When John handed the suitcase to me, the thought I had was not that I was taking it from him, but that it was taking me somewhere. Walking towards the station, I noticed how so many people looked at it as I walked by. The suitcase seemed to have a life force of its own, an ability to attract attention. In the sunlight, its colours ranged from the lightest gold to a burnished copper. I stood for a moment on the corner of Charing Cross Road and Oxford Street and looked at it. More than anything else, more even than our memories, material objects speak to us of the irrevocability of time. You cannot find a suitcase like this any more, I thought. Where these days would one find a suitcase made of wood and leather? With initials engraved? Now they make them flimsy, disposable, entirely anonymous, even hard to distinguish, ready to be thrown into the hold of a plane and then out onto the baggage rack. And so, too, has the nature of journeys changed. We seldom say farewell anymore to loved ones. Or embark on voyages. We expect to arrive anywhere in the world in less than a day and to text home to say we’ve landed, to stay in touch via the mobile phone and internet. I watched a strange incongruence unfold before my eyes as I sat in the tube — the stillness of the case against the jarring sounds coming from my neighbour’s iPod. The suitcase revealed the newness and the raucousness of the contemporary. The three Japanese ladies sitting across me looked at the case, then at me and smiled. I knew the reason why they smiled was not because I had a suitcase with me, but because I had this suitcase. This suitcase, that spoke of another time — indeed, another sense of time and another sense of place.
[Text by Parvati Nair, © 2008]