Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Been through it all on a trip with no name ....

On the first part of the journey
I was looking past all the shops
There were clothes and shoes and baubles and mops
There was junk and trash and fops
The first thing I met was a klutz with a phone
In a shop where he bustled around
My head was hot and the wimmin were mad
And the air was full of sound

I've been on vacation with women who shopped
It went beyond all pain
On holiday, I knew I wuz copped
And there wasn't no one for to hear me complain
La, laaaa, la-lala-la, la laaa la …

After two days on the shopping trail
My head began to go spare
Three days left me haggard and pale
Life SO is not fair
The story got worse when we rode the rails
Made me sad to think I wasn’t dead

I've been on a journey with women who raved
After a while, I felt no pain
On holiday, I carted and slaved
'Cause there wasn't no one for to take me home just then
La, laaaa, la-lala-la, la laaa la …

After nine days the wimmin let me run free
When the hills had run down to the sea
There were clothes and shoes and tea-trays and lamps
Thinking of it gives me the cramps
Shopping gives meaning to a woman’s life
Opposing it causes strife
Despite all the shopping they had nothing to wear
And they kept buying large bags. In pairs.

You see I’ve been shopping in Purgatory
Nothing can hurt me again
From shopping, escape is illusory
If they stop you can be sure they’ll start up again
La, laaaa, la-lala-la, la laaa la …

(with thanks and apologies to Dewey Bunnell of America)


I was afraid. Very afraid. For the first two days, I laid low. I said little except to worry aloud about the amount of luggage. I even left one suitcase (about as large as a camper caravan, wheels and all) behind in Delhi so that there would be less space to carry shopping in. In Dehra Doon, they stayed in the room, relaxed. So did I.

Mistake. The lull etc.

We reached Mussoorie after breakfast. By three o’clock, market analysts across India were puzzling over the retail boom in Uttaranchal. My feeble expostulations about luggage space were as chaff before the reaper’s blade, Giles before Saurav Ganguly at Old Trafford. At the slope just before Kulri, my mother smiled widely and asked the man behind the counter whether they also sold bags. Whereupon the shop-man (may he rot in a hell of honeymooning hicks … come to think of it, that IS his life for six months in the year), grinned even more widely. And produced enough bags to load the Titanic to well above the Plimsoll line. He even had the gall to offer a choice of colours. An entirely irrelevant consideration. I mean, when you look at something the size of the UN Building, what do you think about first, the colour or the frickin’ SIZE?

They bought THREE of them. Oh sweet Lud.

At least I didn’t have to carry them back from Kulri to Library Point. They were kind enough to deliver free of charge. Oh yeah. So kind. Can you see where this is headed? Back in our room, I was pondering my immediate future (and a possible vocation as a Sherpa) over a cup of tea when the bell rang. Deliveries started. For the next fifteen hours (OK, OK, minutes), the world was full of sweaty men and large packages.

Candles (Candles?!) Cutlery. (Cutlery?!) Carvings (Yes, these I expected) But canvas? No, not canvas. Wall hangings. And enough cardboard cartons to package the Gateway of India. Whole.

Stepping sideways in the aisles between the containers, I tightened my jock-strap another two notches and Got Down to Packing. There were 48 hours to go before we left Mussoorie and it didn’t seem anything like adequate. Exaggeration? OK, try this.

Take one Container. No, not a baking dish, ducky. A FORTY-FOOT container, the kind they use to transport industrial boilers. A fully loaded one. Clear so far? Good. Now take suitcases, large, two numbers. Plus duffle bags, also large, four numbers. Transfer contents of forty-foot container to said suitcases and duffle bags, taking good care to store separately ...

(a) baby’s stuff, as in clothes

(b) baby’s other stuff, as in bottles and Wet Wipes and diapers and the Devil knows what

(c) the rest of baby’s stuff, don’t even ask, I believe the damn things breed in there

(d), (e) and (f), stuff belonging to two ladies and more stuff that aforesaid two ladies have to have close to hand when they travel although in 2 weeks of driving around I never once saw either of them open that bag

(g) stuff belonging to a Certain Lady and to attendant Coolie with Strolley

(h) stuff that Certain Lady needs to have close to hand (stuff other than the Attendant Coolie, that is. He doesn’t go in the bags, worse luck, he carries them)

Tried it? Whadyemean, you can’t make it all FIT? Of COURSE it can fit. You’re just not TRYING … Remember you still have to fit our SHOPPING in there ... don't be such a drama king, there's nothing wrong with you, yes you can breathe perfectly now STOP the play-acting already and NO, I will NOT get you some water ...


On the fourth day of the journey … We were due to leave Mussoorie in 3 hours. Lunched at Whispering Windows for old times’ sake. It’s amazing how perceptions change over the years. When we were in training it seemed tres coolth. And expensive. Whereas now … Anyway, lunch was ingested, view was enjoyed. Coolie was then summarily dismissed. Entrusted with the duty of taking Very Small Person back to the rooms for an afternoon nap while the Powers that Be “pick up something we ordered yesterday, we’ll be down in a quarter of an hour”. Now this nap thingy, with the attendant singing of lullabies, telling of tales and clutching of finger by small hand, is something this Coolie quite enjoys. (Awright, so I’m a sap when it comes to the Small Lady). When, however, said nap runs its course, tea tray is brought in and there is still no sign of the Powers that Be, the Coolie tends to Worry.

Cell-phone connectivity in Mussoorie is not the best (though still awesome when compared to Nainital). I was debating whether to Panic Large Scale and call in the police, when the doorbell rang. The Powers that Be filed in, eyes slightly glazed, a certain swagger to their collective walk like a bunch of trainee vampires who’d just stumbled upon a blood bank. You know what I mean? Kind of proud and satiated and a little disbelieving of what they’d Gone and Done.

Except that the procession did not end with them. For lo, verily behind them came there came a caravan. One surmises gold, frankincense and myrrh were part of the loads, though I did not espy the apes ivory and peacocks. After the first speechless glare, I asked (I’m afraid I actually squawked in the heat of the moment. Humbling to realise that when one most needed to sound grave and Last-Trump-like, one sounded more like Chicken Little played at high speed) where they proposed that I should accommodate the train-load of junk. Their reply was a repeat of the Packing Order.

Then, in what I thought was a Master-Stroke of Reasoning, I pointed out that we could buy n number of bags, but we couldn’t fit them in the car. Surely they didn’t propose that we hire another car?!

Mistake. BIG mistake. Three faces lit up with sudden inspiration. I retreated to the balcony to smoke a moody cigarette or two. O Tempora, O Mores would have about summed up my mood at that moment.


One must give Credit where it is Due. The Better Half bought Nothing for the first ten days. (Assorted cutlery, the odd sackful of cushion covers and a bushel of embroidered stuff apparently counts as Nothing). I was eloquent in my gratitude and in my appreciation of her sterling good sense, I was effusive in my praise of her depths of sympathy and consideration. This is a HelpMeet, when comes such another, I thought and glowed with pride.

Cometh the Dawn …. Three hours to the flight back home, and I was taking a well-earned smoke break before I went to shower and change. I fancy there was a certain gleam of pride in my eye as I surveyed the Bringing of Order from Chaos. Suitcases, duffle bags, occasional bags – all stuffed to the gills and beyond, standing in line all through the room across the living-room down the hallway to the door like a file of obese children about to start on a nature ramble. I was also (mentally) thanking the Better Half for being Wise Enough to take the rest of the paltan out to visit a family friend, thus Giving me Space to Wrestle Stuff into Bags.

(I had spent two days shamelessly dumping large bags on anybody flying back to Calcutta who was not a total stranger, thus reducing the Mess to Manageable Proportions while creating Alarm and Despondency among my circle of acquaintances. Even so, I had the distinct impression that my arms were a couple of inches longer from Hauling the Heavies.)

Then, as I wiped the Sweat of Toil from my Brow and prepared to sluice the Tons of Soil from the Self, the doorbell heralded the Return of the Powers that Be. With the Better Half in the vanguard. Followed by … oh déjà vu … yet another caravan. With no more bags to spare. And hardly any time till check-in.

Words failed me.

They still do.

Aarrggghhhh …..

**** ****


neha vish said...

I think I just died laughing! What a vivid description. The ladies and the tramp had quite a trip it seems.

Happy Lugging around.

Priya said...

My heartfelt sympathies, old Sire. I hate shopping but my better half(yeah, yeah, he's far better)is quite a shopaholic. Though I don't think he could give your Powers to Be a run for their money, honestly;)
Your words and "limited" expression wonderfully convey your plight. I kno whow disgusting it is, been there, gone through similar ordeal. Grrrr.
Err, btw, do you also need to buy another house now??

Ph said...

For a man who is so sure of his place (NOT the power to be) and his position (designated coolie) you protest too much. But we hear your pain and suggest you loosen the death grip. Will help. I assure you.

Ron said...

Tchah!! What is a holiday without shopping? When you cant beat 'em, join 'em I say :P

Hope you have quite recovered from all the coolie type work by now.

panu said...

aahh... all this talk of connectivity, did you have to say it? We poor JUDEans are planning a trip to Nainital, and half of my classmates will balk at the thought of their cell left alone for 15 minutes.

Damn you, Wastelander! And stuff your hollow self with more cushion covers... May they choke you, if they have'nt already.

MinCat said...

there you are! sooooooo funny. send to wierd al yankovic. :D

km said...


The "America" send-up was top notch, but this sentence "I tightened my jock-strap another two notches" is 24K comedic gold.

Deep said...

JAP, I swear few experiences can be as painful as being stuck with shopaholics (which I guess 96% of women are by default), now sing out loud in your best sombre Bono voice "...on a trip with no name,i want to run, i want to hide,...i want to take shelter from the shopping pain, where the streets have no name...".
Ya you'll feel better now.

Aravind said...

Bah! Right when I think of getting hitched the sadoldbong brings in arguments that help me withhold my decision. Thanks JAP.

The Marauder's Map said...

If the ladeej can find so much to shop in, like, Mussoorie, do not take them to somewhere like, say, Thailand. You'll probably lose a fortune on extra baggage payment (unless you walk down by land route or something putting shopping on donkey's backs) and then discover you get it all here. Which, by the way, has nothing to do with shopping on holiday.

Rohini said...

You get no sympathy from this self-declared shopaholic. But much sympathy for packing for and travelling with a baby - you have courage!

udayan said...

Ahhhh ... Dear Old America.

And seriously, what is this with women and shopping? Have you noticed the glazed look on their faces when they are making a final choice from about 235 assorted items scattered in front of them? Regular junkies, man ... worse than heroin addicts.

And what is this thing about asking their partner "well, what do you think?" when the one you will point out to would definitely not be purchased. Or rather, asking even more poignantly, "but you like this other one, don't you?".

Grrr ... I have so many shopping stories, I can die.

yesbob said...

awesome !! [apologies for sounding american ]

Tabula Rasa said...

this one cuts right to the heart!

Aunty Marianne said...

A line of muscular young bearers. A la Kipling. That's what you need. And a sherpa or two.

Perhaps the Himalayas next time. Less shops, I've heard.

J. Alfred Prufrock said...

Neha, would hate to be the cause of your death; hope it was a petit mort.

Priya, still in the old flat. Barely!

Ph, we hear you.

Ron, what is a holiday without shopping? Peaceful is what!

Panu, an uncalled-for diatribe, methinks.

Mincat, thankoo, shall consider.

KM, thanks, there's lode in them thaar straps!

Deep, we should form a band.

Aravind, my pleasure. Just don't tell your fiancee!


J. Alfred Prufrock said...

Bagchi, this holiday was INSTEAD OF Thailand. And I do NOT like your last line here!

Rohini, we took the maid along.

Udayan, hear hear! I can feel a post brewing.

YesBob, T. Rasa, spread the word.

Aunty M., I can believe YOU might fancy the occasional muscular Sherpa. As for the Himalayas, who needs SHOPS to shop?


Rohini said...

Brilliant idea to take the maid along! I never thought of that!

But actually I feel kind of guilty taking the maid since I work the rest of the time and vacations should be the time when I give my all to the kid.