Toys and Books are for Sharing - Not Hoarding

February 12, 2018

God has given us two hands - one to receive with and the other to give with. We are not cisterns made for hoarding; we are channels made for sharing.” - Billy Graham (b1918), American Christian evangelist.

As a working and free-lance journalist since 1960s I had to perforce books sent for review. In course of time I found my small flat in Bombay clogged with books and I felt that I was a hoarder of books which could enlighten and delight readers at large. Then, on my trips to Mangaluru, I would bring dozens of books in cardboard boxes and present the lot to the well-stocked library of St Aloysius College, my alma mater and first employer as a lecturer. Now I live in a cottage and there is no dearth of space..Also, many help me by borrowing my books and not returning them.

But, I had no difficulty in dealing with toys and dolls because I had no means to buy them when my first-born, Primrose (Prima) came along in 1971. That tryst (or is it non-event?) of mine with toys is a story by itself.

I never had a chance to play with dolls like other kids. I started working when I was six years old. – Billie Holiday, American jazz singer (1915-1959).

I didn’t start working at six. But, my childhood in a village setting with miles to walk to school and back had no slot for toys or games. But, when Prima was growing, my late wife, Lynette, and I had desire to pamper her with toys but no means to realise it. Living in a small flat in “posh” Colaba in downtown Bombay, all we could do to keep Prima engaged was to walk on Colaba Causway and visit Gateway Garden. That was the time when we could hardly end the month without bridge loans from obliging friends after stretching our individual monthly salaries of much below the then proverbially respectable four figures.

So, Prima had to be satisfied looking at the toys and dolls displayed in the massive show-room windows of posh stores on the Causeway. It was a frustrating experience. But, I had a hunch that Prima discerned the situation and reconciled to it. She didn’t bother us about buying toys so temptingly flaunted in the glass-fronted show-windows.

Then, the company I worked for sent me on a business trip to the Gulf. While my minimalist expenses were looked after by it, I could hardly garner, in those days of tight foreign exchange regime, any money for the expensive toys which my Gulf destination displayed in its posh stores. Foregoing some personal expenses, I could buy a walkie-talkie doll, 18" tall, battery-operated, named Catherine. When I landed at the Santa Cruz airport at sunrise, carrying the doll tenderly, with visions of delighting Prima, I was rudely stopped by the Customs man with a demand for Rs 500 as Customs Duty for the doll. I just had only enough money left for taxi fare to Colaba which in those days was about Rs 30.


The Customs man melted feeling my mental turmoil. He advanced me Rs. 500 to pay the duty and said I could return the money later. I still remember his name as Radhakrishna. By sunset, I borrowed the money and travelling by train and bus and repaid the money – which probably he didn’t expect.

So, Catherine the doll started strutting about our modest drawing room with a pleasant call for Prima: “My name is Catherine. I am ready. Are you ready?” This went on till the battery mechanism gave way and Prima herself got bored with it. Then the doll was mothballed as I had no heart to throw it or give it away. Then I could imagine it mournfully singing: “I am a wall flower ...nobody is holding me tight...”

Along the way and over the years I have visited many homes, specially with Gulf connections, and seen many expensive, sophisticated toys. Like me, they also mothballed their toys even as their children grew beyond their toy-age, got married and flew the coop. But, the toys are hoarded for their sentimental value. Finally, they were consigned to the garbage bin during frenzied spring-cleaning in space-starve flats. Against this setting, the image of Prima longingly looking into Colaba Causway show-windows and my distress in not being able to buy any, stayed with me ever since.

That is the provocation, or rather inspiration, for my initiative, strongly supported by Prima, Mohan (our son, six years junior to Prima, who preferred to play in the Wodehouse church compound rather than with toys) and many other enlightened well-wishers, for starting Johnlyn Toy Exchange and Book Bank in Mangalore. We have set aside and refurbished our outhouse in Johnlyn Cottage compound to host the toy collection and distribution operation.

It aims to collect toys in good condition from those who have mothballed them after their children outgrew them (The Haves) for those children who can only dream about them (The Have-nots). With full support from Prima, Mohan and many others, we have set the scene for the Toy Exchange with the fond hope that it will bring the Haves and Have-nots into a sustained bond. I welcome involvement of generous people of goodwill in donating/collecting toys so that I can seek out and identify the deserving donees in orphanages and balashrams without hurting their dignity or self-respect. This will involve visiting orphanages, Bal Bhavans and more. These poor, neglected kids will have something to fondly hug and have a sense of ownership.

The Toy Exchange and Book Bank was launched on January 27, 2018 with Dr V Ravichandran, founder and head of Diya Systems as Chief Guest and Vathika Pai, President, Kanara Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Walter Nandalike, founder and Managing Director of Daijiworld Group doing the honours. Fr Vinod Lobo, Assistant Parish Priest of Bondel parish and a strong supporter of the toy-book project blessed the newly refurbished premises hosting toys and books in transit. Twelve children, four each from three institutions, with escorts, attended the launch function and were presented the first batch of assorted toy hampers. Their joy is beyond description.

I can go on with this subject; but would rather conclude with two telling comments on toys.

I look at other people's lives, and some people feel like they're too old to play with toys. But I still go through the toy section at the store, 'cause there were toys that I wanted when I was little that I couldn't have. So I still get them.- Kevin Gates (b1986), American rapper and singer.

Every kid has a toy that they believe is their best friend that they believe communicates with them, and they imagine it being alive, their toy horse or car or whatever it is. - Henry Selick (b1952), American stop motion director, producer and writer,


Timings of Johnlyn Toy Exchange and Book Bank

Those who wish to donate are welcome to visit Johnlyn Cottage, Vijaya Bank Lane, near Bondel Bus Terminus (about 250 metres east of Airport Road) during working hours on all days of the week while books will be issued, without any deposit or service fee, on all Sundays and public holidays between 9 am and 12 noon and 3 pm and 6 pm.

Children’s books will be given away for good along with toys while visiting and presenting toy hampers to all children residing in the targeted institution.

M: 98862 76608


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By John B Monteiro
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Comment on this article

  • B.D'costa, M'lore

    Sat, Feb 17 2018

    Keep up the good work, well my kids had so many toys well they used to be everywhere all around the house and collecting them used to be a chore at the end of the day and when my kids outgrew them I used to donate them but some especially the soft toys I couldn't part with they were still stored up and for Christmas I used to get them down to decorate the house if I knew then of your toybank I would have given them to you so u could distribute them , well my kids are grown up now but I still have some here too, I think its time to give them too

  • John B. Monteiro, Bondel Mangalore

    Sat, Feb 17 2018

    Thank you for your messages of appreciation and encouragement which have heartened me and my associates.
    Contrary to my uncertain expectations, I am floored by the avalanche of toys and books, nearly all of them in mint condition. My original outhouse assigned to host these being overflowing I have now opened a second outhouse dedicated to this project. I continue to receive the bounty not only from Mangaluru but also from Mysuru, Bangaluru and Mumbai. I am collecting such parcels from the local offices of the carriers.
    Following a very supportive feature article, with good visuals, in Kannada daily Vijayavani, which has editions across Karnataka, I had string of telephones from cities and towns in Karnataka with offers of toys and books. Knowing the logistics constrains of sending and collecting parcels, I suggested that they present their stock to children’s homes in their locality. The list of such institutions caring for children on residential basis is available in district and taluk offices in the department of women and child welfare. Iuggest that such prospective donors should take this route without foreclosing their sending the consignments to Johnlyn by lorry/bus parcels if they are substantial. I will have them collected at the Mangaluru end.
    Our first program of toy distribution is scheduled for February 25 at the children’s home in Bondel (Charity starts at home?) when 34 children, aged 7 to 17, will receive the goodwill bounties from the haves to have-nots. There is no limit to the flow of bounty between these two. Please keep doing your bit. We are only happy mediators. My daughter Prima and son Mohan, who had backed my venture to the hilt, are thrilled by the response for which Daiji has played a critical role with its generous projection.

  • Dr Mohan Prabhu, LL.D, QC, Mangalore (Kankanady)/Ottawa, Canada

    Fri, Feb 16 2018

    Great to read these memoirs and the toy exchange.
    I was born in another era (Depression years) and no one in my neighbourhood, including some wealthy ones, ever had toys in those days. Toy companies didn't exist to ramp up children's dreams and goad parents to pamper them.

  • Rita, Germany

    Fri, Feb 16 2018

    I appriciate your work and thinking.Good work.As I brought some toys to give to children ,to my big dismay parents were keeping the toys in the Almeira to preserve it ,not to spoil,I said to them ,give them these toys to play .This is the time to play.when they grow up ,they have no time and interest to play with dolls.when we urged to give ,they gave ,but later they wandered again in Almeira ,children had to wonder only by seeing.So are we as parents who keep things carefully to show others what we have things from". Foreign, "Poor children have to admire it ,but not play.

  • Prescilla Fernandes, Mangalore

    Wed, Feb 14 2018

    Your innovative ideas in action are praiseworthy. What have you done to the kids is exemplary. The joy of the receiver is more than the giver. I wish you all the best in your venture. You , at this age keep young at heart and spirit, will inspire many of us.

  • Dr Urban D'Souza, Professor & Head, Faculty of Medicine Malaysia, Udyavar/Malaysia

    Mon, Feb 12 2018

    Great work. Keep up your spirit, great thinker and educator to all
    Dr Urban

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