Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Top-less in Commercial Street

By Hasmita Chander,Bangalore

A few days ago as I was chatting online with a friend in Ahmedabad, he mentioned that he would be flying kites all day on Sankranti. I envied him and it brought back memories of my childhood attempts at flying kites. I'd make them with newspaper and broomsticks, and envy the neighbourhood boys who bragged that they made the maanja at home. Along with these tumbled out the memory of the top. You do remember the top? A for Apple, B for Ball... T for Top.

We would buy it for a rupee or so, wrap the coloured thread around it and spin it on the ground, then pick it up expertly as it spun between our fingers and onto our palms where it would continue to spin merrily, tickling us in the bargain. I typed out to my friend, "Do you think we can buy tops these days?" Or are they available only during a particular season?" The reply appeared after a brief pause on my monitor,"What season do you need? "You should be able to get one at any toy shop..."I smiled a smile of satisfaction. Good. Now I had a simple delight to look forward to-a snatch of my childhood through a little toy.

Yesterday I happened to go to Commercial Street, in Bangalore, with my sister and her friend. It had been a few months since I'd visited the popular street and I gawked at all the new shops that had come up since then. A new Wrangler showroom, Coffee Day, and of course, Barista, the coffee shop that we had come to check out that day. After a round of cold coffees here, we walked to The Home Store and admired the modern furniture and accessories on display there. In my mother's time the in-thing was Stainless Steel. Now it's white cedar and wrought iron. I was happy to be my age at this time of the century where these pretty things had become available in India. As we began our walk to the parking lot, I saw the man who sells the bottle of soapy liquid and wire hoop that makes a wonderful stream of bubbles. I brushed my hand through the sparkling swarm and burst them all. And then I remembered!

My top! Luckily I saw the bright, bold sign just a few steps ahead of me saying, 'TOYS KEMP.' My sister and her friend rolled their eyes when I told them what I wanted to buy from here, but it didn't reduce the bounce of my steps as I ascended the little flight of stairs to the shop. I opened the door and asked one of the attendants (who were not attending to anyone as there wasn't a single customer there other than me) if they sold tops. All of them looked at me blankly and one fellow raised his eyebrow. I explained to him what I wanted and then they smiled and said no ma'am, we don't sell tops here. I stepped back onto the street disappointed and a little puzzled. The biggest in the world etc. shop, not selling a common top?

Through the drive back home I wondered, has the top become an anachronism in today's digital world? CD-ROM games, Multimedia, the National Geographic at the click of a mouse button-is fine, very good, but what about the top? We could have it too, couldn't we-spin a top, play Tomb Raider, watch Star World? I hope one day's poll question on a popular dotcom is, "Should our children be able to play with old toys like tops today?" with a digital image of a spinning top near it (to remind people what it looks like). If the majority says yes, I wonder if TOYS KEMP will start stocking them?

I WANT one!


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