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Suitcases are very important in my family. For as long as I can remember there were two steel trunks, each about a meter wide and half a meter deep, that lived in the corner of my grandfather's bedroom. You could not miss them cause the room was small and the trunks were big. As a child, I pleaded and sulked about taking a peak inside them. My grandparents denied all these requests like bureaucrats following due process. As a teenager, I discovered that my family had their own suitcases. One of them contained family photo albums, a blue-striped white shirt that my father wore to his engagement, a colorful assortment of sarees that my mom never wore, and tickets from the 1972 Munich Olympics that my father's pen-friend had sent to him. Unlike the steel trunks, It took me a while to find this suitcase. Within a generation, they had moved from airy surroundings filled with light and people to dingy cupboards that were functional and out of sight. The suitcases had moved to the suburbs. They'd make trips to the city once in a while during a clean-out or to satiate the indiscriminate curiosity of a teenager.
I carried one such suitcase on my one-way trip to the United States. It's red and rectangular. I traveled with it again for the first time in six years recently. While packing it, I noticed that I did not have any of the contents of the suitcase that I crossed the ocean with. Except for three items. The mold of my teeth that was done for a root canal just before I left India, a power bank, and a red ribbon that my father had tied around the handle so that I can spot the suitcase at the terminal. As if I'd mistake the unique stains and imprints of this big red suitcase to be someone else's.
I checked in the red suitcase at five in the morning. The woman at baggage check-in asked me if there were any batteries in my luggage. I said no and then realized that I had forgotten the power bank. Perhaps picking up on my hesitancy, she asked me again if I had any batteries or power banks in there. I said no again, even though I intended to say yes. It was too late now. At the airport gate, I turned to G and sought assurance, "I think I left my power bank in there.. it's okay right?". She responded, "Yeah it might explode, and the plane might catch fire" She paused and then continued, "..but it's alright."
On frantically searching "forgot power bank in checked baggage reddit," I found multiple answers that said I should inform someone. But I finally found an answer that sat well with my reluctance and laziness to do anything about it. "The power bank is too small to cause a fire," I told G about my recent findings. She then told me the story of her friend's more diligent fiance. This man had forgotten several power banks in his checked luggage. Upon realizing what he had done after he was on the flight, he did not just sit there simmering in the ambiguity of what might happen. No. He informed the flight staff and was so adamant that they had to turn the flight back, check through all the luggage, and thereby delay the flight by two hours.
I did not do any of that. I sat on the flight thinking about different ways this could go wrong. Maybe the power bank would explode like it's an object in a Looney Tunes cartoon. It would just burn all the content of the suitcase. I would stand at baggage claim and watch as my red suitcase rolled around with a big black mark on top of it. Since the explosion burned my birth certificate and several other identity documents, I would start my life over at my current destination - New York. I had previously written a treatment for a story about a man who losses all markers of identity and has to start over in New York City. Maybe I manifested this scenario by writing about it.
If I was one of those new-fangled metamodern writers, I would write - The power bank contains a small amount of voltage, and so does the human body. At this moment, I and the power bank are just bodies of voltage floating along the stratosphere. The faith of the power bank and mine are entwined. Einstein's theory of entanglement in action.
But no. I was just worried that if the plane caught on fire, I would start laughing uncontrollably.
We landed safely. A week later, while preparing for my next trip with the suitcase, I decided to take the power bank out. I held it in my hand for the first time and discovered that it was not a power bank. It was a portable hard disk. I remembered sitting on the floor of my friend's bedroom in Bengaluru, copying photos and movies onto the hard disk just before I left India. I have not plugged it in since. I imagine it contains pictures and videos of my years in Bengaluru. In one generation, suitcases had turned into little pocket-sized rectangles. They pack the same nostalgia, tucked away into a little corner, their contents to be never perused again. To be adored as an object within reach that can transport you to the past if you wish to go back. Well, what's a suitcase to a man if you have nothing to go back to? The Looney Tunes ending would have at least been funnier.
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