Allegedly Society

Off with those toys

Getty Images/ iStock

Getty Images/ iStock  

It would make so much more sense if people gifted Kattabomman something useful, such as clothes, or cash, instead of quantum motorboats

Toys should be banned. All kinds of them, but especially children’s toys. Life is too precious for kids to be wasting their time playing with toys. Besides, children’s toys can be injurious to adults. Not a day goes by when I haven’t accidentally stepped on a Lego brick, stubbed my toe against a poorly parked fire-engine, or tripped over a grand piano.

I don’t know how it is for other parents, but I get palpitations every time a guest brings a present for Kattabomman. Either because they treat it as a formality, or because they have a mean streak in them struggling to express itself, they get it wrong every single time. Kattabomman doesn’t have a problem with any toy — he loves them as a matter of principle. You could give him a piece of F-16 debris and call it an ageing dinosaur’s pacemaker, and he’d be thrilled. The problem is his parents — me, specifically. For some reason — perhaps it’s a sign that I am growing old — I can’t relate to any of Kattabomman’s playthings.

Battling with batteries

The most annoying toys are the ones that need batteries. First of all, as a family, we have a complicated relationship with batteries: we can establish visual contact with a battery only when we don’t need any. Not only that, on the rare occasion that we do find them when we need them, it is inevitably the wrong kind — AA when we want AAA, and vice versa. I think the last time I found the exact kind of battery when I needed one was 10 years ago, on October 27, 2009, under the UPA government. Well, those were the achhe din! Be it batteries in your drawer or savings in your bank — you found them where you left them.

Less annoying but equally frustrating are the so-called educational or developmental toys. They supposedly quicken the maturing of the child’s fine motor skills, stimulate the neurons in his parietal lobe, and thicken the leaves of IQ growing on his brain stem. All that may well be true. But what if the parent is not a post-doctoral fellow in Quantum-Astro-Nuclear-Thermodynamics from MIT?

Last month, for instance, a friend gifted Kattabomman a metal contraption that left me feeling like the proverbial swine before the pearl. From what I could make of the diagrams and differential equations in the 292-page thesis that was enclosed, it was a ‘space boat’ propelled by the rapid oxidation and metabolic combustion of a certain carbon compound that had to be set on fire and placed in its belly (the space boat’s belly) at an angle of 27.5 degrees to the surface of the nearest ‘water body’. Last I checked, our nearest water body — the stretch of Yamuna near my home — had been converted into parking, which is the way to go, if you ask me. Rivers and trees have been around long enough. What do they do anyway? Trees stand around all day doing nothing. Rivers spend their entire lives flowing around doing nothing. If either had been human, they could have been given Aadhaar cards and made to stand in a queue. Since they are not, they might as well make way for idiots and metro sheds. And pox on anyone who says otherwise.

Actually, it would make so much more sense if people gifted Kattabomman something useful, such as clothes, or cash, instead of quantum motorboats. But even parents who think along these lines muff up. The clothes are two sizes too big or too small. As for the cash, it won’t even cover one month’s groceries. So I get the ₹2,000 notes changed into ₹10 ones and put them away for the next demonetisation, when ATMs may stop working.

Need no music

But the toys I totally can’t stand are the musical instruments. Especially musical instruments that aren’t really musical instruments. Some weeks ago, two friends came over for dinner. One of them gifted Kattabomman a small guitar made of adamantium, or some such material that was equally indestructible. I was worried about exposing a three-year-old to the corrupting influence of Western culture such as guitars. But I kept quiet out of politeness.

The other friend gave Kattabomman something that was a cross between a piano, violin, santoor, drums, keyboard, and a magic carpet. I opened the package — and you guessed it — it had a pouch for batteries, and several patches with markings denoting different instruments.

It must have taken a while, and I was just finishing the penultimate paragraph of the 95-page instruction manual when Kattabomman decided it was time to test out his newest toys. He picked up the magic carpet, draped it over my face, and bashed the adamantium guitar on my head with such force that I was seeing a hundred batteries. All the batteries that, under normal circumstances, I would have never found.

The writer is Social Affairs Editor, The Hindu.

sampath.g@thehindu.co.in

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Printable version | Feb 24, 2020 7:05:42 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/society/off-with-those-toys/article29799814.ece

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