My niece was showing me her new doll. Barbie. I think, girls all over the world swoon over this little near-perfect beauty of a doll. The doll can sit, stand, bend her knees and probably even trapeze besides being able to wear the latest designer outfit. The little girl of course, was thrilled. She paraded the doll which was dressed in the best outfit, to peals of laughter.
When I was a kid, Barbie was not around. I did have my fair share of dolls except they were very different. Most of them were made of cheap plastic and came in gaudy colours. The hands and feet were part of the large block of plastic and I had to look hard to tell the hands from the fingers. The dolls had to be rested against the wall always as they could never stand on their feet. But, there is one particular doll that stands out from the rest. I remember this one partly because, of the time I spent with it. I am not sure, how I came about owning this doll but I do remember being very proud of having it next to me. I remember, mum showing the back of the doll to me that read, ‘My name is Lily’, which is why, mum reasoned, the doll had to be called Lily. Lily was fairly big and wore real clothes. This was unthinkable for that time. Lily was so big that, when I carried her around, she looked taller than me. Lily’s neatly parted hair were drawn out of plastic. I remember, drawing a comb over the clear lines of her hair and dressing her up. Most importantly, the doll could actually move her hands about. This was remarkable.
Missing grain of rice
Very soon, Lily had become indispensable. She was around me all the time. I spoke to her incessantly. I cuddled her, cradled her, bathed her and even fed her real food. Sometimes, I stuck a grain of rice on her mouth, put Lily up on a chair and would go about prancing in the house. I would come back to the doll only to find the grain missing. I always believed that Lily had eaten the rice. I would then, smile, imagining my doll eating it up.
Surprisingly, the doll lasted through most of the time, till one day, when the hands came off. I think, I must have tormented the fragile doll. The hands were bound together by an elastic string and we never managed to put it together. So, there I was, holding a handless doll. Yet, the doll looked absolutely stunning to my eyes.
Grandma, on her part, warned me many times to be careful about Lily’s legs because, she worried, the doll would not withstand my over imaginative mind. True to her word, the legs came off the very next day. Yet, I carried Lily, on whom, clothes could no longer stand. Lily lasted through most of my childhood.
Now, when my little niece, swayed her latest possession of Barbie, I wondered how life would have been if I were to have a Barbie to share my childhood days. Barbie, would never have had her hands broken. She would have worn the best of clothes and would have had real hair styles too. Yet, when I rethink my entire childhood, Lily strangely fits the picture a lot prettier than Barbie. Barbie is too perfect to be true while Lily charmed her way to my heart despite her flaws. I guess, there are some things in life that make the moments a lot more real when there is a bit of imperfection. Lily may not be as pretty or perfect as Barbie but she did keep me company and share my bed time stories. Most importantly, despite all her flaws, Lily helped me harvest a bunch of beautiful memories.
(This article was published in Gulf News – Off the Cuff on Jan 19, 2014. Here’s the link