Thursday, March 25, 2010

Respiratory emissions of the musical type

Growing up with two brothers, and a set of parents who ensured that you got every opportunity that they got ( and more), meant that you often wanted to learn and do everything that they did. While I lost out in competitions of eating raw very hot green chillies straight, I managed to succeed at some other things, like whistling. Not the standard method where you narrowed your lips politely, but a more fancy method, where you looked like you were smiling , but were actually exhaling air and whistling by situating your tongue suitable on the palate behind the teeth.

I found this very useful later in life when one had to , say , hum a tune to explain something, and risked a immediate loss of audience on activating the larynx. Folks were always amused to see a middle aged lady explaining a tune by whistling it, and those who couldn't hear thought I was smiling.

Whistling is an art. And like many types of art and media, this has been misused. Specifically by men. When they use it to lech about some woman in their field of vision, sometimes by themselves, and sometimes en masse with others.

I suspect we have imported this habit. Notice that I do not use the Royal "We". Those habituated to thinking of themselves in powerful terms, live by different standards.

Our (ordinary unroyal we) native literature is all about lidded looks and eye messages, following someone around, secret meetings in parks, in the rain, passing letters, threatening to cut wrists, letters written in blood, family enmity, running away etc etc. Anyone smitten, never really whistled at unknowns, and admiration of beauty by such open crass reactions such as wolf whistles came with so called social freedom , grabbed basically by men, as they became aware of the world. Early Hindi movies would often show a heroine taking off her slipper and thrashing some guy who ogled and whistled at her.

Those who consider themselves qualified for a "Royal We", are generally powerful folks, like Ravan, who simply kidnapped Sita and flew her away to Sri Lanka against her wishes. Or unscrupulous kings of yore, who spied, desired and acquired a woman by simply abducting her. And these are the ones to whom whistling would be an option.

The current remark by a political leader about whistling in Parliament needs to be seen in that context. That a powerful , Member of Parliament says that the Women's Reservation Bill will benefit only socially highly placed women, and they will face whistles in Parliament, says more about the whistling Parliamentarians, than the women. Why, so-called-whistlable-attributes should be a function of economic level and social strata is a different point altogether, open to debate, , and those blinded by money, money and more money are not expected to understand in their myopic state.

Other opponents have made comments on hair cuts of the women parliamentarians. And these same worthies, have made it their business to offer parliament seats to movie actresses and their own daughters-in-law.

Nothing is surprising. These are the same guys who specialize in running down the aisles in parliament, throwing themselves into the well of the Parliament, flinging furniture and microphones around, and yanking and tearing the Speaker's papers. (If I had done that in school , I would have been permanently debarred.)

So the problem is not with which type of how many ladies enter Parliament, but with the government implementing some kind of strict behaviour code in Parliament.

These same worthies also fear that 10 years hence, given the intricacies of rotating seat reservations in constituencies, 80 % of Parliament will have female MP's. (Hurrah! Mooh me ghee shakkar)

So what ? Shame on these fellows for even saying this. Does the constitution specify anywhere that the default MP has to be a male ? After 50 years on male domination in Parliament, the logical thing to do is to see if women perform better.

But something needs to be done about the insult to the art of whistling.

I know women who whistle entire classical songs. Their non whistling life is that of a traditional Indian middle class woman, and the family encourages them to whistle. In the days of yore in my childhood, before Ipods and Mp3 messed up things, people would whistle songs while going somewhere, working around the house, and in general whistling promoted a cheerful optimistic atmosphere around. We had fewer depressed people. Whistling was therapeutic without someone publishing reams about it.

My brother had a friend who had a signature whistle, and he would announce himself by whistling the tune below our first floor window. My brother would reply with his own signature tune, and I once even confused things by trying to whistle in between myself.

Mind you, whistling is fairly strenuous hard respiratory work when done seriously. There are folks who are professional whistling types , musically speaking. Women attend their performances and applaud. Some women themselves whistle and perform on stage. The Kala Ghoda festival-2010 in Mumbai recently had an outstanding whistling program.

And all these whistling types have their own All India Webpage. The Official site of the Indian Whistlers Association. Have a look.

Recently, the IWA has entered the LIMCA BOOK of RECORDS 2009 with 48 whistlers from all over India whistling "sare jahan se achha " (a patriotic song praising the country as the best in the world), in unison.

Watch :

And here is a future Parliamentarian whistling "Dhoom Machale (=Create great excitement)"

Unfortunately, the Parliamentary whistling types, do not understand either the sentiment or the words......


  1. So men in parliament, BEWARE !! Even before you try to whistle at any woman MP, they'll suck the air out of you and whistle it away !!!!

    I liked the title !!! :)

    BTW, video not seen !!! Sigh !!! Pl chk.

  2. Umsreflections Thank you. I wonder why you cant see the video. Click on the "watch on Youtube" link in the window. Its a wonderful performance !

    Anyone else facing this problem ?

  3. I'd read the news about Mulayam's comment, sitting in a doctor's waiting room and really laughed out loud. I showed it to my husband and he laughed too and said that it's a veiled threat by M...and a 'permission' given to all men everywhere (not only Parliament)to run down women, 'beat' them up by harrassing them so to speak, for daring to even think they can be equal to men.

    It was interesting to read this. Seriously I'd never thought about whistling positively, because it's become a standard method of harassing women. Can you believe that some labourers nearby used to whistle lewdly at my 2 year old daughter too?

  4. ah, whistling - something I always wanted to learn; but I cannot whistle at all..not even that tapori one..

    but few things really amazed me like a lady who can whistle entire classical song!! I had learnt classical music for almost three years; but still struggle to get a few things 100% right..

    that Video is indeed awesome..

  5. Ah, whistling, I do believe whistling people are less prone to depression than others !

    And as a French girl I could never understand why women don't like it when men whistle at them, because for me it is a kind of hommage, a harmless game.

    However, when I saw the videos I was in awe. For me whistling is a carefree thing. Seeing 48 people sitting very seriously and whistling all together a very difficult tune, that is very humbling indeed. And the little girl is lovely.

  6. (Sigh) .... I could never learn to whistle.... Whistling a song.... wow thats something I have always wanted to learn....

    Nice post and Pls keep whistling !!!!

  7. That was fantastic. The entire audience on 'Saare Jahan se Accha'. I also whistle songs well. You made me whistle which I had not done for long.

  8. Does the constitution specify anywhere that the default MP has to be a male ?

    Loved this line Suranga!! You summed up the attitude of some of these guys in this one sentence.

    @starsinmyeyes - I also feel that such comments give an indirect permission to men (and what kind of men) to whistle and harass women.

  9. I can't whistle; never could. My grandfather used to whistle constantly. Unfortunately, he never whistled a tune. But I have fond memories of this happy man whistling while he worked.

    I enjoyed the videos; especially the last one. Thanks, Suranga.

    Check my blog today; I have something for you.

  10. A post after my own heart! I remember being so pleased when I finally managed to whistle! i can carry a tune, but am a bit out of practice.
    Whistling does lift one's spirits.
    Great videos. Thanks.

  11. Ramblingsbybones :-))

    starry All these politicians just give whistling a bad name....

    neha I thought that video was awesome too...

    Helene H Its a cultural thing. Whistling at girls is not a nice thing to do, except probably in that strata at society, where they approximate to a western culture....

    Shilpa Thank you. I'm just happy I learnt whistling when I did ....

    nsiyer Congratulations for whistling along .... and yes, that song is so inspirational....

    IHM This brings up the possibility of whistling female MP's ? Hmm.

    DarleneThank you

    DipaliThank you