I have no memory of toys.
Well, except for a green-yellow guitar (it’s the size of a large spatula that cost me a huge forty rupees in the village fair and earned me several reprimands from mother for wasting away a large part of the pocket-money in such irresponsible manner) and a Japanese toy gun that fired small plastic pellets the shape of Mahadev’s dambru. I couldn’t fully explore the gun – it was gifted to me by a richer aunt who had gone to Nepal, the place where you got ‘Made in Japan’ stuff – because most of the interesting targets, humans included, were inside the house (obviously I was banned from pulling the trigger inside).
Much later, when childhood had crept away from my body like Katrina’s clothes in Kamli Kamli and I had severely outgrown toys, someone gifted me (for reasons I would kill someone for) a “punch me” toy that would always come back up, no matter how hard you punched it. Even if you made it horizontal, press it to the bed and let it go, it would stand right up. However, the toy that was cleverly designed to astonish kids failed to invoke any such feelings in me because by then I had already completed my lesson on centre of gravity and understood that the inflatable toy with a heavy, curved base would always have the lowest potential energy in the upright position (sorry, this is too much of science, and too much of science is always injurious to the feeling of astonishment).
Strictly speaking, I would be lying if I said I didn’t have other toys. An occasional “toad” that goes tick tock and irritates anyone trying to get an afternoon nap was so common a possession during fairs that I don’t consider that a toy. It was so cheap and so hastily built that you had to rummage through the entire pile to choose the one that sounded perfectly irritating, almost like the way you rummage through flexible bhindis these days to find the one whose tip breaks away instantly so that missus occasionally approves of your pathetic vegetable shopping quality. Also falling into the non-toy toy category are the balloons that didn’t go up if you let it, but bobbed up and down instead until it got pricked by a grass blade and burst.
If you are beginning to think that these exceptions are getting better of the rule, let me define what a toy for me was. In those days, a toy was something that was brought from a fair or a shop, cost a decent amount of money so that you were asked to keep your mouth shut for the next one month, had a chance of surviving more than a couple of nights and for which you needed to constantly pull the sari of your mother or the trousers of your father.
Unfortunately, most of my possessions didn’t fall into the above category.
The things I had were either too cheap or just too common. Or were made up of jute, tin, bamboo, earth and other such stuff that either got broken the very next day or were eaten up by the nature’s elements (borer, the gentleman that eats away bamboos and makes it hollow 2.0 being one of the prompter ones). Also a large majority of the toys that kept me busy all the time was manufactured by me. A batuli (catapult) fashioned out of a fallen branch, father’s old tubes and torn leather shoes, a sword by chopping off bamboo from father’s backyard, a Beyblade sort of thing made from scooped out mango seeds and bamboo splinter. By definition, these were toys, alright. But they didn’t last. Consequently, when I look back now, it seems as if my childhood has no memory. No teddy bear that I cuddled to sleep. No pussy cat that I didn’t leave home without. No studio photos with guns. No horse with wheels that I didn’t eat without.
My toy is my memory.
But now when I buy toys for my seven year old kid, the expensive variety that is supposedly made up of high quality plastics with springy slots for six batteries, costing me a good percentage of my monthly salary and almost half the monthly grocery budget, I realise certain things. That toys by themselves don’t offer you any fun. It’s the ability of explore the toy wherein lies the entire fun.
Thankfully, I have no memory of toys.
(The rest of this article would be published as Part-II. Thanks for reading!)