Of dolls and fibs

Of dolls and fibs

Representative image.

Recently my nephew and his wife pooled all their financial resources, bought 12 acres of land on the outskirts of a city in Tamil Nadu and started a grand school. Grand because it included primary, middle and high school, in addition to hostel facilities for students from out of state.

I was invited to visit this school close to their ‘Annual Day’. Children were running around practising dances, plays, and skits. Music was in the air and the tune was one of pure enthusiasm.

This took me back in time when I was a nine-year-old and was in a similar school—the Mahila Seva Samaja in Bengaluru. Our Annual Day was directed by our English teacher who wanted to stage a play on Rumpelstiltskin, complete with a baby on the stage. To fulfil the baby’s role, I had offered to bring the big celluloid doll in our family for which my mother had knit a pretty yellow dress. I was assigned the heroine’s role— the miller’s daughter—who is initially in a tattered dress, but on marrying the king changes into a gown made of satin and frills. There were other actors in the play—the attendants, the miller and his wife, the king and the dwarf who could spin straw into gold and more importantly, save me.

The play was a success on Annual Day and the guest speaker presented each of the actors with a doll that shut its eyes when lying down and opened them when standing up. 

I got off the stage and back in the green room. When I examined my doll,  I found to my horror my doll was broken—it did nothing with its eyes, kept them shut all the time.

Heartbroken, I decided to solve the problem simply. I sneaked into the next bag, took the doll and thrust it into my bag along with the broken one. 

Later that night my proud parents were analysing all the programs of the evening when my father turned to me and asked, “How is it that you have two dolls?” I fumbled for a minute and answered brightly, “Well, one was for me and the other for this baby doll I took to act in the play.”

There were no more questions.

When I went to school the next day there were a lot of questions. First, my elder sister came to my class, pulled me aside and demanded, “Did you bring home Jaya’s doll? She says she could not find it in her bag when she went home. Tell the truth.” Jaya, my sister’s friend, was the miller’s wife. I confessed and had to surrender the doll.

As I look back, I see how I never had a chance in the art of fibbing, in spite of my poor attempt to pull wool over my father’s eyes. Instead of bringing home the one good doll and making it a fool-proof transaction, I had been dumb enough to take both the dolls home. 

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