Brolly imbroglio

A new Swiss Bank study found Mumbai to be 2nd cheapest city in a list of 71 cities around the world. The study is flawed, writes Srinivas Hebbar.

india Updated: Aug 16, 2006 06:13 IST

A new Swiss Bank study found Mumbai to be the second cheapest city in a list of 71 cities around the world. The study is seriously flawed. It does not take into account the cost of housing. For another, it ignores umbrellas. Yes, umbrellas. Every year I lose on an average two umbrellas, and as a household, we lose about four in a good season. And as they say, there are no free umbrellas.

The economics of umbrellas is not as simple as it may sound: fork out a hundred or so bucks and you have another. When you lose an umbrella, it happens on a dry day (on a wet day there is only the umbrella on one’s mind) and you forget to pick it up from a train, bus, cab, restaurant, bar or wherever else you have been. It’s one of those tricks the mind plays — when you see there is no rain after three days of the nagging Mumbai rain, you yearn to walk umbrella-less, arms swinging.

The next morning it rains and you take a cab to work from the railway station. You don’t think of taking a cab to buy an umbrella. That’s folly and downright extravagant. This could go on for a couple of days. And the costs add up.

One of my chief irritants has always been an umbrella’s poor design. In theory, it is possible to hold on to an umbrella all the time and not lose it. But in real life it doesn’t work that way. Put it on your lap and it keeps falling off. And you happily walk away when it’s time to leave.

Umbrellas don’t fit into your pocket. Why can’t there be a palmtop umbrella, something that goes into a shirt pocket? Had it rained in the US like it does in Mumbai, by now the palmtop model would have been making way for the latest miniature miracle. It would be a marvel, something that you could pull out of your wallet that would unfurl into a giant umbrella to shelter an entire family. Rain over, umbrella returns to wallet.

This is a product whose time had come long ago. It’s just that the West is not interested in developing these little wonders — but no more wonderful than mobile phones that double as cameras, computers, city guides, music systems and, I am told, an upcoming model which can talk to the dead (many of the SMSes have that weird quality anyway).

And my other unanswered query: who finds lost umbrellas? Over the years, I have never found one that someone else has left behind. Everyone I know has lost at least one umbrella in their lives. If you have never lost one, well, you must be a Great Soul.

Talking of souls, where do lost umbrellas go? A sort of Elysium where good umbrellas go?

First Published: Aug 16, 2006 06:13 IST