We have this unique distinction of having umbrellas from a couple of countries. No, we don’t collect umbrellas ! Its just that in our initial trips, we were not being equipped for the trip and ended up buying umbrellas or lending them from family there.
It was 2013, we decided to visit one of our friend from childhood – who had migrated to Russia. The plan was to visit him in St. Petersburg (SPB), visit Moscow and be back. While in SPB we experienced near white nights and also one of the brightest and sunniest days of the year.
Legend goes that SPB has only 8 sunny days in a year and this day was one of it. People take leaves, which is absolutely fine and come by the river for sun bathing and we did see hordes of them !
However we weren’t even half as lucky with weather in Moscow. Overcast conditions and rain welcomed us. As we walked from the metro station to the hotel, it dawned upon us that we don’t have an umbrella.
The next morning, we went for a tour of the Kremlim and it poured like anything after the tour started. Fellow travelers in the tour were kind enough to share umbrellas since half the group, like us, did not have umbrella. We decided to buy one and as we headed out for another part of this large metropolis, decided to explore shops at one of the markets at the metro stations exit point.
A shop was full of umbrellas, rain coats and some clothing. An old lady who would perfectly fit the description of Babushka walked out after seeing us explore. English was not an option here and google translate wasn’t working offline back then, so it meant pointing fingers at the umbrella – the usual acceptable way of doing business when facing language barriers.
TW(The Wife) pointed to the longest and the biggest umbrella and I had to remind her that we are taking a flight back and not a ship. How are we going to fit it inside our bags to take it with us !
The babushka showed us an umbrella. Looked very sturdy, wide enough for both of us. No need to spend money on two of these while on shoe string budget – all thoughts in favor, we asked for cost and after (trying hard but failing) some bargaining, asked to do a check of the umbrella before paying.
I opened it and started pulling the umbrella down – the way I have always closed an umbrella since childhood. Either press the button and pull it down or just pull it down manually. Just as I tried closing it, the babushka came to life and yelled at me. It felt as if the entire market was looking at me. Before I could really understand who all were looking at me, she snatched the umbrella from my hand and pressed the button and the umbrella folded on its own !
I swear I had never seen this before and TW also sweared the same !
We quickly paid, took the umbrella in our hand and made our way out of the market. A little distance away, the seriousness was giving way to how funny it was and hope that the babushka did not feel we were from some third world country not knowing how umbrellas operate !
We have been overwhelmed by the love we have received whenever we have visited ex Soviet countries – Russia, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and even the Baltics, but this was once case where I got yelled at !
The umbrella is rugged – perfectly Soviet and has been working well for the last 6 years. Every monsoon when I open it and close it by pressing the button, it reminds me of the small shop and babushka and the whole Russian experience !