At 82, Vidya Stokes still loves collecting dolls

By Vishal Gulati, IANS,

Shimla : She is an octogenarian, but still a child at heart as far as dolls go. Former Himachal Pradesh minister Vidya Stokes’ collection has not just Barbies but also rare ones handpicked from across the globe. Some of her collection will now be showcased at the International Dolls Museum in Chandigarh.

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Stokes, 82, a Congress leader, a long-time administrator of whomen’s hockey and former deputy speaker in the state, has been collecting dolls since childhood. At one point she had as many as 150, but as she has gifted most of them away, many to special children, there are only 30 left with her.

“Some of my collection of dolls will now be showcased at the International Dolls Museum in Chandigarh.”

Stokes said the dolls gifted to the Chandigarh museum were procured from Canada, Japan, China, the US, France, Germany, Indonesia, Malaysia and Australia and some of them were more than 40 years old.

“It was a chance meeting with the officer-in-charge of the dolls museum at a function in Chandigarh last month. After the function, he took me to the museum and requested me to gift some dolls. This week I have sent 11 dolls to them,” she said.

Stokes, who was power minister in Himachal Pradesh from 2003 to 2007, never failed to buy dolls during her visits abroad. “I was a frequent traveller across the globe, especially Europe, with my late husband (Lal Chand Stokes) in the late 1960s and early 70s.

“On every trip, I used to collect small dolls despite my husband’s objections that I am wasting the money. At that time, I was planning to set up a doll museum at my residence,” Stokes told IANS.

Stokes met with a disappointing response from the local authorities when she proposed the setting up of a doll museum in Shimla.

“For quite some time I have been requesting the local authorities to open a dolls gallery in Shimla to exhibit my collection, but they have not shown any interest. So I have started gifting the dolls to special children.

“Now, I have around 30 dolls left and all these have been displayed at my residence in Shimla,” said Stokes, who is also a prominent apple cultivator. “I want to pass on the collection to my grandchildren, who stay in the US,” she added.

Of course, Shimla’s loss has been Chandigarh’s gain.

The International Dolls Museum in Chandigarh, established in 1985 by the administration, is one of the best museums in the country. It houses about 250 splendid dolls and puppets from all over the world.

“We have received the dolls gifted by Stokes. These will be displayed in the museum soon. We are preparing the chronology, history and origin of the dolls,” said P.C. Sharma, officer-in-charge of the museum.

The tourism department of Himachal Pradesh has also agreed to gift bridal dolls depicting hill culture to the Chandigarh museum. “We are gifting dolls of various districts to the museum to showcase the tradition of the hill state,” Director of Tourism Arun Sharma said.