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Fair and Foul Weather Friend

Fair and Foul Weather Friend

The quintessential Bengali is always seen with an umbrella. Men love the sturdy black umbrella, while women prefer the foldable ones that fit snugly in their bags. Bollywood uses it famously to hide behind and kiss!

It is used commonly in so many different ways – as a walking stick, as a weapon against potential thieves, robbers and other miscreants, to protect oneself against unknown animals and birds, to hide behind when you want to avoid an annoying neighbour or relative, to avoid the harsh gaze of the sun which irritates the skin and eyes….and last but not the least, it is used as a protective sheath that keeps you dry when it rains.

Precisely for these reasons, the umbrella is an excellent companion when you go on walks in Selim Hill Tea Estate. Monsoon is my favourite season and the falling raindrops tug at the water element in my being. In Darjeeling, rains are a serious affair. They start like a high school crush, move onto a maybe-maybe- not infatuation and then mature into a full-fledged raging, torrid, passionate affair.

Twirling the umbrella as the light rain sprays onto my face, I get completely engrossed by a small frog hopping away. Peering out of my umbrella, through the haze of water and mist, I see the raindrops hanging onto the branches and leaves like little teardrops at the end of long, wet eyelashes. Stop a while and see the world mirrored in a bead of rainwater. If you have faith enough, like a crystal ball, it may foretell your future.


My reverie is broken as I hear a car coming closer. Immediately, I position my umbrella to ward off the imminent splash from the puddles. Shaking my fist as I walk along, a passerby laughingly informs me that it isn’t raining any more. I shut my umbrella carefully and become one with the fresh, light-heartedness of the hills.

Be under no misconception, the umbrella is of no use when the cloud bursts and there is a down pour. If you adventurously step out to test the power of the elements, be prepared for the mischief of the boisterous wind. It will race around you, tossing and turning until it ensures that your umbrella is upturned. Thunder and lightning, the trees, the mountains and the sky are dancing in a frenzy. The message is clear – either become a part of the primeval dance in complete abandonment or watch from the sidelines!

If there are umbrellas, there has to be an umbrella stand. After its jaunt in the open air, as it is folded and kept away, it shrugs off the raindrops and gathers all the happy and sad stories to tell the next person.

Gazing out on the hills, I see the hill dotted with umbrellas as the Selim Hill Tea Garden women pluck the two leaves and bud to make the perfect cup of Dorje Teas.

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