Where’s your luggage?” I asked my young friend. She had come running to the bus stop and caught the bus as soon as it started. We were bound for a three-day trip to Shimoga from Mangalore and she only had a handbag slung on her shoulder.“This is my luggage,” she said, patting her handbag. “What!” I cried, astonished. “What can it possibly carry?” “I’m carrying everything I need,” she replied. “Brush, paste, pen, paper ...” “What about clothes?” I asked smiling. “Oh, I have spare underclothes and a top ... I’ll manage.” “What about a nightie?” I asked. “Oh, I’ll sleep in my jeans,” she said.
“Ah, the adaptability of youth,” I thought to myself. I can’t imagine being comfortable sleeping in jeans. And I simply cannot travel light. I imagine all sorts of emergencies I might have to face and pack for every possibility. My husband often jokes that my handbag is an emergency survival kit and can be pretty handy even if one is lost in a jungle for days.
I always carry extras of everything in my suitcase—just in case! I also pack a dressy sari or salwar suit—just in case we happen to dine in a fancy restaurant. I also carry a wide collection of books—just in case I can’t fall asleep in a strange bed. I also carry my butterfly and bird field guides—just in case I see a new species on the way and have trouble identifying it. I carry binoculars and a camera—just in case I have time for bird watching.
When we were young, our parents carried only two suitcases on family trips. One was for father’s clothes and things and the other contained stuff belonging to my mother and the six children. (You can see which parent I take after!)
When I married, it turned out that my husband and I both were simply unable to travel light. We never go anywhere without looking as if we are moving house. Once, we were travelling from Kolkata to Mangalore by train and we had twelve items of luggage with us! Our co-passengers always benefit from this idiosyncrasy of ours. We are generous with our stuff and happily distribute ‘extras’ like food, water, paper napkins, cushions … once one young mother even borrowed our mug to give her baby a bath!
Of course this kind of travelling is only possible if we travel by train or take a road trip. Airlines are very strict about the number of bags and even specify the dimensions of the bags which are allowed. If we travel by air, we follow Cliff Richard and carry “only a heart full of love and a pocketful of dreams”!