Because childhood is special

Long ago, when bedtime stories were read to young children and the Kindle didn’t exist, a man on a busy street made his dream come true by opening what he thought was just like any other toy store. Little did he know that he would enrich several childhoods, that his company would be an integral part of milestones celebrated even by the future generation!

It was a time when one rupee could buy an ice cream cone or a bhel in the school canteen and INR 10,000 was literally a king’s ransom. This meant that a family of four with typically two children and a combined household income of INR 1,200 would require a great deal of saving and frugality for the simplest of birthday indulgences, that once-a-year birthday present eagerly awaited by all. the children. Return gifts weren’t lavish, not to mention the outrageously expensive, personalized ones that have spoiled and become de rigueur for today’s generation and usually consist of humble pencil cases, water bottles or boxes. of breakfast, without the almost unaffordable ones with Disney labels or stickers that they currently have. flooded the market! Translation in terms of time: Working parents would laboriously compare two breakfast boxes or bottles discussing the merits before placing an order for an impressive number like 6 or 10, like gifts on their backs, the worry lines furrowing their forehead even more as they would. they exchanged glances, contemplating how they had stretched their budget and how they would get by for the rest of the month.

Gift wrapping in the store was unusual and wrapping paper would have to be purchased along with the additional cost of gift tags and ribbons to decorate the swag each child would take home. In addition, a modest fortune had to be spent on festooning to embellish the chipped walls and ceiling fan.

A neighbor or relative would walk in proudly armed with the only camera and take random pictures of the cake cutting and other delicacies laid out on the table, almost always the wafers, samosas and homemade sorbet. (Where Appy, Tang? They were descendants who strutted their stuff to capture the market much later. One where not even a beggar would accept a rupee.)

The humble toy store with its Snake & Ladder, Ludo, Housie or Tambola, must-have board games like Scrabble, Monopoly and table tennis rackets dangling enticingly was a mute testament to changing times. But the digital invasion couldn’t stop it from having a huge impact on those candle-blowing moments and she continued to maintain her strength by embracing change. She expanded her repertoire to the fancy technical gadgets that confine children to the home, almost turning them into minions, rather slaves to the flickering lights of the gadgets, the same effect as if mesmerized by Hamlyn’s Pied Piper. But then, this is not a fairy tale. It’s about improving the quality of what we fondly remember as our ‘bachpan’.

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