<%-- Page Title--%> Slice of Life <%-- End Page Title--%>

<%-- Volume Number --%> Vol 1 Num 130 <%-- End Volume Number --%>

November 14, 2003

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Travelling Light

Richa Jha

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. Sample this,

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 morning;

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.



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