Two weeks ago, my daughter turned 10. As Ranjika’s birthday neared, the demand for presents grew. Her grandparents and aunt chequed out with cash drops into her piggy bank that made her feel like a rich grown-up. She asked me for a dress. I pointed out that there were two new ones already in her wardrobe. “How about shoes then?” she persisted. We went out and picked up a pair of dainty slip-ons. And I was let off the hook.
That left only my husband. He tried telling her the Cinderella shoes were a joint gift from mummy and daddy. Our darling disdainfully tossed her head, shot him a disparaging look and muttered, “
Not wanting to be saddled with the image of a Scrooge all his life, daddy started on some serious brainstorming. But what do you get a child who already had too many clothes she didn’t like.. a set of abridged classics she still had to read.. toys and games many of which were still gift-wrapped.
“Get her a Barbie,” I finally suggested. “But doesn’t she already have three?” he pointed out. I replied that that economic slowdown hadn’t hit our daughter yet. She could afford to expand her family. “Okay,” he agreed.
We’ve gone toy shopping together several times and I’ve picked out dolls for her while he browsed through the CD and DVD rack. This time daddy decided to go alone. Two days before her birthday, he returned home with a large shopping bag.
Ranjika caught a flash of red wrapping paper and chased him to our room. He was quick.. the gift had been secreted away. She pulled out drawers, ducked into dark corners, even tried sweet talk but came away empty-handed.
“I’ve got it!” my husband whispered conspiratorially late at night. “It’s Cinderella.” Not another raggedy Ann, I groaned. “No, it’s Cinderella at the ball, in a blue gown, glass slippers, she even has a crown on her head. She’s beautiful!” he said, sounding as excited as our daughter undoubtedly would be.
He went on to describe, wonder-struck, the various dolls he’d seen at the store. There was even a Hannah Montana lookalike but she was double the price. Even Cinderella came with a Rs 495 price tag. “I didn’t know a doll cost so much!” he exclaimed. Welcome to fairyland!
Still it warmed my heart to see daddy entering our daughter’s world and coming away wide-eyed.. even more so when, at the stroke of midnight, he brought out his Cinderella as if he were her fairy godfather.
Tearing away the red wrapping paper she had caught a glimpse off, Ranjika who we normally have to beg to be quiet for a minute or two, was rendered momentarily speechless by the new addition to her family. It was a priceless moment!
The next morning she was talking again.. to Cinderella. Introducing her to Sunshine, Beauty and Jasmine, her sisters. She whispered into her ear that she had to go to school but Jasmine would take care of her and Noddy was going to play sentinel till she returned.
A week earlier, one of her classmates had got herself a brand new sister. Ranjika had gone to visit Muskaan and came away drooling over the baby’s pink cheeks, button bright eyes and whoozy smiles. I realised then how lonely she was, being an only child with no pets and few friends.
Yesterday, two of her friends who lived a floor below, came to bid her goodbye. They were moving to Powai and wouldn’t be back. She was distraught. But by evening her dolls out and she was smiling again. These friends of hers would never leave her and go away. They were hers for keeps. She was home.. but not alone.