Aparna Karthikeyan violently defends the contents of her almost humongous bag — a few ends and several odds
My neighbour, a somewhat-frail 80-year-old man, was in tears. And I felt awful, as I was totally responsible for it. For just a few minutes earlier, I had walked into his apartment, and said ‘Chris, I’m locked out of the house and can’t seem to find my house keys. Would you mind if I rummaged through my bag here?’
He, being the kind old man that he was, graciously agreed. But no sooner had I emptied my capacious bag on the carpet, than he started laughing. Hard. He kept pointing at the contents of my handbag strewn all around me and said ‘what a typical woman’s bag; why, there’s a small departmental store in there!’ Eventually, he had tears streaming down his face, the result of the irrepressible laughter.
But, for some reason, I just didn’t find it all that funny. It was depressing enough that I didn’t find my keys (though I did find several vitally important scraps of paper I was hunting for the week before last); I just couldn’t imagine breaking the sad news to his wife that Chris had sprained his spleen laughing at my emergency rations – raisins and rice crackers, my collection of miniature, scented hand-creams, and The Book. (Look, I don’t always carry around a big, fat, hardbound edition of ‘A bear called Paddington’; that day happened to be an exception, okay?)
Besides, not one of the 31 items on the carpet was superfluous; they were my handbag essentials, stuff I couldn’t do without on the road. And to lug them all around all the time, my handbag usually is – yes, you guessed it right – fairly big, bordering on humungous. Fashionably big.
But here’s the good news. Apparently, by carrying around a hold-all that doubles up as my handbag, I’m not exactly committing a fashion faux pas. Big is in; or so I gather from the extremely confusing write-ups about handbag trends. I say confusing because, fashion is so ephemeral that the average ‘IT’ bag is outmoded even before it’s been properly unleashed on an unsuspecting public.
Then again, fashion was the last thing on my mind when I bought myself my current handbag — a large roomy affair, with several compartments, and an exceptionally strong yet supple strap.
It was a decision strictly driven by that mother of all inventions — and purchases — necessity. Because, you see, I have this pathological need to carry around an umbrella and an iPod, lip gloss and a little tin of pressed face-powder, and a small compliment of medicines in case I came down with typhus or something while travelling on the bus. And this is, of course, not counting the number of mumsy-things in there – chocolates for the little one, her pink writing pad and coloured gel pens, scrunchies and hair brush, and a few other ends and several odds.
But necessity and fashion aside, there are a few other compelling reasons behind my choice of a biggish bag. My handbag is — and I’m sure many will agree with me here — something that goes beyond just being my lifeline; it’s almost an extension of my personality. By slinging on an enormous bag on my shoulder, I’m announcing to the world that I’m a pragmatic woman, who’s got a year-long supply of peppermint and, perhaps, a pepper spray too somewhere in the depths of the cavernous bag.
I’m just not going to risk it all — even if fashion dictates it — by going around with a small scrap of a bag, and wondering if it looks terribly silly when I hang it on my bulky arms.
I’m not the sort who’s likely to borrow a tissue from somebody when I’m caught out with a runny nose… no sirree! I lend tissues to runny-nosed adults and also lecture to them about the evils of tiny clutch bags.
I won’t be caught dead carrying anything made from the skin of a dead-animal, and I firmly believe that baby crocodiles deserve to grow into big crocodiles; not handbags.
And, frankly, it’s not like I can carry off an ‘IT’ bag even if dropped into my lap. For all you know, if I went around with one of ‘those’ bags, people might assume I picked it up in Pondy Bazaar for Rs. 200. Isn’t it easier to just go about with a jolly, big bag? At least this way, I can readily lend a tissue and an aspirin to the elderly man who laughed so hard at my bag that he sprained his spleen…