Avanee with Dolly; Me with Dolly

About 25 years ago, Dada (my maternal grandfather) brought me this beautiful doll from one of his trips abroad. I was smitten the moment I saw her–she was pink skinned, wore that lovely blue and white ensemble, and had the prettiest eyes. In a phase of absolute uncreativity, I named her Dolly; never to change it. 

For many, many years after that, Dolly was my best friend. When a kid in class told me I couldn’t possibly get selected for the annual day dance because I was ugly, I told her; not my mum. When Amma told me I couldn’t get a cross-eye-creating fringe (or any other haircut), I went and cut Dolly’s hair. I dressed her up when I was invited to a playmate’s house because I knew I was invited only by virtue of being the girl with the best doll. (This playmate’s father managed a cold storage/factory, and we would often get to see peas being shelled, blanched, and frozen–an activity I always looked forward to. While the friend carried my doll around for the employees to marvel at.) But then, you couldn’t blame them. I mean, look at her! Even my great grandmother was impressed–when she came to stay with us one holiday, she knitted her a pretty red and yellow sweater with a hat to match. Dolly made you fall in love with her. And she always understood. When I felt low, I would slide under my bed with her and just be. Somehow, her soft tummy made for the perfect pillow for a sad kid’s head to rest on.

Yesterday, Amma pulled her out from the deep recesses of her loft, and handed her to a bemused Avanee. Dolly is now yellowed with age, her plastic skin refusing to clean up. Her hair is knotted beyond repair, and the soft tummy that I once found comfort in is now giving way. She looks scary; but frankly, she looks tired to me. I was sure Avanee wouldn’t take to her. She had a doll back home that she wasn’t particularly obsessed with, why would she want this scary looking thing? But when she reached out and held her, I was almost jealous. Since that moment, she has not left Dolly’s side–for meals, for naps, for playtime–Dolly’s always with her. Avanee pats her to sleep the way I once did, and feeds her mock treats. She has long conversations in a language none of us understand, and sings her songs.

Just about an hour ago, however, Dolly did me a big favor. She  put Avanee to sleep. I have been having trouble weaning, and Avanee has been having trouble going to sleep with anyone else but me. Today, the three of sat on the swing–Avanee, Dolly, and I–and in minutes, Avanee had rested her head on Dolly’s lap and was off to dreamland. After months and months of incessant crying and milk-demanding at bedtime, this was a blessing.

Looks like I still need Dolly. Avanee may have found a new doll; but today, I have found my best buddy.