Friday, February 5, 2010

Bag Life

Today, I was putting on earrings in the office loo, and dropped one of them. Initially I was hopeful as I looked around everywhere, on the floor, in the basin, even behind the (blech) dustbin. But when I came up with nothing, a horrible thought dawned on me.
It could’ve fallen into my bag. I mourned my lost earring with misty eyes, it had been my favorite pair, and went with everything.

See, my bag is no ordinary bag. It is a black hole.

As I write this and clean my bag simultaneously ( I have amazingly limber toes, especially on Fridays) I have found and thrown out:

a receipt for my box of chewing gum they confiscated two months ago at the movie theater, and which I felt too tired to retrieve after the movie.
A bill from 3 months ago at the parlor (When will it be fashionable to be hirsute again? I mean, not only will it be saving 100s in parlour bills it’ll save us the trouble of buying warm clothing.)
Some dusty green globules rolling around at the bottom of my voluminous bag, which I presume is Pudin Hara that popped out of the metal leaf that contained it. (yup, just found the leaf, poor thing…looks bereft.)
One hairbrush, one eye-pencil (sometimes I carry two of each of these items if I’m doubtful of finding the other one), several lipsticks, one shade of which I hate.
Lots of paper bills of smaller denominations, including a torn one rejected by auto drivers in three cities across India. (I would never try to give it to anyone else.)

Clean or full of the vestiges of the last 6 months of my life, all the handbags I’ve used throughout my life have followed a particular pattern. To start with it’ll be innocent -- eager to please. The bag will hold out helpfully anything I might be looking for; with dewy eyes and a simper.

Then the descent into surliness begins, the zips refuse to open, the bag hides from you in an unlikely closet when you’re late for work and desperately looking for it.

To outright disobedience: the bag will drop heavily into the fold of your elbow when you’re carrying a particularly orange gravy, splashing it lavishly on a new outfit, or worse-- on somebody else’s.

There comes a phase in every bag’s life, when it indulges in random violence: it lies in wait around corners or in the middle of the living room when the lights are turned out, and trip you with their noose-like arms. One particularly aggressive specimen had gone so far as to turn on an innocent victim; and regrettably nearly tripped up a waiter laden with food at a wedding I went to.

But then the bag matures, and gets frayed around the edges, the buttons and zips lose their shine, and the whole effect is kinda ropey and threadbare. That is when its true malevolence comes to the fore. Knowing that the violence of its youth had served little purpose, it turns to passive disobedience. And that, my dears, is the shittiest phase, as the British would no doubt tell you.

Having acquired, with great age and long association, the ability to read its owner’s mind; it will hide from her the very thing she desperately rummages for. At this stage, the owner can be often found down on her hands and knees in the corridor in front of a violently overturned yet smug-looking bag -- while lipsticks and pens and coins roll crazily everywhere. If you were to approach her, she might babble incoherently about finding every key she ever owned but the one to the front door, and could she please use your restroom?

Similarly, the said person’s colleagues will see her weeping quietly to herself at her workstation. On further investigation, it will turn out that she’s already 10 minutes late for a meeting which she can’t attend until she finds her desk key and gets her notes.

But it’s not only the bag that gets smarter with time. If a lady (and owners of man-bags) have long experience of owning bags, she will eventually learn how to bend them to her will. Since the bag is a master of reading minds, she can trick them by looking for the desk key when she stands at the locked door of her flat, and of the expired sachet of ‘eno’ first thing in the morning when she wants her desk key, and so on.

Once that happens, the bag loses the will to cross swords with its owner and becomes quite complaisant. The only problem is, by the time a person has broken a bag in, it’s broken. Death comes in a variety of ways – the strap snaps and the bag dashes to the ground as a last gesture of defiance. Or, it fades away in a few weeks, a bedraggled embarrassment to one and all.

One can’t help feel a pang of loss as one goes out to buy a new one. For all the difficulty each bag gives you, there’s also the thrill of besting a worthy adversary, the grudging respect that one has for the other.

That day hasn’t come for my latest bag yet, though it’s now in the mind reader stage, so the end isn’t too far off.

I shall now go and look for a torn ATM receipt from December. (It’s actually the earring, but don’t let’s talk about it.)


shreyasi said...

So true! I have sleeping babies in both arms or I would write more (limber toes can only do so much)!

Haimanti said...

i want to buy a nice colourful jhola, i went to an upmarket fair here, and they cost Rs 1500-2500, i am looking for ones that cost Rs120-150. and i also want to see pictures of the sleepig babies

db said...

Lovely post. :)

Haimanti: Goa's the place for budget colourful jholas. Simply grab an overnight bus and come down...

diya said...

Hahahaha! Shashikala, that is an inspired article! My bag is reaching the threadbare, mind-reading stage, which is kind of nice, since I feel that we really belong together.

But...I am being wooed on the side by a certain Nepalese bag which has been checking me out from a stall in the Market Square (remember it?)...hmm, it's pretty enticing. Certainly feel like I'm living life on the edge, with all these games being played.

I fear for my sanity in the future! Am pretty certain I'm growing into those crazy ladies who sit on aeroplanes clutchjing their handbags for dear life, refusing to let the airhostess store them (the bag, not the hag) in the overhead locker while the plane takes off. Nu-huh. Piss off, lady, and leave me and my bag to ourselves.

diya said...

thought you might be terribly interested to know that i've bought that nepalese bag!