My perfect imperfections, writes Raveena Tandon Thadani

Feb16:Even Barbie is not size zero anymore. That’s good news considering generations of girls starved themselves trying to get the Barbie look.

I somehow never got a Barbie, even though it was a rage in the ‘80s. My only coveted doll was a French ‘walkie-talkie doll’ bought from Paris and gifted to me by my dad on my eighth birthday. Luckily, Gigi (that’s the name I gave her) looked normal, but blonde, with silken, soft, perfumed hair. Even now when I close my eyes, my brain stimulates the scent of her hair in my mind. A nice roly-poly chubby-cheeked doll with podgy arms and a pretty sky-blue dress. I had never seen something so beautiful.

It was instant love. Something about girls and the maternal instinct arises since childhood, I took to taking care of her and she was my best friend. I dressed her up, made her hair, bows and frills… She travelled with me on every vacation and we discovered the world together and went on several adventures at playtime. Sometimes, we were on a sinking ship and rescuing people or in MagicLand, where we fought witches and wizards, and we were always victorious! Gigi and I were inseparable.

My older brother was the mischievous sort, forever getting into trouble. I was three years younger and at the receiving end of his bullying. It was his way of taking revenge on me. Whenever mom reprimanded him for doing something stupid (and I was her informant), he would ill-treat and traumatise Gigi and my favourite teddy bear, as he knew they were my weaknesses. I would howl and sob, growing up as I did on Enid Blyton’s Amelia Jane and the like, actually believing that my toys came to life at night when the humans were sleeping. I would talk to them before they slept, even bandaging Gigi, before turning in for the day. One day, dad caught my brother socking my teddy bear around while I was close to tears yet again. After a bit of good old-fashioned spanking, my brother got the talk. Thankfully, he hasn’t grown up into a wife-beater or something…

Coming back to Barbie… over the years, I could never identify with or take to her. She was too plastic, too perfect for me. I still preferred my podgy Gigi, though the years had taken their toll on her. Her shiny, blue dress now faded, the rosiness in her cheeks now paled, her blonde, silken hair now rough to the touch. But she still was my imperfectly perfect best friend and companion.

My neighbour’s daughter Rohini, whose father worked abroad, used to bring her back all the newest toys and she would flaunt her Barbies in our faces. At one playdate, where we were having high tea for our dolls and Gigi and I were invited, we sat there with 10 beautiful, perfect Barbies sitting in a row, staring down at our unsophisticated selves. We set out our plastic toy kitchen and started ‘making’ tea. I remember, at a certain point, I asked Rohini if I could use the tiny, beautiful kitchenette to put my teapot on and was met with a firm and haughty ‘No. Please don’t touch my Barbie things, and I was okay with that, but that put me off Barbie and the likes of her forever. Never mind these types, Gigi and I had each other and those Barbies didn’t bloody matter!

Who wanted to befriend the Barbie anyway?’ I consoled Gigi. Growing into my teen years was good fun, but I still shared secrets with Gigi, who sat on the shelf on top of my desk. A naughty cousin had even put blue felt pen marks on her once strawberry-tinged cheeks, but she sat there patiently. Her smile, frozen for years, encouraging me to go out and do my thing. I got into films. Incredible, as I never thought that I was cut out for that — podgy as I was, oil in the hair, my peers making fun of me in class — it was like a fairy tale.

I was now being made into the Barbie that I never was.. I still hung on to the imperfections in me, then teased by my co-stars and called Thunder Thighs, etc. I still clung on to Gigi for moral support, I still cuddled up with good old teddy. In fact, he was with me and travelled around in my suitcase on all my outdoor shoots even till the time I was in my second or third year of my career.

As I got into my full-fledged career, my mom realised I needed more closet space and decided to renovate my room. She planned on doing so when I was on a long tour of concerts in the USA for a month and a half. When I got back, she surprised me with a beautifully made room with all that a young woman would want — a flashy dressing table with studio lights and sliding closet spaces. She got the biggest hug ever from me!

Alone in my room, I went on to open the boxes of my stuff that were neatly packed and kept for me to open out and place however I wanted. I set my dresser and the cupboard, placed teddy out from my suitcase and then started to look for Gigi. Frantically opening out all the remaining boxes, I couldn’t see her and some other stuffed old toys of mine which just lay around. A fear gripped my heart and I ran downstairs to my mom’s room to ask her if she has stored them somewhere. Turns out, she had put all my old toys and put them in a box and donated it to the local orphanage. And Gigi, my dear Gigi, went with them. My heart broke and I felt like a piece of my childhood had been given away. I cried then and I’m swallowing hard even now as tears sting my eyes.

To have lost that friend of mine who made me realise that everyone or everything is not perfect in consolation being that she probably was more wanted there at the orphanage with the little girls, giving them the time to be loved, making their memories with her of fun, laughter and hope. Hope they see her as I did.

She taught me that one has to accept people around them and themselves as they are but definitely have to try to become better. To overcome our imperfections and to strive to become better human beings is an ongoing process.

I may not have many friends today, I have a few they all might not be perfect or look like Barbie, but they are all heart and that is what makes them beautiful…

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