"Dames..." - The Brothers Coen (Miller's Crossing)
If you, like me, are a male traveller trying to fit as much as possible into one backpack, chances are that you've had to take the help of women. They manage to fit so much more into the same space than we do. But it's a tricky decision, isn't it? It's a little like voting fascists into power. Sure, they're more efficient, and they make the trains run on time and add a few autobahns between cities; but the question is, at what cost?
I'm not trying to be overly critical here - after all, the only reason I could get everything I wanted to take packed is because of these lovely women I know. This is more a rumination on some of the deeper philosophical issues here, and trying to get to the root of perhaps the most important travel question, "Who should do the packing?" Here are a few of my observations:-
In the first place, while women tend to be highly skilled and tactical packers, they're not so good with long-term strategy. For instance, I tried to pack ten changes of clothing and they didn't fit. The dames got them in no trouble at all, but never paused to ask if perhaps there should be so many clothes. That question was left for me to ask when I hefted the bag onto my back and felt my spine collapsing into a singularity. Their motto seems to be: if there is space, fill it up.
They can also be ruthlessly unsentimental. There's this shirt of mine that's served me loyally for close to a decade. It should, by rights, be getting the loving caress and the spot of honour in my bag, but the dames took one look at it, wrinkled their noses and threw it as far away from themselves as they could. Is that any way to treat what is almost a brother to me? If we let cold, dispassionate logic run our travels, then what is the point in getting that international ticket in the first place? It stands to reason that your own home is safer, cheaper and far less strenuous than any foreign destination.
This same lack of tact applies in other matters, too - the dames rooted about in the section of my bag where I'd packed my undergarments, even after I expressly forbid them from doing so. What's the world coming to, if a man can't even have the bottom corner of a backpack all to himself, away from prying female eyes? It's against Indian culture. Ok, granted, they did cut down on the volume there by about 50%, but the ends don't always justify the means.
And, finally, there's the question of symmetry. Since we were talking of the Taj Mahal the other day, I ask you: why is it so beautiful? That's right, symmetry. If you take 6 changes of clothing, you pack 6 sets of undergarments, not more. It's kind of strange that women don't seem to understand symmetry, or ratio and proportions for that matter, for you'd think that it's essential to great packing (and they're indisputably great packers) - and it most definitely doesn't tie in with the coldly rational side we saw a while back.
Dame 1: "But you need more underwear than you need outer clothes. You should take at least 9."
Dame 2: "You can wear trousers for more than a day."
Me: "Yes, but the limiting thing here is the number of shirts. There's 6 sets of undies here - for as many shirts as I'm packing."
Dame 1: "But you need more undies than trousers."
Me: "I am carrying more undies than trousers. Three trousers, six undies. It's the shirts that..."
Dame 1: "You'll change your inner-wear more often than you change your shirts."
Me: "No, I won't. After walking around all day in them, I'm not going to wear the same shirt again without washing it."
Dame 2: "But what if you run out of underwear first? You need to carry more."
Me: "How would I run out of them first? And what do I do if I run out of shirts, then? It's not like I'm going to step out in just my briefs."
Dame 1: "Yes, but you can't pack the same number of trousers and undies. You need more undies."
Me: "I am not packing the same number of undies and trousers! I'm packing just 3 trousers and..."
Dame 2: "See, but there is space here."
Me: "What does that have to do with it? It still has weight. Besides, it doesn't make sense. If I'm going to change my shirts as often as my undies, it stands to reason that I pack..."
Dame 2: "But your undies will soil a lot quicker than your trousers."
Me: "I AM NOT DISPUTING THAT. I HAVE 3 TROUSERS HERE AND... Oh, never mind. Give me that! See, 9 pairs packed, here. Happy?"