When I was a kid in a family of three, there were clear roles demarcated for my mother, my father and myself, with additional walk-on parts for the people who worked in our house. My mother would prepare the food with the cook, the other staff member would wash and press the clothes before taking down the suitcases and the bistras (the bedrolls) from the store cupboards and cleaning them. I would then be told to make myself scarce while my mother went into rising panic and my father packed, logically and efficiently. Somehow we would be in the car and at the station, well before the train left Howrah for Bombay. In the train, there would be a superficial unpacking, the food and sleeping clothes coming out, books, magazines and comics deployed for the one day sandwiched between the two nights that the train took to get us across the country. Early on the second morning, as the train wheeled though the tunnels in the Western Ghats, we would gather up our stuff and roll up the bistras . Later, the packing became different and mostly for air travel. I had begun to pack my own suitcases and trunks while going to boarding school. Suddenly I was packing to go abroad to study and the ball game was different. I watched other people pack and unpack and realised that the act of packing suitcases was as personal an act as putting your handwriting on paper. Two kinds of packers In the categories, the first section would be for the chaotic packers. These are the people who slam open their suitcases and then assault them with their clothes and effects. In go the pants and shirts, losing their ironing as they hit the bottom of the bag. Caught up in the flurry of cloth are the more chunky objects: the shoes, the shaving equipment, the make-up bottles, the books and papers required for the trip, the chargers and the external hard drives. Somehow all of this is stuffed into the bag before the travellers wrestle the thing shut. The chaotic packers then straighten up and smack their hands in satisfaction. “When’s the taxi coming?” they say and sit down and switch on the TV so that they can be sure to be late for the flight. Then there is the opposite category: the militarily meticulous packers. These people usually start with making a list or several lists. Everything they plan to take on a trip is put down in logical detail. Then the different kinds of material are arrayed according to category: socks here, bras there, liquids on one side, hard solids on another side, papers in neat stacks, and so on. Then the suitcases are opened and filled almost scientifically, as if the packers are reproducing a complicated mathematical equation. When you see the finished suitcases, you feel as though the things were born like this and there is no possibility of them being packed any other way. The meticulous packers then shut the suitcases, stand next to the door and wait for the transport that will get them to the airport well in advance. There is obviously also a difference between packing for a long trip and a short one, and the chaotic packers usually get away with their chaos if their journey is of a short duration. The meticulous packers don’t have to be quite so meticulous for short trips, but usually they are because of their wiring.