“The only thing I shall want for a rainy day will be my umbrella.” – Agatha Christie, Nemesis
“It’s no use checking your weather app before stepping outside. It is never right.”, your mother would say while checking the aforementioned offending app before going out. Now, it was a habit that was drilled into you since you were a child. That and the fact that ” South Indian spiced lentil soup is the cure for everything”. You look out the window and notice the black ominous clouds, pregnant with unshed rain, as if there will be a thunderstorm in the very near future, which to be honest was a rarity in year 2045. But you still check the weather app, only to be told that it will be cloudy as usual, and the little picture on the left hand corner where a pretty girl was dressed up in “the most appropriate clothing for this weather” attire showed that you should stick to the protective jumpsuits, which is the norm these days. These spiffy little jumpsuits came integrated with a landmark technology that shielded one’s body from the harmful UV rays which were plentiful these days and an inevitable bout with skin cancer. It also came in all the colors of the rainbow plus a really cool black color, a “shower cap” like contraption to protect the head and a face mask that can be chosen based on what one might fancy, “mysterious, funky or bandit”, the bandit option being very popular among the male population.
You decide to wear your back jumpsuit today, which according to the trusty app was an ideal choice and it always looks fabulous on your brown skin. Even though there was no cartoon sun peeking through the animated clouds on the app, everyone was advised to wear their jumpsuits whenever they stepped outside. Which, actually, was also quite uncommon. Seriously, very few people ventured out these days, in order to keep the exposure to the minimum. And who would want to go out anyway, with the stench emanating from the thick smog that covered 97 percent of the planet, smog that contained such harmful chemicals that taking a single deep breath was equivalent to smoking 1 whole cigarette, and with almost all of the outdoor activities now available indoor. The grocery stores, gyms, restaurants, hospitals, even the government were now either available within the co-op living facilities or “societies”, or they were available online. There was little to no motivation to go out if at all. Also, wearing these jumpsuits was such a chore!
So, you start the cumbersome process by smearing SPF 80+ sunscreen lotion all over your body. Then you tame your unruly curly black hair into a plait, and tuck it into the “shower cap”. You step into your favorite jumpsuit carefully, because you don’t want to damage it, one little hole would render it unwearable. It was of the cheap variety and you had snatched it during a sale at HnM, it was the only one remaining in that color. But in the 2 years since you bought it, it never gave you any reason to complain. After rolling the thin material up your feet, legs, hips, chest, then fingers and arms, you cover your head. Now comes the tricky part. You’re unsure if your tummy has increased in size since the last time you wore it. You start pulling up the zipper gingerly, trying your best not to rush this. You pull it over your slightly distended tummy (what were you thinking gorging on all those nachos all by yourself?), up and up, over your chest, then neck, all the while holding a giant breath in. When you reach your neck, you let it out and look at yourself. Great! Now you look like that guy Gru from the “Despicable Me” movies, an old classic, that your mum used to love watching with you when you were a child. You put on your face mask, “the mysterious” one. And… Voila! No longer “Gru” exactly.. but maybe a ninja. You look good. You wink at yourself in the mirror and put on your protective black sneakers and pick up your phone, sunglasses, keys and back pack from near the front door and pause. You look at the old umbrella that your mum left you.
“Don’t think about it silly! Just leave it there. It never rains anyway.”, you tell yourself.
But as you step out of your door and then start locking it, you feel that you are forgetting something vital. Maybe it’s because you’ve never been able to defy your mum, even though you have rebelled (but always within the certain boundaries set for nice Indian girls), and now when she’s nowhere around, you can hear a voice inside of your head (your mum’s!) yelling at you to get the damn umbrella!
“Fine!”, you let out a loud disgruntled sigh, open the door, snatch the old umbrella, which has honestly seen better days and get out to continue your journey.
You set out on your trip to the “botanical garden”, which you make sure to visit once every month. Its been your favorite place since when you were a child and would come with your mum. “Mum”, you think of the word fondly, then you say it aloud just to make sure you haven’t forgotten how to, and remember how she would hold one end of this very umbrella and ask you to hold the other one, using it to drag you all the way to the indoor gardens full of beautiful plants, rare flowers and aged trees. It was no longer possible for any foliage to survive on earth… How could it be? It is uninhabitable for humans, how would the plants thrive? So, if one had to see any greenery, grass, bush, shrubs, trees, they had to visit the local botanical garden. Again not many people cared to visit this often. But you wouldn’t miss this monthly visit for the world.
You enter the humongous greenhouse like structure, sprawled over 10 hectares, roughly the size of 20 football fields, with a variety of flora from around the world, its walls made of reinforced glass, the kind that turned dark on sunny days. Every inch of the floor was covered in soft grass that was so tempting but everyone was forbidden from taking off shoes inside the “greenhouse”. Just as well!
The “greenhouse” used a special technology that simulated sunlight to be fed to the poor plants and trees, as the real deal was now too harmful for them. Botanists, environmental scientists, bio-processing scientists, plant geneticists and other such professionals were employed to take care of the plants by the rich and the opulent together with the government, as these were the only remaining vegetation in the entire city of Budapest. It was a haven of sorts for forgotten herbage, saved by the handful of people who thought ahead and saw the bigger picture. What a depressing thought, and it had no place in your mind today, as this is the day when you visit the apple tree your mum had planted years ago. As you step towards the tree, you see that it is bearing fruit, you smile widely and look down at the plaque next to it.
“Apple blossom donated and planted by Mrs. Radha Ramanujam, January 2035.”
You touch the inscription lightly, and your eyes & nose begin to sting, a tell-tale sign of the tears that you carefully keep at bay. You step back and turn around without taking any apples from the tree, which technically are rightfully yours.
You start wandering and looking around, trying to find and learn about the new additions to this big green family, waving hello to the people who work here and who are your friends now. When you’ve had your fill, you take your leave, blowing a covert kiss toward the apple tree. You step outside the “greenhouse” and start walking towards your home. But as you are nearing your “society”, right when you turn the corner towards the Basilica, you feel something isn’t right. You look up, and suddenly a big fat droplet splatters right in the middle of your eyes, that is thankfully covered by your protective sunglasses. You cannot believe it! You stand there rooted to your spot, bewildered, utterly flabbergasted and frozen with shock. You glance around, puzzled, your hand reflexively tightening around something. You look down and there it is.
“Oh!”, you say to no one in particular, “I have an umbrella!”
You open the rickety old thing and hold it over your head and laugh out loud. A laugh that you carry all the way to your home. You just can’t seem to stop. It increases in tempo along with the rain, which apparently has no plans of stopping anytime soon as well, from the rate at which the droplets changed in size and quantity.
In no time the drains on the side of the streets are overflowing, puddles are forming. A menacing boom of thunder follows the sinister lightening cutting through the clouds. The water hitting the pavements sound increasingly threatening. It was raining after 4 years, 5 months and 13 days. The spring shower after an eternity. Who knew what was in the rainwater? And who cared? Everyone left on this once beautiful blue planet had already made up their minds, that they were merely surviving, until the next big climate catastrophe, or the next natural calamity, or the next big pandemic. With that thought, you break into a light jog, in a hurry to get back home.
You reach your apartment, just about saving your favorite black jumpsuit from getting ruined, you leave the umbrella opened near the door, to let it dry out, just like your mum had taught you to. You are still smiling when you step in front of your mother’s old picture. She’s beautiful in that picture, just shy of 7 months pregnant with you, standing proud with a protective hand over her rounded stomach. She told you once how she’d promised you when you were born that she will always protect you, which she did for the first 21 years of your life and sometimes maybe even now…
“See how wrong the weather forecast always is?”, she would say. You smile and place a kiss on the picture and step towards the window, where the rain water was coming down in sheets obscuring the view, making a water fall.