The rains have arrived, and umbrellas in different hues and patterns brighten up the overcast days

“This is called a gun umbrella”, announces Aashique, the shop boy at India Store, Town Hall, to a small group of children and parents huddled around him. The handle resembles a trigger. Aashique pulls the trigger and to the excitement of the children the umbrella pops open!

The monsoons are here! And, umbrellas in varied colours, quirky designs and shapes have arrived in the market. Children’s umbrellas are the most experimental ones, says Vijay, the owner of Selvan Shopping Centre in Gandhipuram. “They come in unconventional shapes. Square-shaped shades are very in.”

His shop also has imported umbrellas, especially the Chinese ones. Pencil umbrellas, priced at Rs. 250, are a major attraction. Designed to fit easily into the grasp of a six-year-old, these are slender, light- weight and one-and-a-half feet tall. “These are huge hits among school kids as they fit into their school bags perfectly.” There are also “frill umbrellas” with polka dots. “These are mostly used during weddings to usher in the bride.”

Chhota Bheem winks at you when you enter the shop, L. B. Traders at Town Hall. Umbrellas with cartoon characters are a rage among children, says shop owner, Kabir. “Ben 10, Barbie, Hannah Montana and Angry Birds are the most sought after.”

The section of children’s umbrellas at Selva Singh Stores houses multi-coloured rainbow kodais with curved handles and balloon umbrellas with colourful bubbles, priced between Rs. 70 and Rs. 175. “We also have Poppy’s cap umbrellas which are priced at Rs.150,” says Antony, the owner.

Despite all the innovations the stately, old Thatha kodais, with curved handles are still popular among the elderly. “They are also widely used for the Kashi yatra ceremony at weddings, where relatives hold the umbrella over the groom’s head. At Selva Singh stores, Poppy’s Thatha kodais with strong wooden handles, (priced at Rs. 465) are available.

Then there are the golf umbrellas, also known as garden umbrellas. Measuring up to six feet these umbrellas come with a huge canopy. “Restaurant owners usually buy these umbrellas. They are fixed to the ground, to provide shade to the customers. They are also used in front of the shops for advertisement,” says Antony.

Handy sizes

The three-folds and five-folds, which are priced at Rs.200 and above, are a big favourite with working women. Kalyani, a young professional says, “I like small umbrellas that can fit into my bag and also the colourful ones as black attracts more heat. I would be happy if the umbrella is a little showy, trendy, and ‘cartoony’!”

Shopkeeper S. Swaminathan, of New Fancy, R.S. Puram, observes that women seem to enjoy umbrellas with floral prints. Some of the umbrellas even sport colourful prints on their handles, he says.

There are also those who don’t want to bother with umbrellas. They would rather get wet. But they wouldn’t mind them as a fashion accessory. Shreevarshini, an engineering graduatewho is interested in fashion says, “I like the ones that are made of georgettes and nets.”

People, now, buy umbrellas more for the look than to protect them from sun and rain, says Vijay who has been selling umbrellas for the past 30 years. The city does not receive strong rains as before. “Twenty years back it would be pouring heavily by the month of June. I still remember how we had to order fresh stocks every five days. Now, the demand has fallen. Umbrellas have turned into style statements. ”