October 29, 2012

Of travel, books and possibilities of disrobement

Packing light was never one of my skills. I have reformed considerably from the days when I took 30 shirts to Bangalore for a month-long trip. That was in 2006.

Wherever I go, I am always equipped for intergalactic travel. I carry sweaters to Orissa in summer (and use them) and sleeveless kurtas to Delhi in January (brrr, and never use them). I have a book, or two or three. I have socks for the day and socks for the night. And in recent times, I have my yoga mat.

For the past two years or so, I have limited my luggage to a single bag or rucksack. I think this was partly because of the trauma of moving house several times in Delhi, and worse still, moving back to Bombay. Moving house makes one see the wisdom in living without appendages. On that memorable occasion, I had 13 bags. The taxi driver was aghast and it took some serious ganging up on him before he agreed to drive me to the station. That was also the only time I had to socialise in a train, because my 13 bags alarmed my co-passengers significantly, even though none of them actually had to sleep with my bucket by their head or anything.

On my last visit to Delhi, when S heard I had travelled with a single bag, her jaw hit the floor. Clearly her last memory of me is coming to my hostel room in JNU and seeing the aforementioned thirteen bags and watching me panic as I searched for a missing sock in a rolled-up chatai.

And this was after I couriered 40 kilos of books home. Sadly, where books are concerned, I see no recourse. I may, at some point, feel guilty about buying sarees, but I have no such qualms or scruples when it comes to books.

The closest I ever came to complete reform was in Kerala, where my bag was actually not full, and I wore everything I carried. I even carried a saree, but forgot a petticoat. So when I went to the Padmanabhaswamy temple, I wore my saree on slacks with a dangerously pliant elastic band and spent my time in the temple wondering what would ensue if my saree decided to come apart. Since I managed to make it out of the temple without Draupadi-type scenes, I awarded myself a certificate of distinction in saree-wearing. And then I was secure in the delusion that my saree was immune to accidental slippages till (horror of horrors) it fell apart for the first time in nine years of mummy-independent saree wearing in a masterclass with the Nrityagram dancers. Really, horror of horrors.

Delhi is almost like a second home now, and if I am short of sweaters or shawls, or even socks, I know I can procure them. But friends have not been very helpful in this regard, what with them sending me e-mails about how cold it is in Delhi and how I should come well-equipped. I wish I were a witch; then I would take my room and stuff it in a beaded bag like Hermione.

Fantasy apart, I shall prepare for intergalactic travel now.

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