Chicago Blues

This blog is an online repertoire of my columns that run in the Indian Express, North American edition. Here I rave and rant about life, mostly as seen from the large vistas of my little world.

Location: Chicago, United States

Friday, December 21, 2007

Of Cheap Bulks, Hip Hulks, and Related Toys.

With all the manner of statutory warnings and recalls for children’s toys to be taken off the shelves this festive season, I was pleasantly surprised to note the debut of Hanuman and other great Indian epic heroes in figurine form. I mean, I’d heard of animation films on Lord Ganesha and others, but the idea of a dapper, monkey-faced demigod standing tall in a GI Joe-esque pose was rather unforeseen, even in this day and age.

Kridana, a Pennsylvania-based start-up has triggered more than curiosity and fascination with its new line of epic comics and action figures, and is all set to move on from Rama and Hanuman to the evil, ten-faced Ravana next year. While it is hard to imagine our very own little tykes acting out their pretend-wars with an angry-faced Hanuman and a bow-and-arrow stringing Rama as opponents (at least until Ravana makes a smashing entry) under the big tree or hanging mistletoe this Christmas, one wonders if it will be long before Indian festivals, like Dasara are celebrated with these action figures in tow, adorning the displays.

Sometime last week, in the throes of the toy hazard fiasco, I caught snatches of a television news telecast where an average American family was trying to find things (mostly in the spirit of gift-buying for the holidays) that were not made outside the US; or not made in China, more precisely. And unsurprising as it may seem, they couldn’t find a thing. So the question raised was - were the bulk of the toys coming from outside the US? And was it that the cost-effectiveness of the manufacturing practice was unable to provide adequate safety?

Curiously enough, I found, upon further prying, that there were certain items on the recall list that bore the forbidding tag, “Made in India.” The products - children's rings embellished with metallic dice or horseshoes, imported by a company in Baltimore, were reported as having high levels of lead content. Surprised? Well you wouldn’t be if you had been worn-out from scrolling down bottomless web pages with the over-accessed information on toy recalls. I mean, if Sony can recall a category of AC adapters that were sold with the Slim Version PlayStation-2 Systems, then it wouldn’t be as much hair-raising to note that low-cost products that were streamed in from outside the US would be on the list. Yet, to come across something of this order can be disgraceful, being an Indian in these shores; worse, if one has randomly picked out similar things albeit unknowingly as stocking stuffers or birthday party favors to gift to other children.

The company website for Kridana claims high safety standards - that not only satisfy children’s health and safety levels, but are also environmentally friendly. They further aver that their dedication to the initiative is so genuine that they have gone to great lengths in the inspection procedures for their products, and even display their inspection results on the website.

While that is rather commendable and is something of value that makes us chin up, one can’t be too sure that Hanuman’s “gada mace” would be thought of in the same vein as GI Joe’s “9mm with drop down holsters.” Then again, GI Joe’s “Mountain Scout” could turn unimpressive when Kridana’s hip and sassy Hanuman lifts him high up in the air, along with his mountain!


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