THE UMBRELLA MAN by Sipphar Thagigoo - Memories we Lost and Other Stories Study Guide

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Siddhartha Gigoo is an Indian author and film-maker. He studied English Literature at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, in New Delhi India. His short story 'The Umbrella Man' is the Asia' winner of the Commonwealth Short Story prize of 201 5.

He has books of fictions under his name: These are, The Garden oi solitude (2011) and A fistful of Earth and Other Stories (2015). Furthermore he has book of poems entitled "fall and other poems" and "Reflections "


The story happens in an asylum for mentally challenged persons. This is a hospital for the confinement of people who have a mental breakdown and thus they have to be kept in isolation, in solitary so that they are treated and to improve on their health condition.

 "The Umbrella Man" is about an inmate, Number 7, living in a mental asylum. All he possesses is an umbrella with yellow-and-Red stripes.

Number 7 suffers from unknown psychosis. He yearns for rain. During evenings, he strolls in the asylum compound, carrying along the yellow-and red stripped umbrella hoping to experiencing rainfall.

In a confinement with little freedom, he is the only one allowed to walk and saunter out of the gates but still in the confinements of the asylum. He is allowed this limited freedom because of his obedience and calm disposition.

Number 7 speaks to a ghostly, imagined child in his cell every night.

While strolling around, he picks an imaginary conversation with his only friend The Puny little fellow. They have a discussion about rainfall and how they have waited for it. The puny little fellow points out how rain can be destructive. He does this till one day when he is set free, he unfurls his umbrella and sets off beyond the gates of the asylum, towards a world he has never seen before, the only thing he leaves behind are the wet footprints.

There are moments in one's life when one experiences an inmate in an asylum like feeling, as though one has been magically transported to an asylum. This can be as a result of a temporary aberration of the mind or by crafty intrusions of our own secret personas. One can imagine oneself living in an asylum, bereft of worldly possessions. It's a very depressing thought, so it's natural human tendency to invent hope, to cling to something, to long for something. The solitary man chances upon an umbrella, clings to it and yearns for rain.

Thematic Concerns


The mentally challenged inmates, together with Number 7 are locked up in an asylum where their freedom and movement is limited. It is only in the evening that the inmates are allowed to go out of their wards and stroll about in the asylum's compound. The freedom ended at the wall. Beyond the wall there was nowhere to go.

Human emotions

 The story captures the emotions of Number 7 and the other inmates, in the asylum. Number 7 yearns for rain to fall. He strolls every evening with his umbrella with the hope of it raining. He gets excited at the sight of clouds. In his solitude, he finds something to cling on; the umbrella, his only companion and playmate. He is melancholic and finds peace in the yellow-and-red striped umbrella which no one knows how it came to be in his possession.

The lonesome nights also lead Number 7 to speak to a ghostly, imagined child, whom he prays for every night and also soothes to sleep. It is in human nature to have different emotions and feelings; a feeling of belonging, a feeling of companionship and possession. Number 7 finds time to talk to the mysterious puny little fellow. When he comes to the meeting point and does not find him, Number 7 wonders if the puny little fellow would appear.

Love for ones possession

Number 7 adores his Yellow-and-Red striped Umbrella, which is his only companion and playmate. He does not go out without the umbrella, no one knows how he came to own the umbrella but they have become inseparable. He takes leisurely walks with it in the evenings. The umbrella was the most beautiful thing in the entire asylum. It brought smiles on his lips. Through the windows of wards fellow inmates look at Number 7 in awe and wonder as they wanted to hold the umbrella in their hands, they wanted to be in its shade. Inmates do not have other worldly possessions.

Mental health

Due to emotional instability and mental disturbance, Number 7 with others are put in a mental hospital asylum, for treatment and care.

Mentally challenged fellows are put in isolation to necessitate their care and treatment.

Due to his mental state, Number 7 has a conversation with mysterious ant, and also chats at night with an imaginary, non-existent child. He feels its obligation to ensure the well being of that imaginary child.

He soothes the baby, lulls it and even prays for the child.

More so Number 7 walks in the evenings with an umbrella yet it doesn't rain.



Nature value of natural environment

The place has not experienced rain for quite a while now. Rain has evaded the place for several months. Number 7 waits for the rain, he longs for it. But still nature is bountiful, flowers are growing, bees are present. Nature has miracles. It can rain without announcing it.

Number 7 strolls in the narrow avenue hedged with tall eucalyptus trees for leisure, and stumbles against a bench, where he sits, it is his favorite place.


Number 7 is full of hope every time, when evening comes he ventures out with the yellow-and-red striped umbrella, with the hope of it raining. He is fascinated by the thought of rain; he in fact gets excited when clouds gather. When asked by the barber if it will rain, Number 7 answers full of hope that it will soon.

At night he prays for the child and hopes that some powers would heed his prayers and bestow grace on the child.

Character Traits

Number 7

Sociable: In his imaginary world he becomes friends with the little,. puny fellow with whom they have a hearty talk.

Prayerful: he prays in silence for the child being convinced that some powers should heed to his prayers and bestow grace upon the child.

Contradictory: On the last night in the asylum facility, Number 7 is not concerned about the following morning that he is to be free. He is the same as other days as he talks to the imaginary child.

Caring: He takes care and soothes the child to sleep. He always worries and frets over the child "...all he wanted was a peaceful sleep for the child "

Inquisitive: he questions the little puny fellow on what makes him to delay to come to their meeting point. He wants to know about his where about.

Obedient: his obedience and calm disposition has made the doctors to write a positive report about the assessment of Number 7's condition. This enables the committee to agree to his release.

Little puny fellow

Accommodative: He does not show displeasure with the coming of Number 7 despite the fact that he is a distraction. Number 7 talks about rain, nature and hope with him "... he did not betray displeasure, knowing that the man had come for a friendly chat "

Industrious: He beseeches Number 7 to let him to carry on with his work for his fellows may think he is more interested in gossiping with a stranger than attending to his work.

Cautious: He notes that though they long for rains to come, the rains can be quite destructive towards hapless fellows like them

Observant: notices that Number 7 never ventures out without the umbrella.




Stylistic Devices

Narrative Technique

The story is told from a third person point of view, where the narrator gives us the story from what he observes.

Vivid Description

The area in the asylum that is allowed for movement is described as "...the wall around the one hundred and twenty-square-meter compound ninety something yards in the narrow avenue outside the gates that ended at another wall. Beyond that brick-and —stone wall was a vast darkness " this brings out the picture of the confinement of the inmates in the asylum, the place with limited freedom.

The umbrella possessed by Number 7 is described as a yellow-and-red striped, beautiful Umbrella. It was the most beautiful thing in the entire asylum. More beautiful than the bed of wild flowers along the wall.


Number 7 converses with the barber about rain which shows Number 7's fascination with rain.

Dialogue between doctors and Number 7 reveals change in the state of Number 7's health such that he is free to go.

The dialogue between Number 7 and his friend the puny little fellow, reveals Number 7's anticipation for freedom and the little puny fellow's fear of destruction that can be brought about by rain.


The little puny fellow, can't talks with Number 7 about the of nature, how nature is bountiful and full of miracles.

Number 7 is greeted by a small puddle when he steps out of his when he is allowed to leave the asylum like him, the umbrella too had not seen the battering

The dance of raindrops on the nylon of the umbrella seemed distant dream; it seemed impossible for it to rain. It shows the significance of the umbrella can only be truly seen when it rains.


Number 7 is always moving out with the Yellow-and-Red striped umbrella with the hope of it raining yet still he wonders of what use is hope.

He yearns for rain and yet when it rains he walks slowly in the compound busy avoiding splashes from rainfall.


The rain is symbolically used by the writer to indicate the getting well by the inmates, as Number 7, more so it is the freedom that Number has been yearning for.

You talk of freedom thought you cared for the rain, rain can be destructive.

The wild bush represents the uncertainty of life.

The Yellow-and-Red striped umbrella symbolizes the calt disposition, the change in behavior of Number 7 such that the doctor are able to write a favorable report to facilitate the freedom of Number 7. 

Revision questions

  1. With reference to the story "The Umbrella Man, " discuss the truthfulness of the statement, No condition lasts forever.
  2. Citing examples from "The Umbrella Man, " discuss the character traits of Number 7.
  3. The writer has employed the use of vivid description and dialogue in the story "The Umbrella Man, " discuss these stylistic devices and give their effectiveness.
  4. Mentally challenged patients should be put in isolation. Do you agree?
  5. Natural environment offers solace to lonely souls. Discuss.
  6. The will to live is necessitated by the never giving up attitude. Discuss.
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