Humongous handbags with a few ends and several odds are the way to go now

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 graciously agreed. But no sooner had I emptied my capacious bag on the carpet, than he started laughing. 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.

Emergency rations

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.)

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.

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 write-ups about handbag trends.

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…

APARNA KARTHIKEYAN

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