Friday, August 26, 2005

On 'top' of the world

There are two important rituals associated with kiddie birthday parties

a) handing over the gift at the start of the party
b) demanding the return gift at the end of the party

Teaching a six year old to say 'thank you' instead of grabbing the gift from outstretched hands is quite a task. Selecting an appropriate return gift is equally bothersome.

More so if you're in south Bombay, of course, where the gifts are designed more to impress the moms than the birthday child's friends. So you not only have to have jugglers/ magicians/ clowns-on-hire but also 'unique' return presents. Such as handmade caps with the names of all 40 kids invited to the party embroidered on them.

Why 40? Because every child in the birthday boy/ girl's class - along with respective maids/ mothers - must be on the guest list. Never mind the chaos!

Cake n chips
Things are a lot more 'normal' in my part of town. Good old middle class Vashi. We believe in the ekdum regular return gifts such as pencil boxes and lunch boxes.

Magar this year the friendly shopkeeper at 'Anil Plastics', my one-stop 'party supplies' shop whipped out something new: 'Beyblades'.And yes, when those kids ripped open their gifts, suddenly, I was the coolest mom on Planet Earth.

So who or what is a Beyblade? Well, it's just a fancy name for one of the most ancient toys known to mankind: the spinning top. The Beyblade comes with a 'rip cord' which allows you to launch it at a phenomenal speed as well.

I remember playing with something similar when we were kids. Of course, it's a lot more 'exciting' in this new avatar - and backed by a TV series as well. Cartoon Network India has authorised Funskool to retail 'beyblades' based on the show's characters. Priced between Rs 149-349, 100,000 units have already flown off the shelves...

Now of course what I bought was not the 'real' beyblade - it was a Chinese rip-off costing 30 bucks. But it works pretty well.

There are actually a large number of variations - even in the 'official' beyblade series - with names like 'Wolborg', 'Dranzer' and 'Dragoon Fighter'. Successful kid fads are always collectibles. That keeps interest alive - and the cash registers ringing.

Collect All
The most recent such craze was, of course, Pokemon cards. But I remember my brother collecting similar cards for racing cars, and cricketers. And when I was really tiny I had an impressive collection of little animals which came free with Cibaca/ Binaca toothpaste...

The right collectible can hugely drive kiddie product sales. At my chachaji's wedding I recall we were the baraatis who ordered Gold Spot after Gold Spot. The drink lay untouched while we kids fought over the Jungle Book 'crown caps'!

Aside: Some of us even fantasised how nice it would be to work as a waiter ... Uske paas kitne crown caps hote honge!

Coming back to beyblades - one of the potato chip companies is already on the bandwagon. They have a little top you can assemble out of 4 cardboard pieces with excellent spinning capability.

If they're smart, the cornflakes, soft drinks and chocolate companies will soon follow!

Bottomline: Kids aren't inherently couch potatos or mouse potatos. They do enjoy physical sport/ activity. The challenge is to re-package all the classic children's games and sports in a manner that appears modern and cool.

It's all about capturing their imagination. Both Harry Potter - which revived interest in books, and Beyblades - which have made a rage out of the simple spinning top - prove that!


  1. Hope its ok to link you on my blog ...
    Good to know that you're trying to help Malli

  2. I lived for return gifts! The worst part of having a birthday party.. the 40 kids got you 35 pencil boxes and 5 water bottles

    :-( I had a terrible childhood.

    I have recurring dreams of being chased by pencil boxes...

  3. As kids we used to play this top thing(bhavra) we used to call it.But unfortunately only the boys used to know to do it and we girls only had to watch as we would not tie the rope properly and the top never used to work with us.

  4. Nice way of writing... Introducing the article with parties and gifts and leading onto talking abt the gifts...

  5. You just reminded me of the days we scavenged for Cadbury's wrappers in Dustbins and Gutters :))

    and the msot scary part of the B'day was everybody at times we asked to perform or sing a poem :((


  6. Aha! Those jungle book crowns.
    We made our dad (and learnt some interaction skills as well :) )talk to waiters of countless eateries which sold soft drinks just for a few more crowns after having the mandatory 1 soft drink.
    We still have those jungle book albums in our house! Dont know if you part of the "funtoon" kwality ice cream craze.

  7. Hey, I read your articles on rediff too! Great to know that u have a nice blog too! :-)

  8. found ur photo here >

    ha ha! you look completely different than what i had expected. ;)

  9. your sense of humour is amazing , posts here are awesome . it looks to have drawn a big inspiration of chetan bhagat,catch-22 and snapshots from hell of humour

  10. i did a research on "why i am not gonna have a girlfriend" .if possible read that ..and would like to have your comments on it ..
    thanks , its in my blog .(very second post)

  11. thak god for smaal thins!!! For a change ther was no feminist rant in this post of yours!!!
    Hope to see similar simple posts in future.

  12. Beyblades! Dragoon! Dranzer! Is there a Black Dranzer variation? I had no idea there were blades out there! Awesome.And they are not simple spinning tops. They are weapons of war. Beyblades are incredibly powerful and are powered by 'bit beasts'.

    ...Yes, I am 17 and crazy about Beyblade. I think these things are important and people should not discourage them. It's what being young is all about. Having fun, being obsessed with something and having more fun with it.

    And writers feel like they make good wives. I'm going to find a girl like you:d

  13. Yeah those things are the craze in my building too. Dumb things kids use to irritate old grannies with. On the other hand, old grannies are irritated with almost anything dumb kids play with.

    I kept getting GK books as my birthday presents. The parents of all my friends thought they would mould my dysfunctional intelligence. Dumb people. The closest thing I ever got to a good present was a chess set, which was both here and there.

    Serves them right if i gave them cheap stationary (a scale with a load of useless holes, two pencils and a rubber) as their return gifts.

  14. nice post

    good to b able to think about childhood, guess i miss it

  15. i didn't know anyone liked pokemon cards anymore.

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  20. when i was a kid, i remember asking the moms of all the frnd's, whos b'days i went for *my* return gift :) btw, this trend is catching up in loads of places now.. had a similar experience in my nephew's b'day in kanpur :O

    other than that... i guess its more of catching the kids attention with interesting stuff, than just letting work on the monotonous crap that comes as a package deal when they start school. what say?

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