When I was a kid, for some reason elders only gifted me books. Now you have to understand that gifting in the early 80s was not like its now. We only got gifts during our birthdays and new clothes during durga pooja.
Also when aunts and uncles living abroad or in a different city came to visit, they got us toys or frocks with puffed sleeves and broad sashes tied at the back. When they didn't have the time to pick up loot, they just took out their purses and distributed crisp, mint-new 10 rs notes. My cousin sister and me always preferred the latter.
Toys meant we had to take turns playing with them and frocks from abroad were wrapped in naphthalene balls and put away for special occasions.
On the other hand, money to ourselves meant we could do precisely what we wanted with it, after of course we lived through the half-hour lecture from mum about the virtues of saving for the rainy day.
Soft toys in circa 1980 were a rarity in middle class joint families and only appeared
on children's films. It cost a lot and parents could never be cajoled on buying us stuffed dogs or teddy bears. I never got any till I was almost 14 years of age and then I was "too old for them."
Yesterday when I was feeling blue and taking a stroll in Sarojini Nagar market I came across this huge pile of stuffed animals from whales, peacocks, snails, bears, dogs, giraffe and dolphins to even the obscure antelopes, ants with shivering antennas to ducks and pigs. In the softest furs and brightest colours. My legs slowed down automatically and I stooped to pick up a bear in a baby suit with limp limbs that can be wrapped around you for a better hug.
Surprisingly, there were very few kids around. I smiled at a 10-yr-old girl who was critically inspecting a winking penguin, "Isn't this bear cute?"
"yeah, but dirty. These are street toys, no?" And after a pause "I get my teddy bears from Archie's."
I noticed the plural. I picked up this mutt (refer photo) and paid the 100 bucks it cost (yeah. I earn now. So i can pay for my own soft toys. hee hee.) and went home a happy 28-year-old.
Call it corporate culture and the evils of western influence and call me a sissy, but soft toys are amazing at cheering you up.