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What's in your bag?

APARNA KARTHIKEYAN
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OFFBEAT A well-stocked handbag can come to the rescue when you are facing life's many small challenges

We're constantly reminded that we need to be ready to face life's big challenges; what about the little ones?

One minute, I was the picture of poise, stepping out of the car, sunglasses and lip-gloss in place, carelessly flicking back my hair. The next minute, I was walking like a duck with a bad sprain and an expression to match. My slipper had snapped. The big mental debate began immediately: must I simply take them off, and hand-carry them? But then, I had come to see someone at their workplace, it might not be very polite. What if I asked the driver nicely, would he loan me his footwear for an hour? But he seemed very busy trying to hide his grin and I ditched the idea. And that's when it struck me — safety pins! I rootled around my handbag and found two out-of-shape ones. In a matter of minutes, my dignity was restored, and I went my way, doing that careless-hair-flick thing again.

Of course, if I were to empty the contents of my handbag right here, on this page, you might dismiss it as a ‘mumsy bag'; the secrets it guards in its deep, dark interiors aren't exactly glamorous. There's antacid and Amrutanjan; cloth carry-bags and combs; a dog-eared notebook and moody ball-point; but I have been grateful I lugged them around everywhere I went. Why, when I fell off the bicycle, I simply had to plaster my kneecap down with half-a-dozen Disney Princess adhesive bandages and I was good to go. Whenever I felt poorly, the paracetamol restored my will to live and my faith in the pharmaceutical industry. And the secret stash of cereal bars has saved me from embarrassingly growly tummies time and again.

A quick survey among friends established that I thankfully did not belong to a minority of one. Sanjana says she feels like she's planning an out-station trip every time she goes to the mall. Then again, with an infant strapped to her chest (literally, in one of those kangaroo-baby slings) she likes to have emergency supplies close at hand. “But I don't just carry the bottle for the baby, I usually tuck in a banana for myself. And the funny part is, after laughing at me till he's blue in the face, my husband has reached for it more times than I care to remember.”

“People might smirk that you carry so much, but I think its infinitely better than asking someone for stuff,” says Susheela. “I hand-carry sanitiser, moisturiser, a pair of scissors, tissues, biscuits and they've come handy not just for my son, but complete strangers too,” she says, adding that it has felt good, in the past, to take a torch out of her bag with a flourish when everybody else was groping in the dark.

But then, it's not just us mums who're going around with thoughtfully kitted-out bags; Rachna, residing in rain-soaked London says she would rather forget to carry her wallet than her umbrella. And since smartphones swiftly drain the battery, she says she does not step out without her charger. Yes, her hefty bag does look like cabin-luggage, but better safe than sorry is her motto.

In Parvati's case it was actually surprise; she kindly agreed to do some bag-searching to help with this piece and was surprised to find two hankies, lip-balm, hair-grips, pain- killer, book, one table napkin and a hand-written note that said ‘eyes wide open'. “Barring the pain-killer and the piddly amount of money, the rest of the stuff is probably expendable,” she says. “But then the book is a lifesaver when stuck in a traffic jam or at the doc's. I am sure the piece of paper with the mysterious message to myself had some significance at one point and I am very relieved that my pretty table napkin — which I thought the washing machine had digested — is in my bag.” And that, of course, only goes to show, that while it's a good thing to be prepared, a great thing even, it's not a bad thing to clean out the bag once in a while…

APARNA KARTHIKEYAN

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