Mangaluru: English Vinglish! That’s right- you may find some funny signs on these street side umbrella/shoe/bags repair shops like, “Umburela Riperi”, “Shoos Condiciond”, “Bag Jipper Ripary” etc etc- but it’s okay- because all it matters is you need the help of the guys who sit at these petty shops who are there to repair your broken “China Made” umbrellas which you might have bought then from the road side umbrella sellers. When you buy cheap priced umbrellas, chances are you will have look for a umbrella repairer within few days of your purchase.
From June through September, monsoon waters and the winds wreak havoc on foot passengers’ umbrellas. If your umbrella breaks, you have two choices, either repair it or throw it in the dumpster. Because after some fierce rain and storm, some streets are lined with broken umbrellas. Carelessly shoved into waste bins or inconsiderately dumped in the gutter. But others who value their money, always look for a “Umbrella Doctor” to fix the bent ribs or broken handles of the umbrella. These days umbrellas are granted only a short life.
Did you used to hand down an umbrella to your children in the old days, now you buy a folding number that lasts for one downpour, especially if you buy a cheap “China Made” umbrella. But an umbrella is not a disposable item perse and actually can be repaired. This used to be a very normal thing to do and here in town there are still numerous repairmen that know what to do with a folded back umbrella. Last week I did buy an umbrella from the street vendor who has set up his business opposite Karavali Utsav ground/Mangala Stadium. The umbrella didn’t even last for one heavy downpour and wind- the spring broke and the ribs got bent. I went looking for the guy who sold me the umbrella, but found out from his friend who also sells umbrellas, that Shyam has gone back to Mumbai to bring more products. Guess, I will catch him when he returns!
With no other option, I decided to take my ruined umbrella to a umbrella repair man who has set up a temporary shop on Bejai road. It was nice to meet a new friend Raghava, who comes down to Mangaluru from Shivamogga during monsoon time for umbrella/raincoat repair work. I handed over my umbrella to him, and asked him what would it cost me to fix it- looking inside and out, and after doing some math, he said “Rs 130, Saar!”. Oh well, little cheaper than what I bought it for- I had paid Rs 150 for the new one. Anyways, I agreed for the repair to be done. The man sat on the ground, umbrella in his lap, mending a bent rib with nimble fingers and wooden tools.Within fifteen minutes my umbrella was fixed right. It is just the beginning of monsoon, but looking at all the broken umbrellas lying inside his petty shop, he seemed to have a little business—nobody wants to be without a working umbrella when the rains hit, I guess.
Raghava shared some of his family stories with me, and also said that the artisan skills that come with repairing umbrellas are slowly disappearing, but he kept that skill which was passed on to him by his dad, who passed away three years ago. He also gave me one tip- Of course prevention never hurts, so here is a tip from the pro: Watch out when you turn a corner. The trick is not to stick the umbrella to far forward and to slightly steer it around the corner, so that the wind cannot catch underneath. By doing this you won’t ruin your umbrella.
Going around the city I did notice every umbrella repair man was busy fixing broken umbrellas- yet another umbrella repair man I met was Murthy, who has polio had set up his shop near Police quarters near Nehru Maidan. He said that since he was disabled many people having pity on him, patronize his shop either for umbrella, shoe or bag repairs- some of his customers even come from far as Ullal or Panambur. Having making rounds in the city and seeing these Umbrella repair men that repair is possible—that something like an umbrella doesn’t have to be disposable—is enough to inspire us to fix the things we can. Don’t throw your broken umbrella-repair it!