Force of habit

Spectacles and schedules, books and magazines, mobile phones and keys, umbrellas and caps, parcels and packets---- Devi has the uncanny knack of trailing her belongings. All of us are guilty of carelessness but Devi takes it to a level that can’t be equalled, much less surpassed.

Early one misty morning, we set out on a day-long trip. Devi likes to insulate herself against the cold. So she wore a cardigan and wrapped a shawl round her shoulders. A woollen cap completed the ensemble. “The latest in winter wear?” I teased. “You could say that!” she shot back. She carried a cloth bag filled to capacity with goodness knew what as well as a big, bulging shoulder bag. I looked at the former pointedly. “Just a bottle of water and some snacks,” she explained. It looked as if she had squirrelled away enough to survive a harsh winter!

While waiting for our friend to arrive with her car, Devi delved into her capacious cloth bag and pulled out a packet of biscuits. “Come on, let us munch on these while we are waiting,” she invited. Obligingly, I took one. Just then the friend arrives. “Let’s get a move on,” she called. In the flurry of departure, the first casualty was Devi’s cloth bag. She had put it beside her but hadn’t remembered to pick it up.

We had travelled a short distance when Devi wanted to slake her thirst. That’s when she realized the water bottle was in the left-behind cloth bag. I offered her my bottle and she took a lengthy quaff.

She examined the remaining half-bottle critically and declared, “This won’t suffice. Let us stop at a wayside shop and pick up a large bottle of Adam’ ale.” To our luck, we spotted a ‘pottikadai (a box-sized shop) soon after. Devi alighted and strode purposefully towards it. She collected the bottle, unzipped her shoulder bag and took out her wallet. When she had paid up, she returned, holding aloft her prize.

“I hope you didn’t leave your wallet behind,” I remarked in jest. “Yes, I did!” Thrusting the bottle into my hands, she sprinted back to the shop. She rushed back with the wallet, and rather sheepishly, expressed her thanks.

By now, it had gotten quite warm. Devi needed to shed her shawl and cardigan. She draped both over her arm. Not surprisingly, the shawl soon slipped off, without Devi being aware of it. I noticed the shawl was missing and drew her attention to it. She shrugged. “It must have fallen off somewhere. It was very old and needed to be discarded. Even otherwise, fretting about it isn’t going to help. But my cardigan is still here,” she said, giving it a possessive pat. With her penchant for losing things, it is just as well she has this casual attitude.

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