For a couple of years, before he was transferred out of Trivandrum, Achan used to pick Gingi and me up from school on his way back home after work.
One evening – I must have been in 4th or 5th standard then – I was waiting for Achan in the company of my batchmate, Amina. Now, Amina was a multitasker.
She was also swinging her water bottle by its sling like a helicopter blade and having fun while waiting for her folks.
The water bottle went round and round like an unstoppable force until it met an immovable object – my face. There was blood everywhere and a nice cut on my lower lip. I don’t remember what immediately followed. I think Gingi came, held me under a pipe, and cleaned me up.
My lip was still stinging, so I kept blowing on it and suddenly I discovered I could whistle. What then followed was probably an incredibly annoying time for my family. I wouldn’t stop whistling. It was foo foo time, day and night. Thank you, Amina.
There was this one time I stood on our verandah and Gingi walked out to the road, some 30 metres away, to see how loudly I could whistle. And she could hear me from there. But what really gave me confidence was when Achan came out as my cheerleader.
During one of those daily 30-minute power cuts, a year or two after the water bottle incident, I was chumma sitting somewhere and whistling ‘Tum Paas Aaye’ in all glory. Once I was done Achan burst out of the darkness from somewhere, applauding. I wasn’t just loud. I could whistle tunes as well now.
Many more years later, when I was in 12th std., I was sitting in an empty classroom with my friends and having breakfast. We used to reach school early after tuition classes in the morning and just loiter until school started. Absent-mindedly I started whistling.
A couple of minutes later my Maths teacher appeared at the door. She was taking an extra class early in the morning and she was pissed. I apologised profusely because I had no intention to disrupt anything. But then she said she was going to complain to my mother and that girls shouldn’t whistle.
It so happened that, at that time, Amma was also taking a few classes at my school for folks who were preparing for the medical entrance examination. So sooner than later my Maths teacher ran into her at school.
That evening Amma came home and described the events. Here’s a dramatised version.
[Tr]: “Megha was sitting in class and whistling.”
[A]: *shocked* “She sat in your class and whistled?”
[Tr]: “No, no, she was sitting in an empty classroom and whistling.”
[A]: Oh, all right. Doesn’t she whistle really well?
[Tr]: Molum kollaam, ammayum kollaaam (rough translation – mom and daughter are birds of the same feather). Imma bounce.
After writing all this about my whistling I realise that some of you may think I’m a whistler extraordinaire or something. I’m not. I don’t sing or dance. I don’t play any instrument (anymore). Whistling has always been one of the ways I express myself. It’s deeply personal to me. If you’ve heard me whistling you’re probably very close to me or/and we’ve spent a lot of time under the same roof.