There have been numerous Bollywood songs with the humble umbrella at the centre . One song tied the umbrella to the spirit of the nation, claiming we as a country put aside its plethora of problems to happily share or even give up umbrellas. But ofcourse cinema has not often done justice to India. If you believe Bollywood, you would be led to think that our colleges are full of gorgeous kids in designer clothes who dance in sync to any random song. If you believe Hollywood we are still a nation infested with cholera and copulating snakes. But there was an element of truth in the umbrella song. Or so I grew up believing. A small town upbringing in the nineties gave you a tinted view of the world. Because there people did share umbrellas. Or ate tiffin sitting together. Or played silly games. And sharing umbrellas is no mean feat. It is a ready test of one’s character. Because there standing in the heavy downpour, your new shoes sloshed in mud and your precious school bag getting drenched, being a good Samaritan is difficult. But then the sight of that poor friend trembling in the rain or even that strange kid getting helplessly drenched melted your heart. And you extended the umbrella. Till sharing became a habit. Or even the occasional giving up of things. So I grew up believing in the umbrella test for character. How does one behave when one has the umbrella in hand? Because in the heavy monsoons the humble umbrella metamorphoses into an object of power. Ask the question on a larger scale and you can test the character of a city or a nation. And sadly Bollywood has again got it wrong. For nobody offers an umbrella these days. And the strangers you offer to share it with leave without saying a thank you. As I waited umbrella-less for a rickshaw in the first Mumbai rains, men and women with umbrellas wielded the umbrellas like a sword to cut through the crowd and get to the autos first. I shook my head. Umbrella courtesy has obviously reached its lowest point. Maybe it is more fashionable to offer a coke these days – you can see your face go up on the cola’s walls with much less discomfort. And meanwhile I am getting a raincoat- I can then be selfish without the pangs of umbrella guilt that only afflict romantics a little out of sync with time.