In the 1957 film The Spirit of St Louis, about Charles Lindbergh’s history-making solo flight across the Atlantic in 1927, the aviator, played by James Stewart, sits in the cockpit of his plane watching a fly buzzing around.
Every ounce of fuel-consuming weight being a life-anddeath concern in his endeavour, he muses that so long as the insect remains airborne within the plane it wouldn’t add its infinitesimal load to the aircraft, which would happen only if it settled on a surface.
I’m often reminded of that brain-teaser in conjectural physics when Bunny and I are packing our suitcases preparatory to setting off on our travels. Over the years, like Lindbergh, I’ve got increasingly paranoid about the weight of the luggage we’ll be carrying with us, and which I’ll have to haul around.
The result is that I’ve pared down the luggage allowance that I set ourselves to a spartan minimum: eight shirts, eight pairs of socks, eight briefs, and a pair of trousers for me, and a similar rationed portable wardrobe for Bunny, with a few concessions made for obligatory feminine accessories, such as a blazer or a shawl.
Why do we have to travel as though we’re going on Mao’s Long March to the North and are having to carry all our worldly possessions on our heads? Bunny protests, and asks whether I’ve heard of labour-saving devices like luggage trolleys.
Trolleys? More damn things on and off which I’ll have to heave all that extra, appropriately named luggage you’d have us lug around, I reply, chucking out a superfluous nightshirt.
But even as I wage my war against the weight Bunny and I take with us on our excursions, I’m obliquely aware of the unnecessary, but seemingly indisposable, lumber that I like many, if not most, people carry with me on that larger journey of which travel to different destinations is only a part.
These items of paraphrenia I encumber myself with are insubstantial, have no physical existence, but are all the more difficult to jettison for that reason. They include green-eyed envy at the success of others, and a compensatory counterbalance of inflated self-importance; the smugness of ignorance and the lethargy of dead habit; the venom of intolerance, and the narcotic of certitude. A ragtag motley of the discardable, carried in a hold-all called myself.
blogs. timesofindia. indiatimes. com/jugglebandhi
Views expressed above are the author’s own.
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