Gunjan still plays with her doll. It is ridiculous; I make fun of her, taunt her, and laugh at her all the time. She is taller than Mother and nearly as tall as Papa but she still has that doll tucked tightly between her hands and waist. Minutes after she carefully lays her doll in its cot as if the doll would wake up if you’re not careful enough. I am beside there kicking my feet in the air, laughing at Gunjan. Mother comes and brings me up to my feet, yes, she nags and shakes her dainty little index finger at me and then she sighs and gives up. It just makes me smile more. And I love having Gunjan by herself, when she is so vulnerable. You take her doll away and put it on top of the cupboard, she’ll cry there for hours. The funny part is, she is just tall enough to reach the doll. But that’s Gunjan, she’d rather sit with her hands pulling at her hair and crying for the doll than tiptoe on her feet to bring the doll back.
Like I do.
This one time I found Gunjan in front of Mother’s mirror with lipstick making a clown’s smile on her face. It was one terrible sight but the thing with Gunjan is, she looks at me with that half-scared and half-amused look on her face that makes every disaster so funny that I can’t help but hoot with laughter. And since I cannot help it, it is certainly not my fault that Mother comes rushing absolutely knowing what she is going to see. Oh then, Mother grabbed her by her arms tightly and gave her a good shaking. I laughed because to and fro is sort of giddy. I laughed harder because Gunjan’s hair was all over the place- on her face, on her shoulders, in the air. Bottles of perfume, lipsticks, lotion cases and make-up boxes flew over heads. I screamed then but not because I was scared like Gunjan was. Mother said that she was sick of Gunjan but she cradled her in her arms again and rocked her silently.
I cannot understand her at all.
Gunjan feeds her doll even though the mouth is but a black thread sown across her face. The oatmeal and milk dribbles down the doll’s already filthy clothes, to Gunjan’s skirt then to mine. It sometimes makes me so mad that I tip the bowl all over the doll. Gunjan does the same but for a different reason. She does it when she scolds the doll for not eating. The doll used to have a white dress but now that Gunjan bathes it almost everyday in her breakfast, it is yellowish brown now. Her hair used to be soft, brown and curly but now it is frail and frizzy.
But Gunjan carries it with her all the time.
Mother had tried getting rid of it once. I told her that Gunjan would be very angry if she did but Mother was determined to get rid of it. Nobody does listen to me, do they? Gunjan threw a wild tantrum. She threw herself on the ground like a mad person. I felt really bad for her. I told Mother again and again that she should return the doll to Gunjan or else she would probably die. Gunjan got her doll back but whenever I want something from her, I threaten to burn her doll. She clutches her doll like I would carry out the threat that very instance. I told you, it is very funny.
Gunjan is not wrong though.
Gunjan is older than Mother because she is taller than her. How can that be so? She still plays with her doll. She talks to it all the time. Even in my presence they carry out conversations. I can, of course, never hear the doll reply ‘don’t leave me.’ But I do hear Gunjan tutting at the doll, explaining that she has to go get dressed for a party. I can also see her say, ‘okay, okay, there is no need to cry now, there, there.’ And carry the doll away as if it actually has a weight. Oh dear, she can be a darling at times. Did I ever mention that Gunjan is very pretty? She has these huge eyes, brown curls that she rests on the window sill. Last week, or was it last month? Well, Gunjan had her birthday and Mother made the best sandwiches ever. I ate mine and the doll ate Gunjan’s. It was okay, Gunjan said, because she didn’t feel hungry then. I thought that was pretty stupid of her so I made fun of her. And also made her cry on her birthday. I threw the doll in the little fishpond we have behind our house.
I ruined my perfect white dress.
Gunjan still has the doll.
Mother comes. Gunjan is telling on me. I want to tell on her too but I don’t want her to lose the doll.
‘Gunjan. Gunjan! Where do you have it? Give it to me, this instance.’
‘I don’t have it.’
‘Where is it?’
‘Gunjan’s got it.’
Mother searches me impatiently.
Mother puts her hand in my pocket and takes away that piece of mirror too.
‘Good riddance, Gunjan and her stupid doll’.
‘I cried because she wouldn’t give me my doll. I would run to tell Mum on her. Then I would turn back because she’d get the doll down from the cupboard. I hope she gets her punishment too; Mum is always shaking her dainty fingers at me.
Gunjan threw my doll in the fishpond behind our house. I cried for it for an hour or so. Gunjan would just laugh louder so I ran to the pond myself. But she was such a dear; she ruined that white dress for me. I got my doll back. I fed it as I watched Gunjan dry her pretty brown curls on the windowsill.
I wiped my tears. I feared the food would get salty and soggy. It is my daughter’s birthday. My daughter, my only daughter, how pretty she looks with her brown hair on the sill. I cannot cope up with it anymore. My daughter, she laughs tyrannically to herself and cries madly. I had hoped to bring her up as such a lady. And she still plays with her dolls. Gunjan still plays with her dolls.
I had carried the tray outside. Below the huge tree sat my dear daughter talking to herself in the little mirror she carried. The same mirror that she carried along with her doll. The mirror and the rag of a doll, she always walks around with. Tears welled in my eyes again. I had gone back to the kitchen. Through the window I suddenly saw Gunjan throw her doll in the fishpond and I was somewhat relieved to see the last of that doll but suddenly she herself jumped after it some time later. I screamed.
I got rid of the mirror but the window is still there and so is the pond.
I cannot answer. I am a doll.