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Dolled up

By Nickunj Malik - Aug 26,2015 - Last updated at Aug 26,2015

For some inexplicable reason I never liked dolls. I had a very normal childhood with very normal parents who would occasionally buy us presents to celebrate our birthday or a scholastic achievement. Like well-mannered children, we would thank them after accepting our gifts. If the wrapped package contained a book, colouring pencils, stationery or orange flavoured sweets I was overjoyed. But whenever I received a doll in a box, my heart would sink. 

This was not considered a very standard reaction in my giggly group of friends who loved dolls. Even my mother loved dolls. In her enthusiasm she would stitch frocks for me with a matching one for my doll. She thought it was a great idea and would help me bond with it. But I continued to eye the plastic figure with suspicion and kept it at as far away from me as possible.

There was a reason for this. The dolls that were available in my home country India when I was a child were manufactured in the factories of either Japan or Germany. Consequently their features, dresses and expressions matched those of their country people. I could not find anything familiar and truth be told, I was petrified of them. 

Once, an uncle of mine who was in the Merchant Navy got me a fancy doll that could shut its eyes and even gurgle with laughter when its stomach was pressed. It had pale cheeks and blonde hair and looked so alien that I was scared to even touch it.

My mom finally decided to make a doll for me from bits of discarded cloth. Two brown buttons made up its eyes and black wool was used for the hair. The doll felt like a small pillow and had permanent outstretched arms and a fixed happy smile. I loved it from the moment I saw it being made and I carried it everywhere that I went. It had red crayon marks on its cheeks where I tried to make it flush with anger after getting into an imaginary fight with another doll. A few of the hair strands also went missing when my older brother tied it to a ceiling fan, but other than a little wear and tear, the doll survived. 

When I left home for college, I gave my younger brother the sole responsibility of looking after it. I came back during one vacation and the doll was missing. I looked everywhere before quizzing my second-in-command. He was clueless. Further probing revealed that one family had visited with their small children and my mum had given them some toys to play with. While leaving, they decided to walk off with my doll. I was heartbroken. 

My sibling was furious. He wanted to rush to their house and bring back the doll but my parents told us to behave ourselves. We were teenagers now and the doll was better placed with the infants. 

I never went near another doll till our daughter was born. By then we had a wide selection of dolls to pick from. On her third birthday she got her first Barbie. 

“I no like,” she lisped as soon as I offered her the doll. 

“You like it, no?” I placed it on her lap. 

“I want book,” she insisted, throwing the Barbie. 

“But you can’t read darling,” I tried to reason. 

“Can read, can read,” she chanted. 

 

“Like mother, like daughter,” laughed my spouse handing her the book.

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