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mid-day 38th anniversary: Three Mumbai millennials talk about their childhood treasures

Three millennials dip into their iconic toy and book treasures to relive a childhood of hoarding what are now collector's items

mid-day 38th anniversary

The Polly Pocket Princess
Kamakshi Ayyar, 27, freelance writer 'Everybody had a Barbie, but these were rare'

Kamakshi Ayyar with her collection of Polly Pockets. Pics/Sayyed Sameer Abedi
Kamakshi Ayyar with her collection of Polly Pockets. Pics/Sayyed Sameer Abedi

Kamakshi Ayyar was seven when she first saw an ad for Polly Pockets on television. She wanted one for myself, but, they weren't available in India. Her heart set on the pocket-sized dollhouses holding inhabitants only an inch tall, she waited for a family member to travel overseas. "I pleaded with my father to bring me back one. He did, and I think that opened the floodgates," she laughs.

Owning a Polly Pocket in the '90s was a matter of pride. Everyone had Barbies, but these pint-sized beauties were rare. "After that, every single trip dad or my aunt took abroad yielded in yet another addition to my collection. I now have 11," she says.

Her favourite is one that opens up into a lotus and holds a tiny spray fountain. Another is themed on The Hunchback of Notre Dame, from the Disney series.
"The Disney set is one of the biggest in my collection.

It features the cathedral, the marketplace, a light-up canopy, and all the characters from the movie — Quasimodo, Esmeralda, Frollo, Clopin and Phoebus."

The freelance writer stopped collecting Polly Pockets when the company changed hands in the 2000s, and the new dolls lacked the charm of the earlier ones. "There are a few collectors who are selling pieces from the '90s, but the asking price is very high," she says.

The Gi Joe Army Commander
HarshVardhan Raghav, 29, animator 'Some rare ones now re-sell at Rs 8000 a piece'

Harshvardhan Raghav has over 200 GI Joes and related accessories, including their vehicles, in his collection
Harshvardhan Raghav has over 200 GI Joes and related accessories, including their vehicles, in his collection

Harshvardhan's Raghav's father was a strict man. This meant the little boy wouldn't easily get permission to go down and play. Vardhan would instead spend time at home imagining a fantastical life with GI Joes.

The toys became the New Delhi resident's best friends. He had 16 GI Joes until four years ago. But, by then, he had started working and was free to spend his money on what he liked. "I built my collection slowly," says the 2D animator, who is now the proud owner of over 200 figures and accompanying paraphernalia.

However, for him, it's not the numbers, but the collection's quality that matters. He may not have the largest collection in the country, but he owns pieces that are hard to come by. "I got lucky. A few years ago, I bought a Clutch GI Joe for R250. Today, the same piece could cost close to Rs 8,000. Some other pieces that were common back then, like Hawk, Gung Ho and Lady Jaye, are now rare," he says.

Raghav also founded Indian Toy Collectors on Facebook, a group whose members share pictures of their new action figures, and buy and sell older ones. Last year, Raghav even made a documentary, titled Indian Toy Collectors, on a few of his ilk from across the country. "I'm now good friends with some of them," he shares.

The Comic Book Collector
Abhijeet Kini, 34, graphic novelist: 'I must have around 600 comics from back then'

Abhijeet Kini with some of his '90s memorabilia, including comics, toy cars and action figures. Pic/Suresh Karkera
Abhijeet Kini with some of his '90s memorabilia, including comics, toy cars and action figures. Pic/Suresh Karkera

Abhijeet Kini has been collecting comics, action figures and dozens of other knick-knacks for as long as he can remember. "I got my first comic, a Tintin, around 1989. Then came the Asterix, MAD magazines, Tinkle and everything else."

The Santacruz resident considers himself lucky because his parents never dissuaded him from picking up something he liked. "I'd accompany dad to the raddiwala (old paper mart) and return with MAD magazines. They weren't available in India in the '90s, except at these places. I must have about 600 comics or more dating back to that decade." This obsession, Kini says, is what put him on the path to becoming an illustrator. Today, he is the proud creator of the popular Angry Maushi comics, and his works are published across media.

Kini's tendency to hold on to things goes beyond his love for illustrated panels. For a blast from the past, step into his bedroom. Here, every cupboard is bursting with memorabilia from the late '80s and '90s, together with a few recent finds. "A lot of brands used to offer small gifts as part of their promotions. So, I ended up with Fido Dido stickers, tazos, flick books and other bits and bobs," he says, adding that he would also collect He-Man action figures, matchbox cars and WWF trump cards.

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