If you go shopping to pick a gift for a child, you need to be really sure of whether the child is a boy or a girl.

The cartoons have invaded and they are on a mission like never before : they are flying from space, crawling from undergrowths, and swimming in from the seas to stamp themselves on every bed sheet, towel, toy, stationery they can lay their wings/hands/paws/limb-like extensions on.

Today, I wanted to buy a few toys. For children in the age group, 6-8. My problem was that I was not sure of the gender. You see, I am travelling to my hometown where I am likely to meet friends with kids in these ages. But, I am not sure who all are actually available to meet. So, I wanted to keep the options open.

As things unfolded, I realized there was no hope. Either there was objects with very angry faces and jagged, lightening-like strokes across their boxes. These had been claimed by Ben10, Power Rangers and other such boy-appropriate cartoons. They were all in blue, green or black.

Or, there were toys with wide-eyed, innocent pictures of Barbie, Power Puff Girls or Strawberry Shortcake. These character look sweet and dumb, and hold frilly objects in their hands. They are mostly in yellow and pink.

Of course, there was Hannah Montana for teenage girls. Teenage boys continued to have Ben10 and Power Rangers (we all know they don’t grow up beyond a point).

Now, I was tired and frustrated. Sometimes I would grab a pencil sharpener that looked different, only to find Mickey Mouse on it.

The Minnie sharpener perched next would seem to laugh at me, saying, ‘Gotcha!!’

At other times, I would pick a pack of crayons, peering to check each stick, ‘Is that a picture of a doll dancing on it or is that a man shovelling hay?’

My only hope was Winnie the Pooh. The name ‘Winnie’ seems to be a girl’s name, but then we have heard or men named ‘Vini’ as well. So, we can’t be sure. Actually, this character seems to be of indeterminate gender. S(he) sits around in an overfed state with its good-for-nothing friends. This does seem to point a finger in the direction of a certain gender I do not wish to mention here, since I do not have conclusive evidence. The piece of evidence I am looking for is a remote control in the hand.

Coming back to my angst, why, do we have this gender cleavage at this age?

Can’t we have neutral stuff like pictures of mountains and sunsets and pets on stuff?

What will happen to kids growing up with these toys? Will they grow an extra chromosome in due course – like an XXX girl who has pink frills growing from the edge of her lips and lollypop spirals in her eyes? Or, an XYY boy whose fingers end in gun barrels?

Sigh… where are the good old days when pink and blue were just colors : not id markings for gender?

Ok, time to close now. I have to take Prithvi to the park. On his Barbie doll scooter which Nikki has outgrown….