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     Volume 4 Issue 60 |August 26, 2005 |

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Slice of Life

The Cased Suitcase

Richa Jha

The end, as I have always believed, ought to be without any fuss. So I have decided to keep the final rites quick. The Hubby's faithful hard-topped grey suitcase will have to be disposed of smoothly, without a trace of the extreme form of malice it has been subjected to all its life.

Of course, I can't let The Hubby know. It is dreadful to see a trusted companion being thrown down the Buriganga, should it come to that. But something will have to be done quickly, before I have to suffer in silence on yet another trip. If confronted, I can always feign ignorance, and say it's probably vaporised. One way or the other, it will have to go. The suitcase has served its owner well. It goes by the model name 'Dolphin', though I wonder why anyone would give such a name to a suitcase. Needless to say, I can't stand the sight of it, though for no particular fault of its, and have given my husband enough indications that I don't want to see it around. What better way to express my utter disdain than to show complete disinterest in knowing about the humble beginnings of this tested friendship: where he acquired it, where all he's travelled with it, and so on. You see, marrying a person with an independent household (that never ran out of rice or sugar or detergent) running super efficiently, this suitcase came pre packaged with a husband who owned a rice cooker, several girlie magazines, and a khatara car that would refuse to start every time we wanted to go out for a movie. Since these other items on the list elicited sub zero interest levels from my end, I had no moral high ground to question the suitcase's right to stay on in the house. So it stayed on.

'Dolphin' has been an eyesore, dressed as it is in a commando-wear jacket, the one stop typically-South Asian solution to all suitcase ailments. This particular piece, some 20 years old then, is a mute saga of a battered soul but a scratch-less exterior! Its near providential status can be vouched for keeping in mind its propensity to survive under extreme conditions. Do one round of a train journey in the unreserved compartment in any crowded sector in India and you return home with a bruised self pride, locked joints, and a suitcase with broken hinges. This, because only your hurled discus suitcase may guarantee a 1 by 1 square foot of bottoms-space if it happens to be the first to reach a berth. Even in the compartments where your berths are reserved, your valid reservations become victims to the 'thoda sarakiye to jee' ("shift a little to squeeze please…") requests masked with ominous unspoken threats. What do you do? Your suitcase ensures that you do not traverse the 1000 kilometres standing on one leg. Our inanimate hero in question, and its hero-worshipper have seen and survived several of these with not so much of a scratch on it, thanks to the thick cover. But then, what's the point of having a great bod if you plan to keep it under wraps all the time.

Dolphin is a survivor. The hip Samsonites and Delseys of the world (mercifully, he has never felt close enough to any of these to suggest casing them up!) have come, got damaged, got repaired, and replaced. But Dolphin is the way she was two decades ago. Even the original good-as-new steel keys are floating around in a household that loses, on an average, three keys per year (The Hubby has lost me twice at a shopping centre abroad. You know what I mean.).

Don't underestimate the suitcase. The longest running battle in the family annals has been over this suitcase; to keep or not to keep, the why's and the where-fore's etc. The Hubby has his reasons for guarding it zealously; I have my reasons for seeing it out of the house. But as always my slack reasoning limited to vague qualifiers like 'like/ don't like' gets squashed by his solid case for it. Last night I suggested we give it away in some exchange offer; he retorted saying that he had heard of a similar exchange scheme for old husbands. Was I game?

I'm not discounting the merits of his argument. But let me do some plain speaking now: I am embarrassed to be seen with this suitcase in public. Period. More of the jacket than the suitcase itself, but then The Hubby is never willing to travel without its veil in place. I have disowned it on a number of occasions, especially at the airport check-in counters and baggage carousels; at the hotel concierge when the bell-boy trolleys it in; in trains; at our friends' houses during the overnighters; practically, everywhere.

And so, I'm sure you'll agree, this suitcase must go. The only other way out is that The Hubby and I don't travel together. Which is not a preferred option, because I need him around to fill up my forms, to hold the kids when I visit the toilets, to baby sit when I'm eating, sleeping or reading, to ensure that I don't leave my passport at the immigration counter and walk away, and so on. Go, it must, before my forthcoming vacations. How, is the big question. Suggestions are welcome. Until then, Dolphin sits tight high up on the loft, who knows, having the last laugh.

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