A bunch of characters are rolled out of the Corporate Conveyor Belt.
They roll onto television, into films, onto story books, onto bags, tiffins, pencil boxes, note books, t-shirts, and onto every possible surface and object that can be bought and sold.
If you are a child and do not watch TV then you are surrounded by the same set of half a dozen characters that are 'in' at that point in time. There is no way you can pick up a school bag which has some flowers and butterflies.
In a book shop you have the option of going past rows and rows of shelves with the same stock characters, and then you could find a corner with Dr. Seuss, you will probably not find Julia Donaldson, or our current favourite, Shel Silverstein. There will be one miserable corner in which children's book by Indian publishers will be stacked together. Its the same five and half characters being churned out by a couple of corporates.
And then there are some enterprising and talented people in the city who can put up puppet shows at birthday parties. The characters - the same old, the same old. The tattoo artist, the birthday planner, the cake maker- same...same...same...
Its like a virtual cage in which you are trapped with the age old mickeys and minnies, or the latest Hannah Montana or Batman or whatever else there is.
Children love them, you will say. Ofcourse they do, I can watch Tom and Jerry all over again. And yes, I would readily walk into the latest Disney film. But surely our kids need an imagination that stands apart from the characters that are 'in'produced in the same mode- lavish, luscious and lust worthy (i dont mean in a sexual way but in a form that makes it all so desirable.)
I can not buy a writing desk that is not covered with cheap imitations of babrbie, pooh, or donald duck. For her birthday I got the carpenter to make a cupboard and I sat and painted a frumpy fairy falling down on it all night. She is not elegant, is messy but Sanah likes her because her silly mother with poor drawing skills made her up especially for her.
My six year old nephew watches the same characters on TV (limited time, mind you), on his computer games ( limited time and monitored), on DVD. My sister-in-law insists he is into his guns and gizmo because of them but there is no way to wean him away because they are all over, hounding her, him.
Sanah and he were squabbling in a long car ride. I got them to sit next to me and started telling a story. My nephew said he liked scary stories with blood and gore, I liberally added blood and gore to my yarn that went on for an hour. He said the stories were not scary, but they were funny and could I make some more up for the next day. I am an average story teller, this was music to my years.
Sanah loves lilkee and Chutkan. She knows that most of her friends dont know them but that does not bother her. She is willing to tell them who they are and what they do.
She knows that the tattoo artist at the birthday party will not be able to draw Tiddler and his school friends, she is happy with her mermaids and minnies. I dont care a damn if a barbie with impossible heels and cleavage is painted on her arm, because Sanah might make this barbie travel to Chutkan's village, or Lilkee's mountains, or worse, chase Phani through puddles and ponds. And moreover any batman or princess she makes up will have the insistence of the Why Why Girl she loves.