you the happiness I experience when I predict his outfit accurately. Most of the times. I can almost see a pattern now.
The man who never forgets his umbrella.
The man who looks at me from the corner of his eyes as I cross the road and as I pretend to be angry for forgetting my umbrella every other day. But somewhere deep inside, I am thankful to experience the rain. I have been sleeping in the train and need that refreshing downpour even if it means going to the office drenched. But there he stands, seeming to understand every little thing going on inside my head. Able to see through my false expression.
The man who loves to tease me. Let me admit it. The man whom I like to be teased by. For why else would he come to the end of the crossing and hold out his umbrella for me to walk to the bus stop that is 2 steps away, just as I was beginning to enjoy the rain?
The man who squints and looks at me with an exasperation that I can hear miles away. And as if it were not enough, he mumbles under his breath and expects me to say not just a thank you but also an excuse as to why I forget my umbrella every single day. And it is for this reason I cross the road slowly so that my little brain can conjure an appropriate excuse. Not that I can fool anyone though.
The man who just stands there in silence, amidst the blaring traffic, the beeping signals, the ringing cell phones that seem to take cue from each other and ring deliriously, the indifference and business-as usual stares and the heavy downpour. He does not as much look at me after I give him the excuse.
The man who spots the bus at the faraway crossroad, and hmmphs at me indicating that it is time for me to take my ticket out of my bag.
The man who lets me get into the bus first ( Charming chivalry!), all the while holding the umbrella over my head even though the whole process takes not more than 5 seconds.
The man who then goes and sits in a far off seat, not even appearing to show any acknowledgment that he knows me.
The man who gets off the bus first and then holds the umbrella above my head as I get down, his eyes looking somewhere above my head and below the umbrella. But never at me.
The man who engages in simple formalities about the weather all of a sudden and about himself in barely clear speech but more than adequate expression. As we talk and walk towards my work place, he slows his pace. I go on and on about little nothings and he nods and goes on about his own little somethings.
The man who accompanies me with the umbrella till the doorstep, inspite of a roof above my head. He watches me go in and punch and then traces his steps back a little faster towards the employment centre meant for persons with intellectual disability.
The man whose age I don’t care about.
The man whose name I cannot spell. Or pronounce correctly.
The man who has not asked me for my name. Not once.
The man who smiles only when I try to protect myself from a big splash as a heavy vehicle passes by.
The man who was wearing that cream coloured shirt that says “I am different” in brown stitched fabric with khaki trousers today.
The man who never forgets to bring an umbrella.
The man whom I look for everytime I sense grey clouds or a slight drizzle. Wherever I am.
The man whose presence I am learning to sense even before I see him.
The umbrella man, whose story I could tell you forever and ever.