Being Women

Celebrating Threadbare Treasure: The Timeless Charm of Old Dolls

Step into the captivating world of old dolls, where every stitch and faded patch whispers tales of love and friendship. Join us as we uncover the enduring appeal of these simple toys, treasured not for their fancy looks, but for the memories they carry and the dreams they ignite.

A Canvas for Imagination

Dolls hold a special significance in a person’s life, especially if that person was a young girl. As far as I can remember, dolls have provided a canvas for my imagination, and my attachment to each of them was profound.

But here’s a little secret: I never owned a fancy doll, even though I often wished for one.

The Different Dolls

Being a part of a large family comes with its advantages, and one of them is a group of cousins who are forever ready to part with things from clothes, jewellery to dolls. Like everything else used and passed down with a missing button or a bead, the dolls too would be accepted with dented noses or cheeks coloured purple with crayons, signifying the amount of abuse the particular doll had to suffer at its owner’s hands. Nonetheless, they were joyfully welcomed, as I knew my options were limited. It is nothing like present times when kids decide what they wish to buy for their birthdays, straight off the shelves of an upscale shop.

My next source was the vendors who came to sell their beautiful clay pottery, lamps, and dolls during Diwali. At least five to six of them would sit with their colourful wares on the street just outside my house. The household had a budget, a fixed number of lamps, and a few clay toys. Yes, just those many were enough for the festival my mother had always felt while I hungrily devoured the toys with my eyes and heart. Perhaps not everything was business, at least three decades ago. My yearning for those toys didn’t go unnoticed by those kind-hearted vendors. Before they bid farewell and returned to their homes after the festival, they would often leave behind some of the clay toys for me. Such generosity is hard to come by today, and I strongly believe it.

As I mentioned before, living in a joint family came with benefits, and one of those was the weddings, which required a huge number of guests and relatives to be invited. While some guests left without thinking twice, some arrived with treasures in their suitcases—dolls for the girls and shirt pieces for the boys. One could easily say these were the humans to be revered. Since they had to buy numerous dolls, we couldn’t expect them to be fancy in any way. They all looked the same with plastic, stuck-up expressions. But they had to be enough for us to be happy, and we understood it very well.

The Most Valuable Ones

Perhaps my most precious source of having my own doll was my handmade ones. My grandmother taught me how to recycle old rags to make dolls. They looked like little ghosts, but they kept me entertained. The other opportunity that I had to create dolls was when a lot of clay was dug out of a pit in front of my aunt’s house. Under the supervision of another neighbourhood grandma, the soft and squishy clay was shaped into dolls. The fun part is that we soon learned to use twigs to scratch on the clay to make designs. Therefore, before we realized each of us had our own customized dolls. It was an amazing experience to wait patiently as the clay hardened under the winter sun, and our designs became prominent, much to our delight.

So whether it was a simple rag doll or my favourite cousin’s cherished porcelain one, they have all played a vital role in shaping my experiences and understanding the world around me.

The Search Continues… Years passed, and adulthood draped me in responsibilities, but somewhere deep inside the child still remembered its desire to possess an unusual doll. This time the universe connived secretly against all forces and brought me face to face with the most gorgeous thing that I had ever seen. A beautiful doll with birds in her hair made of fabric sitting on the shelf at a local fair in Manila. From the very first moment I laid eyes on the doll, I felt a connection, though the price gave me pause for thought.

Is it Worthwhile?

The stall was deserted, so the owner had a good chance to observe me. She saw me toying with the doll.

“That is a great choice you have made I can see,” she said, her eyes smiling.

“Those birds you see in her hair are a symbol of resilience and hope,” she continued, for she had watched me looking closely at those appendages.

I didn’t think twice after hearing her words. I understood completely why I felt a strange connection to the doll.

“I will take her,” I heard myself say, and that is how I brought a doll home that caught my fancy, and I can say it has been worth every penny, for in her, I find a bridge between innocence and experience. And thus, as the doll lives on, the birds in its hair catching the sunlight, its eyes holding secrets, I vow to cherish just the artifacts, but to hear their whispers over time.

By Deepanwita Kar

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