If there's one resolution I make at the end
of each vacation (and a million times over while still vacationing)
is to travel light. The tradition of travelling light runs in
my family. My grandpa travelled with just a tote even on his
trips abroad. “The less encumbered you travel, the more in-command
you'll be”, he insists till date. The strongest advocate of
wash-and-wear philosophy, he would manage the sub-zeros of Europe
for days on end with one set of clothes on person, and one more
in the bag. His staunch principled upbringing forbade him from
wearing the same clothes more than once, even the trousers,
so I wonder how he managed in those pre Laundromat days.
Almost preternaturally ordained, he selected
his son-in-law, my father, going by the same 'simple-living-high-thinking'
tenets. Only, he got it all wrong. My mother says that he liked
this young man only because he was seen getting off the train
with a small attaché case, after having travelled more
than a thousand kilometres from Madras (now Chennai) to Calcutta.
Never mind if the prospective son-in-law's three big suitcases
had been burgled away the previous night in the train! But to
the old man's eyes, he appeared the perfect choice. But after
years of living with my mother's frugal habits, the prodigal
traces in my father have all but disappeared, and now-a-days
he too, can be seen moving around light. Very light.
The old man, now much older, beamed with satisfaction
when he saw us little ones, his grand children, sticking to
and managing with the bare minimum on our holidays. It is a
different matter that we turned out too frugal. You know, the
usual backpackers ilk, the wash-once-wear-ten-times variety
(“change your undies, at least!” we would hear our mother grunt),
but she was too thoughtful a child to have let the big dad in
on such gory truths about his grandchildren.
In comes The Hubby into the family and this
tradition gets flushed out of the airline toilet somewhere over
the Bay Of Bengal. I must admit that now, much tamed and ladylike,
I too like to pack an extra pair of shoes for that rainy day,
but nothing can possibly beat The Hubby's sense of anticipation.
A pocket radio (“how else will you get the real
flavour of the country you're visiting without an FM Stereo?”);
A pair of track-suit and pants, and a Discman
for that one morning he's going to get in xyz city to jog. “But
why can't you do so in these bermudas we're carrying anyway?”
elicits no response from The Hubby. Of course, so tight is our
itinerary usually that The Hubby sleeps through that particular
Scrabble or Pictionary for that one evening
we'll spend with his school friends some 3,000 miles away. “For
old times' sake, you won't get it Wifey. You girls never have
the kind of camaraderie we guys have. I've seen you with your
old friends. The instance you sniff one another around, you'll
jump and squeal out some incoherent words which start with a
'Hiiieeeee', and end with 'I must tell you this, you'll not
believe what happened with…'. It's difficult to say when the
euphoric welcome melts into an engrossing gossip session for
you all. It's not like that with us guys. Our meetings are cerebral,
much deeper”, he explains.
Three packs of Pringles, several more Iced Tea
cans, still more packs of cookies, etc, along with three fat
Thrillers (two of them with hard bound covers), all meant for
those few minutes to be spent at the Airport before boarding.
Picture the same items in the handbag when we're travelling
by train in India, only add a few more Thrillers and magazines
and juice Tetrapacks that get acquired at the platforms while
waiting for the train.
A thick leather folder-jacket with blank sheets
and envelopes that has been travelling with us right from our
first vacation together to this last one, to “pen down thoughts
when the picturesque settings stir the poet” in The 2Hubby.
Begging to be written upon, these loose sheets of paper, blank
and pretty much the same ones that went with us on our honeymoon,
are turning yellow. It'll soon be a decade now.
I could recreate on paper the several quintals
that go into my luggage, but it would be a pointless exercise.
The person who needs to see the absurdity of it all remains
blissfully stuck up in his ways. A few hundred kilos extra ought
not to trouble you, Wifey. O yes, I've heard that before.
Cut to the scene at the Zia International Airport
when a friend happened to be travelling on the same flight quipped,
“Hey, I thought you guys are going on a vacation. Looks like
you are moving bag and baggage out of this country, is it?”
On our way back, we were stopped by the customs officials. “You
think you can smuggle in so many sarees hidden in your bags,
and do business here”, one of them roared.
“Sarees? There's not one in there!” I replied.
“Open the bags”, he roared louder. “If it is
not sarees, there'll be electronics. Tell us the truth, how
many tape systems and laptops are you carrying in those suitcases?”
We thought it best to hand over all the keys to them, sit back,
and enjoy having our luggage checked. As they groped around
through our bags, the look of incredulity, and frustration,
started getting more pronounced by the minute.
That over, I refused to budge. “Now you pack”,
I told The Hubby. As he went about trying to do so, I could
hear intermittent mutterings of “isn't this too much; why are
we carrying so much with us; how did you have it all fitted
inside these; why can't we travel lighter!”
Well, he said it. Let's hope he remembers it
the next time we plan our vacation.