The Handbag Challenge: Mumbai’s Working Women Open Up Their Purses

You have without a doubt, up until now been assaulted by a barrage of the ‘What’s in your handbag’ celebrity videos. Your unsuspecting self has been afflicted by the extraction of expensive lotions and potions, with the frequent ‘one must always keep their lips moisturised’ essential advice thrown in.

But who’s playing ‘What I CAN’T tell you about my handbag?’ I can’t tell you about the black rubberband from 9th standard which is breathing its last in the inner pocket, the four extra sanitary pads lining the bottom (because downpour days don’t come with prior warning), the dried-up petals of a genda phool someone brought back from Saraswati puja, and the remnants of dhania I had to bring back for mom because plastic packets are banned in the city.  Our handbags, just like us, are waiting to tell their stories. All they require is a little prod. 

So, I went around Mumbai asking women to give me a glimpse into their lives, by showing me what’s there in their handbags.

Rani, A Constable

Bob Pins and False Bun

" The hours are long and I don’t have the luxury of keeping my bag with me. I travel all the way from Bhayander to D.N. Nagar everyday. I have to make my hair on the way in the bus, so you’ll find lots of bobby pins in there. And the first thing we are supposed to do is keep our purses upstairs in the locker. This wallet is all that I keep with me at all times. It fits everything. It even matches my uniform. " - Rani is one of the head constables at the Versova police station.Kanti Bai, a Fish Seller and an Expert Negotiator

Bindis and Money

"Macchi nahi lena? Toh photo nikalo aur jao! My chaku won’t fit in a bag anyway. My Batua has all that I need. Money. Lots of it. I handle all the finances in my home. Even my husband has to listen to me in this regard. If that hadn’t been the case, I wouldn’t have been able to educate my son and help him secure a job today." - Rani, Fish VendorMeher Chahal, Model and TV Personality

A pair of heels, really, and Sudoku

" My life is always on the go. Heels are a must-have. We are asked to keep a pair of black and nude heels with us during a ramp show. There’s always a book in my bag, apart from heels, lingerie and Sudoku. " - Meher, ModelRiya, Domestic Cook

Her Phone and Some Bits Of Dhaniya

" I wish I could get rid of this Nokia 5500. The phone calls never stop. It’s either a Memsaab telling me to come to work on time or my 8-year old son making a demand. My bag has my phone, keys and a comb. Oh, and look, there’s also a drawing my son had made.  Ever since my husband left me, he has become my entire world. All my effort goes in trying to give him a better life. " - Riya, Domestic Cook, MultitaskerApurva Singh, Mental Health Worker

What’s In Apurva’s Handbag- A Lot!

" I carry a lot of things. There’s a toilet seat spray sanitiser, a big diary for daily notes and a small one I use as a reflection diary. Besides that there’s a sanitary napkin kit, phone charger, power bank, lip balm, medicines, keys and wallet. " - Apurva, Mental Health WorkerPooja Lapasia, Sustainability Professional and a New Mom!

Everything Plus A Paper Bag For Emergency Waste

" My handbag has switched to a diaper bag! Money, keys, diapers, wet wipes, snacks for me and my little one, fruit (a banana or an orange), spare baby clothes, toys, hand sanitiser, handkerchiefs, a paper bag for emergency waste, milk and water bottle… phew! " - Pooja, New MumMadhoo Shah, Actor, Mother and Optimist

What’s In Madhoo’s Handbag?

" I don’t take myself too seriously and take no one seriously. There are lots of events and dos I have to attend during the day. Hence my purses keep changing. There’s a dressing table- lipstick and compact powder; a dining table- almonds, sweets and protein bar; bathroom- deodorant and perfume; study table- book, pen, iPad and headphones. There’s a whole apartment in there!" - Madhoo, ActressDr. Vandana Walvekar, Gynaecologist

Wrapped Sweets!

" One thing I carry in my purse without fail are wrapped sweets- both for any sudden desire and emergency treatment for low levels of sugar. " - Dr Vandana, GynaecologistShweta Mandhana, Social Worker

Those Odd Keepsakes

" I was having a particularly stressful day and was halted at a forgettable crossing. The beggar knocked on my window and handed me a folded ten rupee note. He said, take this. It will help you. Don’t ever spend it. I’m usually not superstitious, but I have kept it.  " - Shweta, Social WorkerAnd Finally! What’s in My Bag?

Doodles and Affirmations

"I bought it because it’s waterproof, to somewhat survive a Mumbai monsoon. It has a minion-shaped soft toy dangling from it, which I use as a stressball. I found a packet of ash in my wallet a while ago and tried to place where it was from. Then I remembered a neighbour had brought it back from Shirdi. There’s a notebook for jotting down new language words I learn, one for doodling and one for writing positive affirmations. There’s also always a few packets of Parle G to feed stray dogs." - Romita, Designer and Content Creator

(The author is a fashion designer and pens the blog, A Girl Named Romita about millennial lifestyle, fashion and pop culture. In her words, it’s judgement free, hate free and gluten free. Follow her on @agirlnamedromita on Instagram for more.)

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