I Love Being Overweight… While Travelling


I Love Being Overweight… While Travelling

Illustration: Arati Gujar

Every time I have to travel, I know I am in for a week of sweat-inducing nightmares. About a week before the D-day, I am woken up from sleep every night, tormented by dreams where I realise that I have forgotten to carry an intrinsic part of my wardrobe for the vacation.

Some nights, it’s that cute dress I’d mentally designed a whole look and evening around. On others, it’s my favourite pair of shorts. In the the most terrifying of scenarios, it’s underwear that’s missing from my imaginary suitcase. Naturally, during this week, I don’t need an alarm clock as I’m magically jolted awake — nursing a peculiar feeling of anxiety tinged with relief — hours before I’m supposed to wake up anyway.

This condition that I suffer from – is there a term for it? – births another: overpacking. In my urgent need to be adequately prepared for any given weather calamity, man-made disaster, or serendipitous romance that might arise during the vacation, I tend to cross the boundary between acting delusional and being delusional, much like Tripura CM Biplab Deb.

For as far back as I can remember, even my overnight backpack has been a maximum-capacity strolley suitcase. While growing up, our annual family trips to Puri would unfailingly start with an hour-long parental protest against my insistence on carrying my whole cupboard for a trip that was supposed to last a mere five days. My mother, for the life of her, couldn’t understand why a 15-year-old was determined to carry sweaters for a trip to a balmy beach town. I, on the other hand, only wanted to have appropriate clothing in case the temperatures happened to take a mercurial dip. Of course, every single time, neither did I get chilly, nor end up wearing even five per cent of the clothes I carried.

At this point, paying extra for crossing the luggage limit doesn’t come as a shock to me anymore; it’s like meeting an old friend.

Almost ten years later, nothing has changed, except for the fact that my parents now have the option of travelling without being bogged down by the added baggage of my existence and my two extra suitcases. My trips, of course, have only gotten worse. At this point, paying extra for crossing the luggage limit doesn’t come as a shock to me anymore; it’s like meeting an old friend.

I’ve tried to understand, explain, and rationalise it over the years. And I have finally come to the conclusion that overpacking is just like being in a cult. Your identity becomes intertwined with your unnecessary belief, and you come out with fascinating takeaways about human behaviour.

For instance, I find myself unable to trust people who can head out for a vacation with just a backpack on their shoulders. Where is that extra handbag that is bound to give them acute shoulder pain or that suitcase, dragging which would feel like an adventure task straight out of Khatron Ke Khiladi? I mean, are they even carrying an extra neck pillow provided their primary neck pillow stops providing enough support? And, don’t even get me started about people who don’t travel with a separate bag for their shoes. Sometimes, I feel like the whole purpose of my existence is to prove the very concept of “packing light” a myth.

Go on, scoff at me and call me a mere overpacker. But I prefer the term “portable utility store”. No matter what you need, you’ll always find it in my multiple bags.

For as far back as I can remember, even my overnight backpack has been a maximum-capacity strolley suitcase

If only you knew, busy as you are in mocking me, that overpacking is nothing less than an art form. It requires heaps of denial, which needs to be activated at the precise moment when your suitcase tries to deceive you by looking like it can’t take any more clothes. To you, however, your suitcase should look bare, for the first rule of being an overpacker is that you don’t admit to being an overpacker. Let people cry hoarse about how your unquestionable belief in overpacking is misplaced. After all, how are they supposed to understand the peace you feel when you repeat the same outfit for days even as a suitcase full of the choicest clothes stares back at you?

Secondly, just like a cult, overpacking requires massive delusion. You need to believe against all logic, that it’s possible for you to have at least six outfit changes in a day. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise; you’re the Sonam Kapoor of your vacation. It doesn’t matter whether you’re going hiking in the hills, or surfing on a beach, you should blindly pack two cocktail dresses: One in case a member of the royal family asks you out on a date, and the second for when you stain your first dress.

Third, and this is the most important skill for every aspiring overpacker, is insurmountable willpower. No cult can exist without the strength of its followers to articulate its bullshit even at the worst of times. Once you’re done with packing and it’s taken you two days to complete it, don’t relax. It’s at this precise moment that your faith will really be tested. As you proceed to lift your luggage and realise you’re attempting to lift twice your body weight, it’s imperative that you rise up to the challenge of making life miserable for yourself.

Because in the end what eventually matters is not that you’ll have a hard time making it up alive any number of stairs or the fact that the friendship between you and public transport might be cancelled. But as Urban Dictionary puts it, at least you’ll have more weapons than necessary. Just ask the followers of Rajneesh.