We all love Nursery Rhymes. They are the first songs we learn to sing alone and sing along, and sometimes hear them even before we are born. Each one out of the million likes to be called a ‘Classic’ – with most of them being English (and not surprisingly so since most rhymes are topical references to chapters from British History, of the Jack’s Crown and the London Bridge breaking variety). After about 25 years of my life, I’m back to singing them all over again – as background score for my toddler’s bath, incentives for him to finish his healthier-less tasty of meals, lullabies in the car or cot and sometimes music for his dreams way after he’s fast asleep. I’ve even caught myself humming the peppy ones in the shower, the bathroom adding a nice auditorium effect to my toneless voice not yet spotted as cracked by my son. The toddler brain loves the sweet jingle, and the images of little boys and girls playing in the rain and eating their pies, eggs sitting on walls and cradles rocking in the wind, sheep talking and feathers sticking out from Yankee hats, while all the while himself required only to clap hands and stomp feet, since that’s what you do when you want to show that you are happy and you know it. What else does one need? When feeding, bathing, sleeping, toilet, playing, shopping are taken care of, it’s just the background music that is needed as the final cherry on this sundae. Rhymes are like charms. Means for mind-travel, modes to collective singing and simple ways to be merry – in tune and in step with the do re me fa so la and even te.
However, today my 30-year-old brain found disaster in the most merrily rhythmic. Innocent nodding of head and tapping of feet went out the window and some real questions took their place. The apple from the Tree of Reasonable Knowledge just ripened for me, for as I bit into it, nursery rhymes turned into ogres, witches and worst of all big question marks – real ones and none ready to be killed by the goodness of the good or the handsomeness of the prince. My favorite rhymes are bombarding my mind with the lines between the lines. Forget the pun and the history of them all and just hear the text speak for itself.
There’s ‘Humpty Dumpty’, that good-natured little boy looking like our breakfast served boiled who falls off a wall and no one can fix him. What was he doing there in the first place? Was he punished and forced to sit atop a wall he couldn’t have climbed on his own, since he couldn’t get off on his own? Was the ‘great fall’ a great push from behind? Corporal punishment at school or some strict statute? I wish the books would carry a less cracked less sad image of him. I don’t want my son to stop eating his eggs, just because the one in blue dungarees met his tragic fate. I pray that he’s in a better place now, and forever.
But the ‘Three Blind Mice’ are not in a good place, no sir no way! Why did they have to run after the farmer’s wife for if they couldn’t see they couldn’t have been smitten by her good looks? Or were they blindly in love is what the poet meant? Even worse then, to have your tails cut off with a ‘carving knife’, just because you loved. Oh well, better to have loved and lost (your tails) than never to have loved at all. As I wonder what brand of expensive perfume it was that the farmer’s wife was wearing then, I pray to the good Lord to keep the tailless mice free from ticks and flies, for in that department they rest a little handicapped.
Talking of handicap, I have believed that there is only one disability that makes you a bad person – that of being a bad parent. You are not just spoiling the future generations but needlessly adding to the population explosion with your explosion. The mother duck of ‘5 Little Ducks’ is one such parent. One after the other her own blood and bone keep getting lost ‘over the hills and far away’ and she goes out looking, quacking and hopefully panicking only after all 5 go missing. Really! What kind of mother waits for all her children to be lost before swimming her feathery bottom? Or was it just a pure case of bad mathematics? Inexcusable, but as the supreme powers wished, all 5 return back to her safe and sound. And who can say, maybe they were simply testing her eye sight? Nonetheless, very irresponsible, I tell you!
Also irresponsible is considering one’s own self too responsible sometimes, and ending up breaking basic rules of privacy and decorum. Dear Goosey Goosey Gander had no business wandering into her ‘lady’s chamber’. And even if an old man did come out of her room, what lead her to bite his legs and throw him down the stairs? He could have died! (If he didn’t actually, that is). Just the fact that he did not say his prayers matters not even to the Pope, who retired from his to set a world record, so why bother? Isn’t a woman to enjoy some privacy, no matter how much older the man maybe or how orthodox the animal kingdom surrounding her?
So there, just a handful of examples to sample. I better be off now, for I know Goosey Gander and Mother Duck will come pecking at me at night. Plus, my boy just decided he wants to be Yankee Doodle and I, of course, the pony that takes him to London and sings about it too. Oh well, as long as I don’t need to take care of the London Bridge falling down or frighten the little mouse from under the Queen’s chair, all’s well that rhymes so well and gives me a silly little story to tell!
(First on CNN-IBN Blogs)
(First on CNN-IBN Blogs)