As we aged, our toys changed… However, no one ever forgets a toy that made him or her supremely happy as a child, even if that toy is replaced by one like it that is much nicer.
By Nazarul Islam
In the pre-television era, we liked to indulge in creative and healthy activities, which the present generation may find unusual. We made simple, uncomplicated airplanes (toys) by folding paper and launched them into space by thrusting them with our hands. The aircraft had no runway, fuel tanks or wheels and harder the thrust the farther they soared.
The initial thrust came from the pilot’s muscles that thrust the paper toy into the air, and depending on the aerodynamic design, paper airplanes could fly relatively far and glide through the air with ease. We put our flying prowess to the test and cheered lustily when the ‘paper bird’ flew long and landed safely on its belly.
However, unlike the Wright brothers who used paper to build models of their first actual aeroplanes, I could never reach those dizzy heights!
We also made boats with nothing but a piece of paper and a few folding tricks. The monsoons were the best time to sail them, and it was fun as we watched them navigate the swirling waters filled with twigs, coconut shells and other refuse. We would follow their course with interest and clear any obstacles from their path to enable a smooth sail.
At the voyage’s end, the boats filled with water and grime would disappear to the bottom of the stream, and a new craft would take their place. Unfortunately, I never got to voyage on the high seas.
Chatting on the matchbox telephone, flattening coins on railway tracks, bringing down fruits with a catapult, riding piggyback, playing cricket with nothing but an exam board and paper ball, building sandcastles were life’s little pleasures and provided many hours of undiluted joy.
When searchlights were used extensively after the war years to herald a circus’ arrival in town, we would follow the brilliant beams in the night sky, gasping with delight. On weekends we got on the saddle of our bicycles – rented out for a steal – and explored the wilderness beyond the town. With activities a dime a dozen, there was never a dull moment.
Girls dabbled in hopscotch and indulged in throwing and catching projectiles such as discs, rings and balls and building sandcastles; they got their creative juices flowing by making dolls out of coconut leaves, hay and straws.
The male figures draped in white cloth with a turban adorning their heads reminded me of voodoo dolls, while the women had colorful fabric wrapped around them.
They would spread their miniature stoves, pots and pans on the floor and pretend to cook a meal. They also possessed various indigenous made wooden baby dolls and spent hours decking them up or pretending to feed them. Today’s mass-produced mechanical playthings are poor cousins to the simple toys of yesteryears.
I liked Shakespeare’s wisdom, expressed in the famous ‘Hamlet’: Every toy is the prologue to some great amiss.
However, no one ever forgets a toy that made him or her supremely happy as a child, even if that toy is replaced by one like it that is much nicer.
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