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In pursuit of that perfect gift for a child

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These days it has become a tall order, given the widening choices in a highly commercialised setting

“Papa, will Santa come this year also?” asked my younger son, a four-year-old nursery student, with a twinkle in his eyes. “I’m sure, he will,” I replied, which brought a huge smile on his face and prompted him to ask the next question, “Will he bring me chocolate as well?” “You bet,” I said. “And for my brother?” he asked. “Yes, for him too!” I replied.

He then asked me a question that stumped me. He said, “What toy would Santa bring me?”

This is one question that bothers me every year because I’ve never been able to find truly a great toy that can live up to the expectations of my little ones, or my own for that matter. Though each year at Christmas time, shops are packed with a huge variety of toys, I find it daunting to scour them all to pick the most appealing, long-lasting, safest and useful one among them. In fact, the best way I can describe it is to say it’s pretty much like finding a needle in a haystack.

There are, of course, online shopping sites that purport to offer the best deals on a variety of gift items, including toys. However, I try and stay away from them as much as possible because I’ve fallen prey many times to their offerings that appear exciting and promising on the computer screen but turn out in reality to be completely different.

This is much in contrast to the old times when Christmas celebrations were simpler and largely confined to inexpensive and homemade gifts, such as Ludo, cards, stuffed toys, hand-knitted sweater, or a jar of cookies. The good thing about those times was that it wasn’t just the presents that made the little ones happy, but whole occasion — the excitement, the eager anticipation, the preparation.

I remember how, as children, my brother and I were obsessed with paper decorations — even more than Christmas presents — that we would make every year around Christmas-time with help from our parents, cousins and other children in our locality.

It used to be an enjoyable experience, which not only kept us entertained for hours, but was filled with creativity and the warmth of family and friends.

Cut to 2014, by which time I’d become a father and had two small children to buy overpriced and disappointing toys for. Before the realisation dawned on me, I used to get lured by advertisements and offers made by a cross section of the media.

I remember one Christmas when I bought a robotic dog for my elder son (who was then barely five), which failed miserably to live up to its claims, and its high-end billing.

Its battery drained quickly, it made too much noise, and failed to perform most of its promised tasks.

This set off an argument between my wife and I, which was far from festive. There was anger, regret, sadness and a heart-felt “I don’t like robots” from the four-year-old.

Talking of which reminds me of another fiasco when I opted for a radio-controlled toy helicopter — it was one of the must-have children's toys that Christmas — for my younger son that, as its online brochure claimed, could fly at great speed, perform amazing acrobatic tricks, and was unbreakable.

But, lo and behold, on the very first take-off it stopped in mid-air, made a nose dive and hit the ground, totally damaging the tail rotor, and my faith in the Christmas must-haves.

Finally, back to the question: What toy would Santa Claus bring? The answer: An arts and craft set. Let me hope that all parents who are still looking for that perfect Christmas toy for their loved ones are reading this.

rajeshkrishan77@gmail.com

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Printable version | Jan 23, 2020 10:19:17 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/in-pursuit-of-that-perfect-gift-for-a-child/article22267895.ece

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