Ah, said piggy, that’s not fair
Good morning babalok. My name is Dhanji Doomangloomji, vice-chairperson of the Objection Before Subjection Society and this is my friend and colleague Lee Harvey Ambulancechaser of the government’s Counselling for Hurt Feelings Service. We are very happy to have been invited here to the Osama Bin Wahaabi Bradford Primary School.
The world now knows that the subversive conspiracies that exist to bomb trade centres and kill princesses who are about to have babies by Muslim boyfriends have infiltrated your good school and attempted to introduce the reactionary and blasphemous play about three little — dare I say the word? — ‘pigs’ into the drama curriculum. It is bad enough having these unclean creatures as heroes of the yarn, but to attempt to get some of you poor innocents to wear masks and impersonate them is more than an insult to civilisation itself.
There has actually been an outcry in eleven constituencies about this outrage and Tony Blair’s speech of apology to parliament is even now being written by his Multi-ethnic Representation Office and Shilpa Shetty’s publicity managers.
We, Lee Harvey and I, are here in a more humble capacity to monitor your hurt feelings and make sure that no deviant ideological insults and inferences remain in any recess of your mind.To start with, we have prepared for you a very simple demonstration involving three commonly quoted rhymes which I first learnt in my long and happy childhood in Mumbai. It would certainly not be giving the game away to tell you that one of them is deliberately provocative and calculated to insult a minority group. Another is one that may give offence if it falls into the wrong hands. The third is a completely neutral, fictional invention. The game is to guess which is which. They have been ever-so-slightly modified to accommodate modern sensibilities.
a) This little pig went to market
This little pig stayed at residence
This little pig had roast beef
This little pig had none.
And this little pig went wee, wee, wee, wee all the way home.
When I was but a baby, my mother used to say that to me while counting the stubby fingers of my tiny hand while walking hers up my arm to tickle me as the rhyme ended in ‘home’.
And then the next one which I heard in the school playground throughout my boyhood:
b) Parsee, Parsee khekda-khao
Girlfriend bola birth-pills lao
Ek birth-pill kuchcha
Girlfriend key peyt mein bachcha!
And so the third:
c) Baa baa black sheep
Have you any wool?
Yes sir, yes sir, three bags full:
One for my master
One for my dame
One for the fundamentalist
Who is both blind and lame
I am sure babalok, that you have not only heard these before, but inspired by the brand-new world awareness, have spotted which is which.
And so to the answers. Ready Lee?
The first one, (a), is the completely neutral one. The second one (b) is calculated to wind up the minority community of Parsees and tease them about their crab-eating and routinely unwitting procreation. The third is, of course, a possibly innocuous composition which may be seen as insulting to sheep and recommending their exploitation, as the poor specimen in the rhyme is definitely sheared versus his will and compelled to give away his wool to parasitical beneficiaries.
But wait! No prizes yet for the correct combined solution! There are depths of interpretation we haven’t plumbed.
Suppose, just suppose, my dear babalok, the first rhyme was being used in the primary School in Neasden attached to the shiny brand-new Hindu temple there. Can you see anything wrong with that?
Yes, Abdul, quite so. Hindus may be offended by the fact that one of the pigs is eating roast beef.
Yes, William, very good — feeding beef to pigs may give them mad cow disease and children should not be brainwashed into believing that this is a natural practice. Excellent, so we have two objections already to….
What was that Kiran? That the last piglet was obviously incontinent and had to relieve himself in his pants as he ran home? No, I think ‘wee, wee, wee’ alludes to the sound he makes as he runs, rather than any weakness of the bladder—but I can see that people who suffer incontinence could take it the wrong way, so yes…
And now what about (b), the obviously and intentionally offensive one?
Yes, Medha — the Parsees shouldn’t be offended because the rhyme is obviously just a warning versus counterfeit pharmaceuticals? Good.
What’s that Monica? Your uncle had a girlfriend who got pregnant just like that so it’s a very novelistic situation. Great! We are really getting on.
And yes Zadie, the sheep may of course be a girl, so it’s very sexist. But whatever the gender, this transaction of bags of wool is obviously intended to punish black people.
William, your hand’s up. Ah! I agree. The poor old blind and lame fundamentalist should legitimately be getting bags of wool from the state instead of the sheep so that he can live happily and continue with his important work.
What we have demonstrated, babalok, is that nothing is what it seems to be. On close examination the innocent are always guilty and there is a good case to be made out for banning everything. We have been running a campaign this past year to stop footballs being made of pigskin because this stops certain countries, whose players don’t want to touch the remnants of a dead pig, from playing in the World Cup. Discrimination again. When we’ve finished with football and these offensive nursery rhymes we’ll get to the Bible—several offensive stuff there about pigs— Gadarene swine and the rest of it, and then get to Homer and of course to history. Never fear…
Oi! What’s going on? Sit down Vidia! You, Socrates, what’s the problem? Quieten down. Galileo, my God! What are you throwing benches for? Arrey khamosh bachcheylok! Meri baat toom lok kyon nahin soontai?
Babaloks! Ouch! You are hurting more than my ideological sensibilities. What was that Martin? Free speech? Absurd! This rioting will get you nowhere! Aaaaaargh…!
Or Ding dong, as they say in video games when the monster is zapped.