Confessions of a bag-lady

When I attended the last Bangalore Literary Festival, I realised something: I had baggage. This was not in the figurative sense. Physically, I had baggage. I was loaded down with bags. I had a big bag, inside which were three little bags holding different things. I also had a handbag, inside which resided another small bag with a couple of things in it.

My bags contained safety pins, paper clips, hair bands, moisturiser, lip gloss, money, pens, pencils, crosswords, a change of clothes, a plastic spoon, some tissues, phone, earphones, reading glasses, power glasses, dark glasses, diary, day planner... in short, everything that a small group of people would need to colonise a new planet.
And I had another big bag which I had been given at a stall, where I had got a book. Theoretically, yes, I could have refused the seventh bag, but practically, there was no way I could have said no. In fact, I had all but drooled when given this bag. Would a drunk turn down a bottle of Smirnoff?

As I waddled around, I saw young things dressed in figure-hugging clothes, carrying stacks of books in their hands. With my figure, I knew that hugging clothes would be called indecent exposure. And as for carrying stacks of books, I wondered if they hadn’t heard of the nifty thing called a bag. And then, I suddenly remembered when I was their age and size. Though I wasn’t permitted to wear figure-hugging clothes, I remembered that I too used to carry my books without any aids. No need for bags for my college books, I would laugh lightly. Bags were for wimps.

As I clutched my luggage around me, I wondered if I had become a wimp. I just can’t leave home without carrying a bag. Babies crave their pacifiers, blankets, fave toys, feeding bottles, their mother’s saris etc; I crave my bags. I collect them, I preserve them and I use them. I find it extremely hard to give one away. When a bag dies, it is mourned sincerely. No bag is ill-treated. So, did this mean that I had become a cream-puff, a pansy, a lily-livered coward, unable to hold anything in my hands or keep from forgetting my stuff everywhere I go?

It probably did, I concluded sadly. Looking back at my life, I could see where I began to lose my coolness about carrying my stuff. It started when my first child was born. Along with the baby, the hospital also graciously let me take home a baby bag to keep diapers, Vaseline, baby wipes, milk bottles and sundry other baby-and-mommy-related items.

However cool carrying books in your hands may be, carrying diapers and wipes will never look cool. As my baby got bigger, the bag did too, and as she got a younger sister, the bag multiplied too. Nothing, but nothing helps a young mother like having a bag or two.

When I travelled with my two kids, my bags would be bulging with an extra set of clothes for each, snacks, favourite toys, crayons, paper to draw on, and a million other things, since children like to keep you guessing always. They wouldn’t let me take a cupboard, a chest of drawers or even a seaman’s trunk with me on board an aircraft; hence bags had to suffice. I defy anybody to get out of the house with a baby, but without a bag. It just can’t be done. And once the habit came, it stayed and grew, what can I say.

So, I had become a wimp, a bag-lady, as it were. Could I break my habit, I wondered. Could I go bag-less and live to tell the tale? How would it work out?

The answer came to me as I kept watching the scenery. As I watched, a sweet young thing in a figure-hugging costume (of course) carrying a couple of hundred books in her hands, (okay, it was about 10 books) dropped a couple. Immediately, three young men and five older men converged and began to pick them up, dust them off, polish the dust jackets, and in short, do all but rewrite the books for her. I sighed to myself.

Had I dropped any of the million things I carried in my bags, I would have spent all night on my hands and knees squinting in the indifferent light with my very indifferent vision, tripping everybody up, while trying to pick up my stuff. They would most probably called the guards on me. As I stood up, hefting my bags, another woman of about my age claimed my seat. When I saw the huge bag she carried, I smiled serenely — one bag-lady to another.

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