Perhaps every food-obsessed culture does it, but Indians pack differently. When we travel—to America or Europe—we presume food scarcity or at least rationed food.
This is certainly true if you are a vegetarian or Jain, but also seems to be true across the board. Packing lightly is an oxymoron for us. We have paapad, pickles, a variety of dals, rice and spices that we need to take with us while travelling.
Some are for our own use, and others because relatives have made us reluctant couriers for things that they want to send to their offspring. The reason we do it is because we want them to courier for us at a later date. An airline quid pro quo that continues ad nauseam.
The end result is that we layer, pack and sit on our suitcases to get them to close. No red-blooded Indian wants to under-pack. If the airline allowance is 25kg, we want to pack 24.9kg. Pack, weigh, add things, weigh, remove things, add till maximized baggage allowance—this is the typical process that an Indian household undergoes before taking a trip.
Depending on airline, international travel still retains a touch of glamour. This is certainly true if you are travelling business or first class.
The fantasy, of course, is the movie Catch Me If You Can in which Leonardo DiCaprio walks with a posse of gorgeous blondes through an airline terminal. You want to be him, or at least one version of him. A stylish European man in a well-cut Italian suit, dragging a suitcase that seems to glide by itself and levitate onto the check-in counter. If you cannot be James Bond, at least you want to be his stunt double.
Asians like to travel in packs. This speaks well about our society: we are a close-knit, family-minded folks who share a warm interdependency with relatives and friends. This web of social connections plays havoc in one situation: airline travel. I have seen Indians who are smart, single and stylish. But they are a minority.
We want to be part of this minority. We certainly don’t want to be that harassed family with bulging cellophane-wrapped suitcases and crying children. How to create the fantasy when you are not tall, thin or dapper? Well, the suitcase would be the logical place to start.
Stylish suitcases have certain design limitations. For one thing, no designer likes to add that top pocket or flap that more mid-range models have without fail. This is a failing because these flaps are useful to stuff those last-minute things that you grab on your way out of the door: your charging wire or that thick Vogue magazine that you want to read.
The Raden has this limitation. Its exterior is as smooth as a baby’s bottom. As is the case with its competitors: Rimowa and maybe Tumi. The Raden, though, does more than the competition.
Short of unpacking itself, this suitcase does everything that the average parent does for his/her college-bound child. It weighs, seals and tracks during travel.
Light-weight “spinners” are more common than Chinese spinsters these days. They weigh between 4.5kg to 7kg: as crucial as what a bikini covers when every kilogram matters.
The Raden A28 weighs 5.9kg. You can throw a sack of basmati rice into it, or even on it. It won’t break or crack. In fact, a nifty video advertisement on the company website has two human legs jumping on the suitcase, which buckles and bends, before puffing back into shape again.
The chink in this particular advertisement is that we don’t know if the legs that jump on the suitcase belong to a midget or child or adult. I guess the point that is being made is that the suitcase is strong, if not virtually indestructible.
The best part of the Raden is that it comes with an inbuilt weighing scale in the handle. Lift the suitcase and the paired Raden app on your smartphone will spill out the weight inside, so you can decide whether you need to spill out the contents of the suitcase and repack. The suitcase comes with two USB ports and an inbuilt battery for all those times when you have left your charger at home.
This feature is less useful in the check-in version. After all, you need to charge your phone in Frankfurt or Paris after you have spent eight hours watching movies on your device. But I imagine that if you had a Raden carry-on (the A22 ), you would win friends and influence people by being the kindly benevolent boy scout who allows co-passengers to cadge a charge on his suitcase.
The joy of mobile chargers is that you can happily walk around the duty-free shop picking up gin or spritzing perfume while your device charges.
The last and arguably killer app of the suitcase is that it has an inbuilt tracking service that is linked to your smartphone. It is somewhat like the Find Friends app on iPhones that obsessive spouses use to track where their husbands or wives are on a minute-to-minute basis.
With this tracker, you can sip your espresso and track which terminal your suitcase is at—helpful (albeit after-the-fact) when your luggage gets lost. An imaginative upgrade would be a real-time alarm when your suitcase is getting loaded on the wrong flight.
A triggered warning that says, “Hey, this is your suitcase speaking. They are loading me on the flight to Atlanta. Make them stop and load me on the flight to Abu Dhabi, which is where you are.”
At $395, the Raden falls in the mid-range of luxury suitcases: lower than the Tumi or Rimowa lines, but more expensive than workhorse brands like Samsonite or Delsey. Technologically, it has fewer bells and whistles than suitcase brands like Bluesmart. But with more than a dozen colours, a chic look and features that will make your digital eyes pop, this is a great suitcase for the stylish.
If you had to pick one, choose the carry-on (cheaper at $295) rather than the check-in. This is a suitcase you would want to be seen with.
Disclosure: this product was loaned for purposes of this review.
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