They belonged to a generation which played with dolls. Keya and Tripti owned many dolls. The dolls were their children and each had been lovingly named according to their physical appearance. Not the size zero and sophisticated Barbie kind of dolls,but the simple ones with pretty eyes and hair. There were no sleek, plastic kitchen sets to play with, but sturdy brass and steel kitchen sets, in all probability handed down from the earlier generation. Make believe homes and kitchens were set up in the building compounds, in a corner which provided shade during the hot summers. Leaves and sticks collected from all over and imaginatively used as vegetables and grocery, added the required colour.
The two girls stayed in the same locality, just a five minutes walk away from each other. They studied in the same school, which was an added bonus. This way they spend practically most of their waking hours together. Friends since kindergarten , they both had been friends almost all of their ten year old lives. Keya was the quieter one, but with a great sense of fun and always game for mischief. Tripti on the other hand was bold and bossy. They made an unlikely pair but were inseparable.
It was an era when dolls’ weddings were carried out with great enthusiasm and fervour. It was one of the favorite pastimes during the long summer vacations from school. There were times when a two month summer holiday could witness up to half a dozen such events. Girl dolls were more common and very few children owned boy dolls, so the institution of polygamy was given a fresh life in the doll world. The moment summer vacations set in, there was a rush for forming matrimonial alliances with the owner of a boy doll. Negotiations for fixing a matrimonial alliance were delicate affairs and the children often dragged their mothers into the picture. Most of the time, there were only a couple of popular boy dolls, who ended up marrying different girl dolls over the span of the school holidays.
It was in such a scenario that Tripti’s aunt, who was visiting from England, gifted her a handsome boy doll named Max. The entry of this golden haired, blue eyed foreigner created ripples amongst the children. They were delighted to have a more than welcome and much needed addition to the list of prospective grooms. With summer vacations round the corner, there were already talks about how many dolls’ marriages could be arranged that year. But there was no doubt in Tripti’s mind about who would be the most eligible bride for her Max. She sought out Keya at the earliest and asked her if she could get her boy doll married to Keya’s pretty girl doll, Pari. Keya was more than delighted to agree and both the little girls waited for their summer break to begin.
Their excitement was palpable and they began planning the list of invitees, the venue, as well as the menu. They finished having their lunch in a hurry at school and then devoted the rest of the lunch break to these tasks. Traditionally an Indian wedding is always held in the home or hometown of the bride. Keya asked her mother if she could host the wedding. Her mother was equally enthusiastic about the whole affair and got involved whole heartedly. They decided to have the dolls’ wedding on the first Sunday of their summer holidays. Invitations were painstakingly written out by hand on little cards and handed over to each and every child who was a friend.
There was no discussion at all over the menu. By mutual consensus, it was decided that the perfect menu for a summer wedding would be puris……accompanied by potato sabzi and aamras. Keyas mother was in charge of catering lunch to the twenty guests. Another child’s mother offered to stitch the tiny wedding saree for the bride and the kurta pyjama for the groom. Keya’s uncle had gifted her a motorized toy car, which held a family of four ducks. The ducks were put away for this occasion and the car was cleaned and polished to carry the bridal couple.
Seeing the level of authenticity being tried to reach, Keya’s neighbour, Abhi, a young man of twenty five, got into the spirit of things and managed to arrange for four bricks which could be used for the wedding fire.
The Sunday dawned bright and sunny. Preparations in both, Tripti and Keya’s households were in full swing. The dolls were dressed in their new clothes. Keya’s mother kept lunch ready so that she too could enjoy the ceremony. Soon it was time for the bridegroom and his family to arrive at the bride’s home. The guests arrived well before time, excited at the prospect of an English bridegroom. When Max arrived, resplendent in his brand new kurta pyjama set, a sigh of delight went through the crowd of children standing outside Keya’s house to welcome him. Keya proudly brought the decorated toy car out to where Tripti stood with Max in her hands. She welcomed them and asked Max to be seated in the car. The car was directed with its remote control and driven off towards the decorated area where the marriage ceremony was to take place. Pari was waiting there in all her bridal glory, pretty in a red saree and tiny golden jewelry.
With Abhi officiating as priest, the two dolls were married off with great pomp. The guests went home for a siesta after a sumptuous lunch, promising to return in a couple of hours for the reception. And true to their word, everyone returned after their naps, bringing with them small gifts for the bridal couple. When Keya’s mother asked the guests if they would prefer a soda or some tea, there was an unanimous cry asking for tea, which was generally prohibited in most households. So there they were. Totally happy devouring a snack of tea, potato wafers and cake. Soon it was time for the bridegroom to leave. As per Indian tradition the bride went with the bridegroom to his family home. After a tearful farewell from Keya, Tripti departed for her home with Max and Pari.
All was well for a few weeks. Every weekend Keya would bring home Pari and Max , and drop them back by Sunday evening. Surprisingly, and to the disappointment of the rest of the children , Tripti did not get her boy doll married to any other girl doll during that summer. All was well in doll-world.
Summer holidays ended and so did the idyllic days. And then one day in school, Keya and Tripti had a minor tiff which over the following weeks snowballed into a nasty quarrel. And in the midst of the cold war between the two girls, Tripti returned Pari-doll to Keya. Though they eventually patched up and buried the hatchet after a few months, their friendship never did return to the earlier intensity and Max and Pari were never reunited.