Doll Maker


Natasha had a large  collection of toys.  Her bedroom was a mini toy shop. Natasha loved them all. She took great care of her playthings. The maid washed and ironed the small set of clothes so that Natasha's dolls and stuffed creatures had clean clothes to wear.

Natasha an only child was  unspoilt and generous. During weekends and holidays she would play with Malli - the maid's daughter who was her age. Generous Natasha allowed   Malli to  play with  her toys. Malli would spend hours gazing at Natasha's collection, caressing the dolls' cheeks as though they were made of glass. Malli was scared to touch these delicate creatures in case they got spoilt. Natasha would watch with amusement Malli's handling of her toys. On Malli's birthday, Natasha bought her a doll from her pocket money. Malli cherished this doll carrying it everywhere. It was also the first time that she had something brand new to call her own.

Natasha's mom paid Malli for all the odd jobs she did in the house. Malli had saved a little  bit of this generous handout. Most of it went in buying sweets for her younger brothers and sisters.  Malli was aware that Natasha's birthday was around the corner, the poor girl had decided to buy her rich friend a gift.

A day before Natasha's birthday Malli counted her earnings and found  ninety  five rupees. Not much, but it would do. Malli dare not ask her mother as things were bad  in the house with her father having lost his job. Wearing a dress discarded by  Natasha as it had a large chocolate stain, Malli went shopping. The prices at  the shops she visited shocked her. Dolls were priced at 1700 rupees. That was how much her mother earned in a month. A disappointed Malli left the  shops in tears.

She saw a tribal woman selling an assortment of goods on the road.  Malli watched college girls throng her cart for the colourful bangles and handmade earrings.

The tribal woman was busy for the next twenty minutes watching the college girls try out the bangles.  Malli suppressed the urge to buy  a few bangles for herself and her sisters. Buying a gift for Natasha was top priority. The crowd diminished when a bus halted at the bus stop.

The girls clambered into the bus clutching their bags and stuff. Malli moved towards the woman's cart. Picking up a bangle she immediately placed it back. It was priced at hundred rupees.

"Do you want it?" the tribal woman asked in a husky voice.

"No," Malli shook her head. "I want to buy a doll for my friend. The dolls in the shops are expensive."

The tribal woman bent down  and lifted something from a basket placed on the ground. It was a  tribal doll  wearing a purple blouse over a long skirt. The doll's long black hair  was plaited. A silver  nose ring gleamed in her tiny nose, long hoops hung from her small ears. The doll was different from Natasha's usual ones, but, it had a quaint charm. Malli knew instantly that Natasha would love it.

"My daughter makes them," the tribal woman said proudly. "She has gone to our village with her father for a few days."

"How much is it?" Malli asked.

"160 rupees," the tribal woman arranged the doll's skirt. Taking the beautiful doll in her hand Malli admired it. "It's very pretty, but, I don't have that much money," Malli said softly. " I can give it to you for twenty rupees less," the tribal woman offered.  

"I just have ninety five rupees," Malli  shook her head, and returned the doll.

"That is too less," the tribal woman accepted the doll back. Malli slowly moved away. Tears  clouded her eyes.

"Wait," the tribal woman called.

Malli turned around hopefully.

"Give me the ninety five rupees," the tribal woman extended her hand.

"But you said that's too less," Malli replied.

"You can help me everyday for a month," the tribal woman smiled. "In the afternoon the girls crowd my cart.  Usually my daughter helps me, but, now as she is not here, every other day a bangle is stolen."

Malli eagerly offered her savings to the tribal woman. Clutching her doll she returned home, everyone gushed over the doll. The next day, Malli presented Natasha the doll. Natasha was thrilled with this simple yet nice gift. She carried the doll with her everywhere.

In the afternoon Malli stood beside the tribal woman at her cart. The tribal woman was amazed at Malli's salesmanship. The quiet girl managed to sell everything. As a token of appreciation Malli was given a one rupee  coin. Though Malli declined, the tribal woman insisted.

"You have earned it," she said.

Everyday Malli was paid a few coins. The tribal woman's daughter taught Malli how to make these dolls. When the month was over Malli had learnt a lot. Borrowing money from Natasha's mother, Malli started making dolls. Most of the dolls were bought by Natasha's friends. Soon Malli came to be known as the doll maker.
 

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