Whims and fancy ribbons

My wife has this whim. And, it runs in the family. No member of my wife’s side of the family ever travels, before going to great lengths to make their luggage distinct and easily identifiable.

By P.g. Bhaskar (Life)

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Published: Tue 16 Nov 2010, 10:15 PM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 10:28 AM

This predominantly involves – but is not restricted to - sticking icky bits of masking tape on the tape and scribbling names of family members & other details. Stickers, nylon ropes, pieces of string and such are also liberally used. I particularly detest this practice. Call it an anti-whim, if you like.

When I ask my wife why she did this she says it was to make sure that her baggage arrived on time. “It’s not a whim” she once said (as she says about all her whims). “I’m just being sensible. And I’ve been proved right. My baggage has been misplaced by an airline only once in my life.” “So has mine!” I retorted. “I never mess up my luggage and I have travelled much more than you have.”

“I have the right to keep my baggage safe”, she said primly. “But that’s the airline’s job!” I said, trying fervently to make my point. “They do all that at the check in counter. It’s called luggage tag. And they give you that number. That is what is supposed to identify your luggage, not …. not all this stuff. And besides, it looks quite awful. I mean, no one looks for bits of string and such. ” I ended somewhat tamely. “I don’t care if others don’t look at it” she replied.

“I look at it. It helps me identify them.” she said. “Anyway” she concluded, as she concludes all our discussions. “It doesn’t matter what you think about it. I’m going to do it.”

The other day, my mother-in-law came home to visit us. As my wife, son and I waited at the visitors area at the airport, straining our eyes to catch sight of her, my wife suddenly whooped and hollered, followed immediately by my son. As for myself, I was moving about as much as a frozen statue. I had caught a glimpse of her luggage. It had dazzled me and left me temporarily bereft of speech or action. She was walking amidst an orange halo, which emanated from huge, very bright and luminous orange ribbons that had been painstakingly tied to each one of the suitcases.

The entire area seemed to bask in an orange glow. As my wife and son rushed out, I followed, leaden footed and heavy-hearted, shocked to the very core of my being. I tried to smile at my mother-in-law. It probably didn’t register, because she asked me if I wasn’t feeling well. The rest of them seemed fine, laughing, talking and thumping each other on the back. My wife came to the rescue.

She always knows when I am deeply affected. “You needn’t push the trolley if you don’t want to.” she said, “I will manage.” The sudden appearance of her mother and the others seemed to have made her unusually sweet and considerate. I gratefully accepted and hovered behind, my eyes trying hard not to look at the suitcases, but being drawn towards them by some unseen force.

Once home, we were catching up with old times, remembering incidents, recalling jokes…. until my mother-in-law discovered that her suitcase suddenly seemed a little bigger than it should. Investigation revealed that there had been sinister work afoot. Incredible as it may seem, some other like-minded and abundantly cautious individual had actually hit upon the identical idea to distinguish his suitcase.

A phone call and an hour later, we were back at the airport, armed with passport copies, hoping that her suitcase had not already embarked on another journey. As the family sat grim faced, I am not sure if I managed to hide my smirk. Soon, the suitcase turned up, restoring everyone’s good humour.

The subject resurfaced a month later when my mother-in-law got ready to leave. I couldn’t help a little dig. “I hope you’ve not decorated your suitcases with orange ribbons again”, I told my mother-in-law. She laughed. “No way!” she said. “Once bitten, twice shy.”

But as I moved to her room, my sixth sense beeped. I stiffened as I entered. After all, the burnt child fears the fire. The room I entered, was not so much a room as a greenhouse. The suitcases were there. But, tied to them—at several places, this time- were bright green, luminous ribbons! As I recoiled in horror with a startled cry, the ribbons bobbed gaily in the breeze from the window. They seemed to be laughing mockingly at me.

P G Bhaskar is a Dubai-based banker

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