Thursday, 10 September 2009

Déjà Vu

I was traipsing around Johannesburg with Mother the other day, and by some fluke we had to go to her office because she needed a few files. When we got there, she had a couple of other things to do and instead of waiting for her in the unbearable heat in the car, I decided to go and sit in their air-conditioned boardroom while Mother added a few finishing touches to one of her cases.

Out of boredom, I was doodling on a notepad, contemplating about how weird life is…like how at 27 I’m still going to my Mummy’s workplace and waiting in the corner and playing with her different coloured pens and a notepad. It took me right back to when I was about 5 years of age. At that time, the company Mother worked for had a Kids Christmas party which we attended. Being my first Christmas party and not celebrating Christmas meant that I had no clue what was going on. All I remember was playing with the other kids and eating the sweets and everyone running for those triangular Quality Street chocolates covered in that turquoise metallic foil.

I also remember that at some point we were all waiting for Santa Clause…or Father Christmas as he’s called here. And we waited and waited and waited, and then one of Mother’s colleagues said that he was stuck on the side of the building but had sent the presents. My mind vividly recalls trying to imagine a red fat man hanging from the side of the building, trying to make sense of it all. Of course it was all lies, a ruse to keep with tradition. Our parents had to each buy our gifts, wrap and name them and put them in ‘Santas’ bag so that to us kids it looked like some strange man from the North Pole really cared.

Now I’ve always mentioned on more than one occasion that I was a deprived child when it came to popular culture. And that the only gifts I’ve ever received from my parents were books, more books, encyclopedia sets, puzzles and Lego. Occasionally they deviated from the norm and got me those metallic magnetic marbles that would stick together and that little toy bike where I had to push with my little feet so it would move.

So that year at the Christmas party, while Father Christmas was hanging from the side of the building, I made a friend. She was the daughter of one of Mother’s colleagues and we played merrily until the gifts arrived. We hastened to unwrap them and found that she had received the latest in the Barbie catalogue while I received a life-less Raggedy Ann doll that had a multi-layered apron with guess what…a story emblazoned on it. The words decorated every layer of the apron, in different colours until the last layer read ‘The End’.

Of course I was disappointed and my five year old heart was bleeding with covetousness for that damn Barbie. But alas it was never meant to be and for the next few years I had a love/hate relationship with Barbie and became resentful of her…her perfect hair and perfect wardrobe and perfect skin. I remember my cousin Shan having like 10 Barbies, because she was the only girl and spoilt rotten by her Grandparents. And every time we visited and I got to play with her Barbie’s, I almost always ended up mutilating one of them…ripping off the head, cutting her hair, pulling her limbs apart. It was revenge because she didn’t want to be mine lol. Human emotion is fascinating like that, because it’s not exclusive or limited to any particular age group.

These days I’m happy that we had a library we called home with everything from entire Encyclopedia sets to Fairytales and the “How to make just about anything” handbooks, numerous publications from Readers Digest, the entire collection of John Steinbeck’s novels and Charles Dickens and…I could go on and on. I don’t know who I’d be without it. I once told Shafinaaz that I don’t ever buy books, mostly because I never needed to. Mother and most of her family members are avid readers, so books exchange hands every week. And University introduced me to a whole new spectrum of books that have cemented who I am today and helped me get over my Barbie issues :D

On a totally unrelated note, does anyone else think that Soccer City Stadium in Johannesburg looks like a dirty spaceship? It also looks incomplete with all those holes. I think it would have looked better if the paneling they chose was blue instead of this rustic orange.
Images from


  1. The Raggedy Ann Doll sounds cooler than the Barbie, but that's just me, I don't know much about dolls.

    I went for one of these parties, it was my aunty's and I got one of my favorite childhood gifts, a BMW Templar that you pull back and it moves on its own.

  2. I think they might have chosen that colour because it blends in with the background. If you driving on the highway past gold reef city and you look in the direction of the stadium it seems to be one with the mountain/ mine whatever is there. You might struggle to actually pick it up or maybe it was just me and this might be a sign that i need glasses

  3. i loved these words like chocolate dessert :) i, too, visited cousin with barbie (sans mutilation, though... im more passive aggressive :P) and moving house for us, then and now, means first taking care of the 'library'... or finding a truck to do the move! aah, i wouldnt exhange that for anything! if i wanted something i didnt get growing up,it was a motorbike. i hated my best male friend at 16 for buying one and hiding it from his folks at a friends place so he could use it when he wanted. lol

  4. I had 5 barbies and LOTS of books as well!!!

    The stadium would look awesome in black as well I think.

  5. Hey...

    I too grew up in this way and although I did have barbies I am glad that I had books too.

    P.s - looking at your picture of all the book - did you study Psych. I know you studied at Rau. I have all the same Psych books that you have in your picture.

  6. I don't think I ever owned a Barbie either. I remember my best friend in primary school having Barbie Supermarket (it came with a register and thge works). I think after lots of begging I finally got a doll house for one of my birthdays. Looking back the books were not such a bad idea :) Your shelf looks so neat compared to the growing stack of books on my floor (out of shelf space for now). Yes, that picture of soccer city definitely looks like a filthy space ship.

  7. In answer to the stadium question - yes, it looks like the space ship in DISTRICT 9 (the SciFi movie shot in Jo-burg) landed in the middle of town.

    As to the other issue, I remember toys I wanted so badly as a child and usually I received clothes... which no boy particularly cares about in the first place. However in their defense, parents try to do their best for their children and the world they see is not the world their children see. Parents need to keep that in mind. Thanks Azra, for reminding me.

  8. Waseem - It was a plain doll and Barbie was all abut the glam. Its like getting a toyota corolla hatchback when you'd rather have the BMW Templar :)At least your party was rewarding :D

    Edge - I would think that the whole idea is to make the stadium stand out against the bland background and surrounding areas and not blend in. I personally don't like it. It could have been waaay cooler :P

    Shafinaaz - The guys at school use to come with their motorbikes and I was in awe too. Desperately wanted one, but alas, if I couldn't get a Barbie what made me think I was going to get a motorbike LOL! :)

    Zeba - I agree, even black would look better :)

    Blue - My undergrad majors were Psychology and English. After I graduated, went to London and came back I deceided to do something else so I did a bridging course and then did my Honours in Information Science and Business Management using most of the information I acquired in Organisational/Industrial Psychology :)

    WIP - This is only 1 shelf. I have 19 others and trust me you don't want to see how 'neat' they are lol! :D

  9. LL - I haven't seen District 9 as yet, although it premiered here in SA about a month ago.
    I appreciate that my parents did the best they could. And I guess alot of the time its better to give your child what he/she needs or whats good for them, rather then give them what they want. I know a whole lot of kids who just get what they want and they're just a bunch of ungrateful spoilt brats.

  10. you are indeed very lucky to grow up with so many books! not to worry, i only had one barbie when i was young. oh and the little mermaid doll.

    as for the stadium, i heard/read somewhere it was supposed to look like a cooking pot simmering above a ring of fire.