The cotton handkerchief that I use to wipe the perspiration from my face wasn’t enough to cope with Kerala’s heat in South India. I noticed that nearly all the women and even some men carry umbrellas. Umbrella shops abound. I dashed into the nearest one and was shown a large variety. I opted for the no-nonsense basic black fold up model with the silver lining to protect against the sun’s powerful rays. I immediately opened it and enjoyed its protection from Lord Surya until it started to rain. The rain was unexpected and lasted for days but at least I had my umbrella to serve yet another function.
To my dismay, I opened my umbrella the other day to discover that it was broken. One of the metal ribs lost a tiny nail and the piece dangles precariously close to my head and now doesn’t fully open. It isn’t even two weeks old and it cost more than one of those cheapies you can get on the street in NYC where I’m from.
One of the wonders of India is that one can get just about anything fixed here. I know a man who repairs shoes. He is a magician. No matter the damage, he can fix it. I passed him in the street and explained my problem. “Is it open and close problem?” He asked with concern. I sensed that this problem was out of his realm. “No. It’s just a metal piece that’s come undone.” I explained while demonstrating the broken part with my fingers. “Yes. Maybe I can fix. You bring.” With renewed hope, I went back to my room and got the umbrella.
He examined it and went to work rummaging through dusty jars with rusty bits of nails and rivets. He found a very small, thin nail and very carefully fitted all the pieces together and inserted the nail. Next he cut off a piece of coated electrical wire and stripped off the coating. He used this thin wire and inserted it into the small holes and rewired the places where nails were needed. Lastly he removed the thin nail and replaced it with the wire that he neatly twisted up, cut and pressed into place. Although it wasn’t lined up as before, the umbrella opened and closed very efficiently. I was delighted. “How much do I owe you?” I asked. “You pay what you want. Make it good price.” I calculated what the umbrella cost, took into account the local economy plus a foreigner surcharge and handed him thirty rupees. He smiled with pleasure.
I left his small and crowded stall with my umbrella protecting me from the sun’s intense rays, well prepared to face what comes my way.