My two-year-old daughter is obsessed with ‘The Wheels on the Bus’. I don’t use the word ‘obsessed’ lightly. She wakes up in the morning singing the song, and puts herself to sleep at night singing it again. Even as I write this, it’s playing on continuous loop on the iPod dock so she’ll let me use my laptop and not demand that I play ‘wheeshondabash’ for her on Youtube instead.
Youtube, of course, is the ultimate enabler for a song-obsessed toddler. There are approximately 5000 versions (a conservative estimate) of this song on there, and my daughter listens to them all. Her favourite way to do that is on her grandma’s iPad, and she’ll hop-skip-jump from one version to the next until the iPad is taken away (accompanied by heartbreaking sobs and huge tears, naturally). She expertly navigates the endless list of videos, choosing, playing, pausing, repeating. She listens to a German version, a Korean version and a Spanish or Portuguese version, the Barney version and the Mother Goose Club version, and a version which randomly has vocals by Roger Daltrey of The Who (I can’t decide if that’s super cool or the ultimate sell out). Atrocious singing, miserable animation, ridiculous lyrics (“the gas on the bus goes glug glug glug”… I mean, seriously?) – none of that deters her, though it can drive the adults in the room to want to smash something, usually the laptop/iPad/iPod.
But technology isn’t a necessity. Sometimes all that’s needed is her battered little “Wheels on the bus” board book, which she carries with her as she goes round and round (no pun intended) the house singing. As a Tamil saying goes, if that book had a mouth, it would cry. It’s usually dragged around by one page, the rest dangling forlornly, the binding giving little by little every day. At other times, mom’s (dad’s, thatha’s, or paati’s) vocal chords are called into service, and we’re ordered to sing wheeshondabash for her (our reward is seeing her smile beatifically as she follows along doing all the requisite actions).
There was a time when she would daintily sing ‘Twinkle twinkle little star’ and ‘Row row row your boat’ and ‘Baa baa black sheep’ upon request when we went visiting or when people dropped in. Now any such request is firmly rebuffed with a “No! Wheeshondabash!” and she’ll proceed to give a neverending rendition with all the stanzas from various versions cobbled together. So it isn’t just wipers going swish swish and horns going beep beep, but also, in no particular order:
– Doors going open and shut
– Lights going on and off
– Money going ding, ding, ding
– People going up and down / bumpity bumpity bump / ha-ha-ha
– Babies going wah-wah-wah
– Mummies going shush-shush-shush
– Mummies going I-love-you
– Monkeys going ooh-ooh-aah-aah
– Drivers going move-on-back
– And of course, gas going glug-glug-glug
When you consider how much repetition there already is in this dratted song, this is a long, long list. The visitors usually start out listening with wide ‘how-sweet’ smiles, and then as we progress along the list, the smiles start getting a bit fixed, and you can almost hear them thinking, ‘Ok, when is this going to finish so we can actually have a conversation again?’ (especially when she takes a deep breath and starts again from the top). Meanwhile, I keep trying other suggestions, including the equally addictive ‘I love you’ from Barney, but it’s all met with the firm, “No! Wheeshondabash!”. And really, there’s no answer to that.
But recently she’s taken it to a whole new level. Those of you who’ve read this post know that she’s already like ‘this’ with the umachis in the house. Now she’s taken to singing wheeshondabash for them, while hanging out before the pooja area. During the recent spate of festivals, her grandma and I tried singing bhajans, but found ourselves drowned out by the Bus Bhajanai. Any attempts to teach her more…er… appropriate slokhas and songs have utterly failed. When we took her to the temple the other day for Ganesh Chathurthi, she treated the amused audience there too to a loud and clear rendition. What Pilliyar thought of wheeshandabash we don’t know; but at least she chose a day when he was well appeased with kozhukottais.