Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Sashi? Who she?

Do you remember the nursery rhyme “Where are you going to, my pretty maid”? It’s the basis of my possibly first ever (totally unintended) joke, when I was maybe 9 or 10 years old. (This was when we were living in Tanzania.) I was hanging out with girls who were much older than me. These goddesses were between 14-17 years old, and they were rehearsing for the Indian Association’s annual “get-together” in Dar es Salaam, when a variety of performances were staged by children and adults throughout the day.

Anyway, I was at that awkward age where I didn’t fit in with the little children (in my opinion) nor with the older ones (in their opinion) and in any case I wasn’t taking part in anything. The only reason I was even in the room was because the mothers had decided to put me with the older girls with instructions to be quiet and not disturb their rehearsal.

I more than willing to be quiet – it was thrilling just to be there because I considered these teenagers to be impossibly sophisticated. And so it proved, because after I was sworn to silence about everything they did or said, they proceeded to talk about exciting (and sometimes puzzling) things - the latest fashion, the latest Hindi movie dance steps, shaving the hair from their arms and legs, boys who were considered flirty, and so on. After a good bit of gossip and giggling, the girls finally began to rehearse their programme – three of them were “men”, the other three were milkmaids, and they sang the nursery rhyme “Where are you going to, my pretty maid” as a duet.

I hadn’t heard this before, and after the first session, I turned to the nearest milkmaid and asked, puzzled, “Who is *Sashi?”

She looked just as puzzled and said “What do you mean, who is Sashi?”

“You all were singing it - “I’m going amilking **Sashi said”,” I explained.

Her face cleared and she started laughing.

“It’s not “Sashi said”, it’s “SIR she said”!” she explained, before asking me to repeat to the others what I’d said. There was a lot of laughter, but luckily the girls chose to see my question as funny rather than stupid, and even praised my sense of humour. It was a heady feeling, being “accepted” in the older group. It was an even headier feeling when I got a lot of laughs from the adults later that evening while we were watching the performers go through the rehearsal in public, and I trotted out my ignorant question as a deliberate joke.

I’ve never forgotten that day, or the rhyme, or the melody.

*In my defence, I knew a girl called Sashi.

**And in my further defence, that’s how “sir she” sounded to me when the girls sang their line, repeating "sir she said" three times as per the tune to which it was set.


Kamini said...

I tried saying "sir she said" three times, and it came out as..."shashi shed" alcohol involved!
I know exactly the warm thrill of being accepted by the older group.

ummon said...

hahaha, you know this is the ONLY song i sing to my kids. that i think i manage without making an ass of myself.
tonight i will sing 'sashi' said.

Teesu (very very Indian, very very good) said...

Nice blast from the past. Yes, being accepted is important:)