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Chapter 4 A Unique Birthday Gift

  • I ran down stairs hearing the calling bell ring. I could hardly wait to open the door. The delivery boy gave a broad smile and handed me the box. I looked at the thing neatly packed inside and sighed . 'Remember the days when we were young ?', my wife reminded, flashing her eyebrows.
  • My daughter's indulgence with dolls had taken on a high since she started going to school. She would be enchanted with a new doll for few months, then it would find a place in our store room along with the previous abandoned ones .The figurines of plastic and rubber - stripped of clothes and crippled with an arm or leg, with a missing eye, an ear plucked off, a 360 degree twisted head or body severed from the hip sat on the shelves like clowns leaving her in splits whenever she saw them.
  • She had had her tryst with dolls which came with home furniture and kitchen appliances - the ones which closed eyes when laid down and those big ones which simply looked at you with round eyes and wide smiles. This new one was different though. A pretty girl with a mischievous grin, she'd keep on crying if you didn't cuddle her in your arms and once she started she'd never stop giggling. She talked using monosyllables of exactly an eight year old. One had to just set the age and language. And her reactions would make you wonder if you're talking to a human girl or an inanimate doll .. It was the one-of-a-kind girl's toy in the market and I had read average five stars ratings on the website. Except just one drawback though. She couldn't walk and you've to always carry her with you. Of course elite features like those would've made her inaccessible to the flourishing toy market in the country.
  • No doubt it was my eight year daughter's latest fancy. Her most desired barbie doll! She had started throwing tantrums the day she saw the thing at the mall and we had tried means to pacify her, but to no avail. Then one day I saw the product on a mobile app - exactly the same one we had seen at the toyshop. And I wasted no time in ordering it. I could hardly wait for her to return from school .. to see her eyes widen in amazement, throw up her hands in excitement and hug me tight declaring me to be the best dad in the world.
  • Time flitted by with the new member in our family and Isha's tenth birthday was nearing. Yes. I had to treat her like my daughter .. I wasn't allowed to call her a doll. My daughter named her Nisha, to rhyme in with her name Isha. It didn't take long for Nisha to become her best friend, her sibling and they chatted and played around together. Isha even recorded a one-liner in its memory chip and the doll would keep on reciting it whenever Isha's spirits went down. It was commendable that she was programmed to recognize human emotions as well making her an adorable companion.
  • My daughter's bedroom had become her abode now and the first thing Isha did upon returning from school was to run and take Nisha in her arms. Which parents would'nt want to watch their daughters have fun and keep the entire house occupied ? So we had let Isha get her own way. Then suddenly some strange incidents started to occur.
  • Our daughter started saying things which we never told her and which she couldn't possibly have known at her age. When cornered by her mother she'd say that Nisha told her. We knew it was natural for a girl of her age to seek attention imagining things and we knew what an imp our daughter was, but this was absurd. I knew the doll could only speak the dialogues that had been installed in its memory.
  • We tried to engage Isha more into swimming, singing classes and other exterior activities which required her to take her mind away from Nisha. We fixed time she could spend with her doll. My wife started keeping tabs on her, but nothing came out of it. Isha's precocious behavior continued day by day, till one day we decided to put the doll into our store room. We knew it was difficult explaining to our stubborn child, but we tried telling her the exigencies of her nearing annuals .. the need to maintain her first rank in class in order to prevent being sneered at condescendingly by Rahul, her closest competitor. After all Nisha was not going anywhere. And it did the job.
  • I got my first shock when I touched the doll. It felt warm .. like the warmth of a living body. I had a similar feeling when I took my daughter in my arms, the first time when she was born. It was certainly heavier than a doll of its size, but less than my daughter's weight. And then a cold chill went down my spines. I thought I saw it's breasts heaving. I knew this was absurd again, so I called my wife, expecting her to awaken me from a nightmare. But she let out a wail instead. The doll looked exactly like Isha now!
  • Both of us looked out in horror. That same small face .. round eyes .. thick eyebrows .. high forehead .. plump cheeks .. heart-shaped lips .. flat depressed chin . Soon the differences started manifesting themselves .. dark circles under eyes .. dry, unkempt hairs. The pink dress gone, it was now wearing a silk frock similar to Isha's with the same embroidery and a big circular broach near the neck. A necklace of silver beads embraced it's neck, which actually belonged to Isha's mother. It seemed Isha had shrunk into a smaller size, just like Alice of Lewis Carroll's classic novel.
  • As I rang her school's number, my worst fears seemed to come true. The class teacher said that Isha had not turned up that day