Whenever my daughter goes to the community playground, I notice this young girl (same age as my daughter) accompanied by either her grandmother or a new nanny. Yes, every other month, the nanny changes! Her grandmother is a friendly old lady who dresses well and loves gossiping.

Pinky (not her real name) has always intrigued me. She comes to the park dressed in designer wear! Her look will be complete with matching shoes and hair accessories. Sometimes, she also carries a small handbag, mostly a potli. Last week, she was dressed in an orange and gold ghagra choli with orange clips, golden shoes and white socks. For a moment, I reasoned that probably she had gone for a party and came directly to the park or that she had outgrown the dress and so wore it. But it looked like it fit her well and wasn’t worn out. Also, such dresses were part of her regular wardrobe. On earlier occasions, too I had seen her dressing similarly to attend drawing class or dance class. Even when she came to the swimming pool once she was in a frilly two-piece suit! She reminds me of the song by Aqua, I’m a Barbie girl in the Barbie world!

Her clothes always bothered me but that day I began to question myself. Ideally what she wore shouldn’t concern me, but it did! Why?

Because they were ‘inappropriate!’

Why did she wear designer clothes to the playground? Rephrasing, why would her parents or grandmother allow her to wear such clothes to the park where there is sand and stones, kids running about or climbing the monkey bar, pulling at each other’s hair or throwing sand at each other! Most girls came in cotton dresses or long pants or shorts and Ts wearing covered shoes or sneakers or crocs, their hair tied in a ponytail or with a hair band. Pinky looked completely out of place and stood out screaming for attention.

What I really liked about her though was that her clothes never stopped her from having fun like everyone else. That was simply great but whenever I saw her dirtying those clothes, I tensed. Such clothes are rarely washed at home and need to be dry cleaned or else the zari, beads or sequences get spoilt. Did all her clothes get dry cleaned?

Did her designer wear bother me because she’s always so well turned out unlike my daughter who wore jeggings or slacks and a T with her hair tied in a ponytail? My reasoning is that she will be playing in the sand, cycle or run around with her friends, hang from the monkey bar or slide and swing so she should be comfortable. Also by the evening invariable mosquitoes fly about so I would rather have her covered properly. On the assumption that most parents think alike the children come similarly dressed. Wonder what Pinky’s parents thought?

We dress up our child for occasions and that’s what makes dressing up so much fun for them. At 5 years, my daughter has already developed her own sense of style. She likes wearing dresses for birthday parties or jeans and a T for a play date. She loves to wear her hair long with different coloured hair bands. I prefer she wears ethnic clothes during religious ceremonies or weddings in the family. She’s slowly beginning to understand the concept of dressing to suit the occasion. Pinky’s sense of style went against my personal views. If she was always dressed this way then how different did she look during special occasions? Didn’t it feel mundane to always look so proper?

Till date, I’ve seen Pinky’s mother only once. She had come to watch her learn swimming and was impeccably dressed. Perhaps she was going out for work but didn’t look like any other working women. She was fashionably dressed, looked smart and beautiful. Not a single strand of hair was out of place, her sunglasses were perfectly poised on her head, shoes were matched with her clothes. She held her handbag on the crook of her arm with ease. She made me look like a nanny in comparison! Gosh! Was that why I was upset with her daughter?!

But then it struck me, what really irked me about Pinky was that she didn’t look like a child. Even in designer shorts and Ts, her overall appearance took away the childish demeanour. She looked like a young adult! Somehow childhood seemed to pass her by. She didn’t have the playful or dishevelled look that kids usually have.

Was she in such a hurry to grow up? Did playing dress up make her somehow feel superior to the other children? Or was she part of a fantasy world where every day was a perfect day to dress up well? The words ‘life in plastic’ from the song jarred in my ears.

On the assumption that her parents were rarely seen with her, did emulating her mother’s sense of style make her feel close to her?

Or was I just being a prude? Questioning her parents’ parenting style really shouldn’t concern me at all.

(I’m a Barbie girl in the Barbie world was first published on Momspresso (formerly mycity4kids) on August 28, 2017)