Friday, May 27, 2011

Toy Story

A Mandate and A Budget. What could be better? We needed toys and books for the Doon EIC and we had money to burn. I canvassed my friends for suggestions of where to buy what, enlisted Kavita Arora from Children First and Deepa Bhushan from my ancient history and set out on a grey and stormy summer day.

Deep breath. Money to burn.

I had to keep repeating this to myself in an encouraging tone. Money to burn. Lots of money.

For one accustomed to scrounging at yard sales and my siblings' basements for cast-off yet astonishing toys and books, having actual money to spend was thrilling. But also alarming. 76,000 rupees. 76,000. It's harder than you think.

At Store #1, I managed to spend 6,200. All toys.

At Store #2, Eureka (the bookstore for the young) which, by the way, you MUST visit if you have anything to do with children - what a find!!!, I managed another 6,300. But toys are easier to buy than books. Toys you look at quickly and decide. Books! You have to read them. You have to gaze at the pictures and turn the pages and laugh at the jokes and the funny illustrations and THEN decide.

Deepa and I took so long in that shop that Kavita finally had to leave us and go back to work. We could have spent all day there, but we were getting hungry and there was still a lot of money to spend.

By Store #3, post lunch, and with a providential cold front moving in, we got a bit reckless. "Buy both," Deepa said as I vacillated between the ride-on-car that looked like a fire engine and the one that looked like a rabbit. "Why not?"

"A doll house?" Of course.

"Wooden blocks? A baby walker? A wooden train? A tent? A swimming pool?" Oh, why ever not?

But by now, my debit card was acting up. So many demands! My bank detected "Unusual Activity", and, much to the shopkeeper's chagrin, my card was declined.

Oh, the ignominy!

I called Vandana, our accountant, she conferred with the bank and finally informed me that I had a limit of 15,000 per day. "Probably for your own safety," she said gently yet pointedly. (Vandana hates to see anyone - especially me - spending money.)

So I switched to my American debit card, paid the Rs 17,000 and moved on to the next store.

There, we managed to spend Rs 8,500, again on my American card.

By now, even Deepa had to bail out and I was left on my own, still on my mission: EVERY TOY IN DELHI OR BUST. Store #4 had a wonderful collection and a very nice shopkeeper.

But as nice as he was, when my American debit card was declined, he didn't offer to donate the goods.

Oh, no! I had been afraid of this. Every now and then, my American bank forgets that I live in India. They see some crazy person in New Delhi making mad purchases and they swing into action to protect me. I knew there would be an email waiting for me once I reached home: "Suspicious and possibly fraudulent activity has been detected on your account. Contact Bank of America immediately."

Luckily, I had one card left to play - an American credit card. Quickly, quickly, before they could catch me again up to my nefarious and possibly fraudulent activities, I paid for the toys, raced to the wine store for a few bottles to take home and then hopped in the taxi, chuckling just like Santa Claus.

You think I'm joking?


Cathleen said...

This is astounding. Kol ha'kavod! So much money to spend! What fun, what joy! The kids are just going to love the new center. Mazal tov!

Laurie Johnson said...

Jo---I can't think of anyone more deserving of this adventure! Your joy in this windfall just might surpass the kids' delight, but I doubt it! Wonderful!!!!