Toys go hi-tech Essay

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Remember the toy cart you had in school, which went rat-a-tat across the room? Or the rag doll your grandma so lovingly stitched together for the birthday? Or the many rattles, paper windmills, kitchen sets, cardboard cartwheels…? Today’s kids can identify with none of these. If it’s a girl, she’s busy adding to her Barbie collection, if it’s a boy, there’s Tarzan or Superman for him. And if you want something that pleases them both, there’s Winnie the Pooh, Lego or even Sony’s Playstation. Blue-eyed plastic contraptions that recite "mama" in monotone have replaced the rag dolls of yore. Toy carts have made way for black-and-gold Ferraris and Lamborghinis. As for the cartwheels and windmills, few kids would know what you are talking of. For that matter, even teddies are fast getting extinct. As Reena Srinivasan, mother of a four-year-old girl in Mumbai points out: "My daughter’s favourite Indian toy is a Barbie dressed in a saree." Observes Shikha Mishra, a journalist: "If the kids are able to identify a Ferrari quicker than a Fiat and feel an affinity to Batman rather than Birbal, the answers are to be found in Cartoon Network on television." Many parents feel that children cannot even differentiate between toys that are Indian and foreign. All that matters is that they should be familiar figures or trendy playthings, as seen on television. In a market-driven economy, toy manufacturers are only cashing on this trend. The fallout from this is two-fold: one, the death of India’s toy-making tradition, and two, the influences of an alien culture on a child’s mind. Some social activists have begun campaigning for a ban on what they describe as "western toys". "Indian toys are not only part of an art tradition but also contribute to the well-rounded growth of an individual’s personality," explains Vaidehi Thakkar, a child psychologist. "Besides,

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