A Barbie for Kashmir

Greater Kashmir

And then in the twinkling of an eye he managed to give Barbie an entirely new ‘modest’ look, complete with a trademark scarf and a totally new expression.

For quite some time now, the rumour had been going strong that a special version of Barbie, the world’s most famous doll, is going to be launched for this part of the world as well. Considering the worldwide popularity of this doll, which has become a status icon, as also the fact that anything with a foreign label is bound to be a sure success, it looked too good a business opportunity to be passed over! I decided to grab all the advantages that an early bird is supposed to have and so catching the first plane out, I went to apply for a franchise or whatever was required.

A smiling executive of the company, Harvard Business School evident in his every gesture and his very appearance, met me for a briefing and a demonstration. “We have launched a new version of Barbie, specifically for your beautiful valley. It has some unique features that are tailored to the local taste and we are sure that it will be a very popular product,” he started his sales pitch.

With a proud, almost reverent look on his face, he took out this ‘special version’ Barbie from its wrappings and started demonstrating and describing its special features. It was really a new look Barbie with almost no resemblance to the original except perhaps for the fringes adorning its forehead.

“There is a special wardrobe that comes free with this. And we have made sure that it has a lot of the local flavor. We have given her an entirely new wardrobe. Lots of dresses, scarves and a few abayas as well. And quite a variety of colours, you see, like green, dark green, light green, plain green, printed green, natural green, unnatural green…!” he said, exhibiting the wardrobe with the dexterity of an accomplished salesman.

“And the most distinct feature of this model of Barbie doll is its special ‘adaptability feature’. You see we are quite aware of the fact that the only consistent thing about the ‘climate’ of your valley is its inconsistency, and I am not speaking about the weather you know!” he said with a sly grin-and-wink.

He then went on to demonstrate the ‘adaptability feature’. A slight bit of manipulation and there was Barbie reclining on a sofa, minus her scarf, looking quite animated. “That’s the modern, cosmopolitan look for universal appeal meant to portray a liberated, charismatic Barbie, a futuristic leader!”

And then in the twinkling of an eye he managed to give Barbie an entirely new ‘modest’ look, complete with a trademark scarf and a totally new expression. “This is the traditional ‘dutiful and sympathetic daughter-of-the- masses’ look which comes useful when Barbie is in an addressing-the-asses mode!” He looked up from the instruction manual that he had been reading aloud and said apologetically, “Looks like a misprint. Should be masses, I think!”

“Now let me show you a feature that has endeared this model in the trial runs and which I am sure will contribute a lot to its mass appeal!” He touched a concealed button, and before you could even say “Barbie’, this Barbie started shedding a virtual torrent of tears! I was so fascinated by this feature that I actually took one of the ‘tear’ drops on my finger and touched it to my tongue!

The Company Executive burst out laughing, and shaking his head said, “No it does not taste like tears, if that’s what you expected! We don’t carry ‘reality’ that far!” He then demonstrated the carefully concealed water tank, which could be refilled with tap water. I couldn’t help admiring their creation. They had indeed thought of every detail!

“Wasn’t the original Barbie supposed to have a boy friend? Ken or something like that?” I asked.

The Executive gave me a warm smile as if I had spoken an intelligent word for the first time. “Yes you are right! But considering the rather ‘conservative’ environment (fearing that I might feel hurt, he hastened to assure me that it surely won’t remain like that for long!) in your part of the world, this Barbie package does not include anything like that!”

He then went on to add, “We decided to come up with an improvisation. This Barbie comes with a ‘Papa’, instead!” He promptly displayed ‘Papa’, complete with a suit and a tie and a rather cute thatch of white hair. “And ‘Papa’ comes with its own additional accessories!” He laid out a box full of various ‘accessories’ as he called them.

It was indeed a beautiful presentation and why not! The products were so fascinating! I was quite impressed to say the least and felt sure that this Barbie package was going to be a roaring success! We finally got around to discussing the price tag and, as I had been apprehending, the Barbie package did not come cheap! “Isn’t that a bit too steep?!” I told the Executive when he mentioned the prices.

“No, not at all! Your people are accustomed to paying a High Price!” he reassured me.

(Truth is mostly unpalatable…but truth cannot be ignored! Here we serve the truth, seasoned with salt and pepper and a dash of sauce (iness!). You can record your burps, belches and indigestion, if any, at snp_ajazbaba@yahoo.com)