Sunday, September 06, 2009


Every traveling salesman (for that matter, every regular air traveler) can narrate a story or two about how he/she landed in one continent, while his/her luggage mysteriously found its way into another. Unfortunately, in several years of travel, this experience had been denied to me. My baggage always followed me wherever I went. So, much to my regret, my repertoire of stories has been rather incomplete.

I am happy to report that this situation was remedied last week.

I landed in a small town in Finland and was told that my luggage had not kept pace with my hectic travel. Finnair was pleased to provide me with a survival kit packed with essentials to last me for 24 hours. The ‘essentials’ were a toothpaste, shaving cream, a disposable razor, moisturizing lotion, something to remove eye liners and a small packet containing detergents.

A seasoned traveler knows just how much to pack. It’s a fine trade-off between convenience and comfort. Pack too many things and you will have hell while lugging them around, but once inside the hotel, you could have the comfort of choosing from many, Pack too little, it will be a joy while at the airport, but you would not make it to the list of ‘the best dressed persons in town”. In this instance, my suitcase, that had been kidnapped, had been packed with all kinds of things for every possible contingency and to cope with a temperature range of minus 20 degrees to plus 40 degrees. There were shirts meant for casual wear, formal wear, factory visits, fashion parades and so on.

But it was lying in some other part of the world. I had to make do with what I had, or buy new clothes that are hideously expensive in these parts. I decided on the former option.

Wearing the same shirt for two days is not all that difficult, I found. Many people, especially in India, get by with one shirt for days at a stretch. Life takes on an entirely new meaning and provides an entirely new perspective when you look at a shirt and realise that it is not merely a shirt, but the shirt. At least I could wash the shirt in the night with the detergent that Finnair had thoughtfully provided me with. So many Indians don’t even have that luxury.

At work during the day, seeing me in my jeans and casual shirt, my colleagues gave me sympathetic looks and even offered to lend me a shirt or two. After work, Finnish tradition requires one to spend time at the sauna, where the dress code simply reads. “Grin and bare it”. So, evening wear was not much of a problem.

The life-changing lesson I learned from this episode was that we don’t really need all that we have. We can and ought to make do with far less.

The luggage eventually arrived. That evening I decided to window-shop a bit. And my eyes spotted some shirts that were ‘on sale’ at an incredible price of 5 Euros each. I bought 4 of them. Never know when you might need them.


ramesh said...

wow 5 euros is rather incredible !

Usha said...

mmmmmmmmmm and you say you LEARNED that we don't really need all that we have'
but I guess it is a different story with what we don't have.

Raj said...

Ramesh, yes, it was a special sale.

Usha: Such lessons, alas, are soon forgotten