Have you ever wondered if desire can lead to the pursuit of goodness? What is the difference between desire and ambition?
The novella “The Blue Umbrella” by legendary Ruskin Bond answers such questions in a simple yet beautiful style published by Rupa Publication in 1980 for children (8-10 years old). The impeccable story was later directed by Vishal Bharadwaj in 2005 with slight changes in the story. Although the box office collection bared a loss, the film won the hearts of critics, and it won the National Film Award for the Best Children’s Film, 2007.
The story revolves around the hills of the Himalayas, known as Garhwal, where a man named Ram Bharosa ran a tea stall. In the same village, a small girl named Binya lived with an elder brother Biju and her mother.
The introvert Binya is roughly nine to eleven years old, who comes across holidaymakers from urban areas. Elegant dress and exotic food were enough to hold her attention, but anything that led her to interpret the stylish crowd was the blue umbrella laid open on the ground among them. The urbanites noticed her beauty and the glass beaded necklace that had a leopard’s claw. Immediately her necklace caught the eye of everyone.
The young woman who owned the blue umbrella took the opportunity to trade her umbrella with Binya’s necklace. Binya desired the umbrella immensely. She carried the village wherever she went; it shows the depth of happiness of owning the beautiful umbrella. Sometimes she would let her friends experience the joy of hold
ing the blue umbrella and get captivated by it.
Ram Bharosa envied the attention she got from her people. The ambitious, well-off Bram Bharosa desperately wanted to possess the umbrella. His obsession made him the victim of shame and despair. But in the end, he gifted a silver chain to Binya. The chain had a pendant of a bear’s claw, symbolising a piece of powerful luck.
Why read “The Blue Umbrella”?
The novella is an easy read for children. It captures the essence of the Garhwal hills. Ruskin Bond beautifully describes the beauty of nature with changing seasons. There are many moments where the author takes me to childhood memory lane. One of the moments is when the wind catches up in the umbrella, the way a strong wind lifts and carries it away.
He always tells us what to expect during a rainy season in the hills – leeches. It is hilarious when he puts down, “…some of the older people still believed that to be bled by leeches was a remedy for various ailments. Whenever Ram Bharosa had a headache, he applied a leech to his throbbing temple.”
The spiritual take from this story
The title of the story undoubtedly sends a message to the audience to protect ourselves from negative emotions. In the west, the “blue mood” is an expression of sadness, a negative emotion. An umbrella is something that protects us from rain. Thus, it gives us a sign for protection from the negative rainfall. And this message stands out when he described the umbrella – “The umbrella was like a flower, a great blue flower that sprung up in the dry brown hillside.”
The novella deals with the emotions we must question now and then to avoid mislaid of moral compass. Ruskin Bond has conveyed this in simplistic and witty language. He defines in a beautiful style difference between desire and ambition. Binya’s desire for the blue umbrella filled her monotonous life with joy. Her trials to test the durability of the umbrella with varying seasons created emotional bonding with it. She carried the umbrella all the time as an emotional bonding and that it had become her companion – a reliable, protective and trusted companion.
Sharing the umbrella with her friends shows her eagerness to share her experience with them. Her desire to own the blue umbrella and sharing experiences with others moulded her to pursue goodness.
But the rich ambition of Ram Bharosa to own the same umbrella filled him with restlessness and bitterness. The desire was so strong and deep that it led him to restlessness. It made him plot and conspire to steal the blue umbrella. It stopped him when he was humiliated by the villagers. His desire was ambitious that turned into a strong desire like an untamed wild animal that takes us towards self-destruction.
The happy ending of the story conveys the message that all is well for the self-realised person. The enlightenment is when darkness is prevailed by lightness. “The Blue Umbrella” is a good read for inquisitive minds seeking an understanding of human emotions and children of age group between 8 to 10 years. Likewise, for those who share a connection with the hills, the description of Garhwalwill is bound to make you nostalgic.
Binya’s innocence and the act of kindness gently remind us of our innocent time when unknowingly made others happy with our actions.
Contributor: Kavita Srivastava
About our Writing Program Student
Kavita Srivastava (35) holds a degree in MBA. She’s an avid reader of business strategies, digital marketing strategies, mythology, mystic and fine arts with a focus on content marketing. In her spare time, she loves to spend time with nature and animals. Some day, she wishes to adopt a puppy with whom she can go hiking and jogging. Currently, she’s pursing a career in digital content marketing.