The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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What's in your handbag, ma'am' Well, umm...
- Mystery to men for ages, survey reveals women too don't know what they are carrying

Mumbai, Sept. 19: Once upon a time men and women lived in a perfect state of bliss. There were fruits, flowers and sunshine and no hunger, disease or death. Then came Pandora and opened her box.

That led to one of the oldest jokes in history ' about women's handbags being a mystery to men. But now it seems it's a mystery to women, too. A recent survey in Britain of 1,700 women says women also don't know what they are carrying in their handbags, but it could well be a fortune.

The average handbag and its contents cost '577 (Rs 47,314). But most women estimated their bag and contents to be worth no more than '150.

Not in Britain alone. Everywhere on the planet women tend to throw whatever they can into the one thing that hardly leaves their side ' the handbag.

'I compulsively throw things into my handbag,' says leading model Sheetal Mallar. 'I don't know what there is in it.'

Sometimes it can contain their whole lives. Sometimes a whole past tumbles out of it. Sometimes the bag starts to resemble her, though a psychoanalyst has said a woman's handbag represents her mother.

Despite the labyrinthine nature of bags containing everything from packets of cough sweets to tissues or countless receipts that have been there since the dawn of time, the average value was made up of just 10 items, found the survey, reported in London's Daily Telegraph.

Most women had a bag priced at '30, a purse worth '15, containing '50 cash, a '199 mobile phone, '50 sunglasses, '8 hairbrush, '40 of perfume, house and car keys that would cost '100 to replace, and a leather diary or organiser worth '35.

There is no mean figure available for Indian women, but a quick survey of celebrities and professional women in executive ranks says that on an average a handbag and its contents would be worth several thousand rupees. At times more.

A rummage through Mallar's handbag reveals a wealth of small objects not very dissimilar to what British women carry. Here's the list: a digital diary, a sunblock cream, a baby cream ('in case I need it'), a hand-sanitiser ('I use it to clean my hands when there is no water'), two lipsticks, a coin change bag, a face cream tube, a mini perfume oil, anklets, chikkis, homeopathy pills, a book called How to Heal Your Life, cell phone.

'Here is some old tissue I needed to throw away long ago. Here are some old air tickets. I put in everything that I might need. I put in two books, in case I don't end up liking one,' she says.

This is the bag she uses daily, but when going out she takes others to match her clothes.

'It's going to be a long conversation,' says television anchor Ruby Bhatia when asked about her bag.

'There are three lip glosses, six to seven liner pencils, a make-up base, a Revlon eye shadow, a Maybelleine hand cr'me, Essensual lipsticks, a small bottle of perfume, a jewellery case, lots of earrings, medicines, tissues, scissors, safety pins, a Hanumanji portrait,' says Bhatia, looking into her bag. 'And dental floss.'

It's a medium-size pink straw bag ' she uses others on her evenings out. More than her mother her bag is like her, she says, neat and tidy.

Socialite and editor Shobhaa De said she was down with a sore throat, so one could not confirm if her handbag contained the secret of eternal youth.

But it's the woman-next-door who is the real surprise. Shamolie Gupta, an ad executive, opens her small handbag that she bought off the pavement for Rs 30, but its wealth and depth stuns her.

'There are three diaries, a wallet that has my ATM cards, credit cards, driving licence, a pen, a pencil, an eraser, spare earrings, a spare necklace, two rubber bands, a spare watch, hairclips, face powder, lipstick, eyeliner, perfume, lip pencils, lip gloss, lip balm, hairbrush, nail polish, a towel, a face wash, a hand wash, a phone, and The Life of Pi.

'It's about being ready always. What if I need to wash my hands in the middle of nowhere,' she challenges. 'Men can remain muggy and dirty, women can't.'

And what about men's briefcases, if they carry them at all' Who's bothered' All men were created equal. Poor things.

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