Wednesday, January 08, 2014

How Mother Goose sneaked into my childhood.

Once upon a time, nearly three score years ago, there used to be a magical shop at the junction of Kalbadevi Road and Princess Street. The name board in all probability read either “Valabhdas Lakhmidas & Co.” or “The Talking Machine & Indian Record Co.”. Maybe, both. This shop, a favourite haunt of musicians and music lovers,  used to sell all manner of musical instruments, phonographs, vinyl records and related paraphernalia. Among the plethora of things on sale was a wind-up toy gramophone with a dark almond-hued leather body and a detachable golden-tinted tone arm made of aluminum. The turntable of this contraption was wobbly. In turn, the sound emanating from the sound box was a tad scratchy and cartoonish-sounding. This did not matter, though. The stack of 7-inch vinyl discs accompanying the wee little phonograph was a bunch of Mother Goose’s handiwork. A nursery rhyme bonanza was my sixth-birthday gift received scant 14 days after His Majesty’s Government received the Quit India ultimatum from Gandhi & Co. delivered at Gowalia Tank. This historic venue, later christened August Kranti Maidan, is, as the crow flies, a kilometer or so away from my childhood residence at 233 Khetwadi Main Road and a couple of kilometers away from that musical corner of Kalbadevi Road and Princess Street. That, boys and girls, is how and when I first heard of Jack and Jill, Little Jack Horner, Hickory Dickory Dock, Little Miss Muffet, Humpty Dumpty, Ol’ King Cole, the Quite Contrary Mary, the other Mary with her Little Lamb, Old Mother Hubbard, Wee Willie Winkie, Little Boy Blue, Three Wise Men of Gotham, Solomon Grundy, The Old Woman in a Shoe, Baby Bunting, Georgie Porgie, Itsy Bitsy Spider, Jack Sprat, Little Bo Peep, Little Boy Blue among others. I became aware of their celebrated eccentricities by and by. Only much, much later did I read the various Freudian and post-modern reinterpretations of Mother Goose’s handiwork that completely strips them of every shred of childlike innocence.