Saturday, September 21, 2013

In which Sohalia introduces herself....

I'm really not sure where to begin....

Although I am Indian, I was born in China, like so many dolls in this day and age. There were many of us, and I don't know what became of most of the others. We were intended as "souvenir" dolls, a small remembrance of what one would hope had been a lovely and interesting trip. Dressed neatly in my shalwar kameez, I was sent to a small gift shop in Bhopal. Hardly a story to rival that of Caroline's ancestor, Hitty Preble. But it took an unusual turn...

I had actually been in the shop for about two months - there seems not to be much tourist trade in the city - when I was placed in the window. It was there that I saw, very late one night, perhaps toward the early morning - another doll, American and taller than I, accompanied by a brown rabbit. They seemed lost. I knocked on the window with a small figurine of an elephant to got their attention, and pointed them around the back, where I met them.

"I hate to sound dumb, but - where are we?" the American doll said when I let them in.

"Unique Gifts," I said.

"He means what country," the rabbit clarified. "We arrived by box and I don't think this is where we were supposed to end up."

"You're in India. Bhopal," I said. Arrived by box? What does that mean?

"Well, we're in the right country, anyway," the rabbit said.

"I guess..." His companion didn't sound convinced.

They introduced themselves and told the story. Tim, the American doll, had been sold on eBay to a woman who bought him for her eleven-year-old daughter. The family, who lived in Boulder, CO, were moving to Bangalore. The father worked for IBM and had taken a two-year international assignment there.* She was apparently not happy about it - and not all that happy about Tim, either. She declared him "ugly" and "weird." He said she only had eyes for this one doll named Justin Beiber and a group of dolls made to look like the members of a band called One Direction. She had even abandoned her Barbie dolls for them. Edward had been a present from an aunt. He had been dismissed as "for babies," which had apparently not pleased the girl's mother. The mother had packed Edward, Tim and several of the Barbies up and had them shipped to Bangalore - or so she thought - ahead of the family's arrival. Without seeing the box and how it was addressed, I can't really be sure how they ended up in Customs at Bhopal, or why the box was seized and opened. But there wasn't much chance of any of them being reunited with the family - which Edward said wasn't necessarily a bad thing - if they could find Tim's brother, that is.

"I know where he went..." Tim had borrowed the shop owner's computer.

I believe he tracked Rich down that night, although we had to wait until the shop closed the next night before we could get his reply. I hid them out in the back storeroom. The owner almost never went in there. It took about a week to get Rich all the information he needed to get to us, and from there another couple of days until he was able to make all the arrangements with his friend John back in America to get us there.

"I hope his lady's person doesn't mind surprises," I said as they prepared to leave via Fed Ex. I really didn't want them to go - or at least, not go without me - but it seemed impolite to ask.

"He told her about it. She's fine with it," Rich said, then offered me a hand. "You're coming with us, aren't you?"

He didn't have to ask twice. Even if I ended up living at the university, I knew I would be better off going with them. (And if you're wondering, Rich did arrange to recompense the shop owner for taking me.)

So far I do like it here in America, although I'm still getting accustomed to the weather. Apparently it's been rather cool for New York, never mind for India, and I spent the first week or so freezing despite it being rather mild. I don't know how much I'm looking forward to snow. Caroline and her sister Valentine have been more than generous sharing their clothing, although it turns out that I'm a bit smaller than they are. They've both said they would love an outfit like mine. Maddy made a couple of more American-style outfits for me, which I like. They've all asked me about what India is like. I wish I'd gotten to see more of it, but sadly, I really never got to see more than the shop and its street. I know I missed a lot. I don't intend to do that here, though. Caroline has already invited me to come along on her next trip somewhere. I (and she) don't know where it will be to yet, but I can't wait....


*Maddy's note - International assignments are (or were) fairly common at IBM. When I was ten, my father was offered a two-year assignment in Germany, but turned it down because he refused to get on an airplane. It would probably have been interesting - the cafeteria in Boeblingen served beer at lunch (I don't think they do anymore, though) and the plant itself was near the Ritter chocolate factory. When I supported a group that traveled to Germany frequently, they used to bring me back chocolate. Hershey has nothing on Ritter....

During my years as an admin at IBM, I met people from India, Singapore, Austria, Germany, Taiwan, China, Iran (three of the nicest people I've ever worked with,) France, England, Australia, Japan, Cyprus and one guy who we seriously suspected was from another planet altogether. Good times....

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