Whistle and hum

Published On: May 12, 2019 02:00 AM NPT By: Babu Ram Neupane

Life in the hills can be hell if it were not for the whistles and hums. Whistle gives strength to people who are out of breathe while traversing a steep trail with a heavy load on their backs

Spring is more than a season of foliage, flowers and greenery. It is an anarchic season of whistles and hums too. The songs of the birds on the treetops mingle with the sound made on the turf underneath them by the grazing animals on the grass. The shepherds are the happiest of all for finding their animals gorging themselves on the maiden leaves of the grass. Whistle and hums come to them naturally as the leaves in branches of trees in the spring while they are resting in the shade. 

It is highly likely that the whistle sets the hearts of the rural lasses racing while they are collecting firewood in the woods. They consider the whistles to be quite flirtatious and even an open invitation to courtship. Surilo rukh sallai ho, khojeko timile kallai ho, suseli haldai dakera bolako timile kallai ho …(transliteration: the straight/slender tree is pine, who are you looking for? Who are you calling for through your whistle?) goes Mamta Deepbim’s melodious song.

To say the least, every whistler is a potential lover. The people who can’t or don’t whistle may be unworthy of love. Whistle is the ultimate weapon gifted to people by the God in the countryside. One can definitely hum if one can whistle.

Country sides are the paradise for whistlers. There is no fear of being watched or listened to as every place is a private place sans any constant prying of CCTV cameras into every moment of life. Every home welcomes everyone in the village and people share with each other whatever is bountiful and seasonal ripe fruits. The churning of yogurt at a home means the whole neighborhood will get to drink the buttermilk on that day. 

On the other hand, people in cityscapes have been accustomed to living a life full of suspicion and distrust of each other. The hustle-bustle and humdrum of city life has turned them monotonous and moribund.  As a result, they have learnt to suppress any residual primal emotions and means of expression such as whistling. If they were to whistle in the midst of a chowk (crossing) in Kathmandu, they would be definitely called a lunatic. There are strong chances that they could end up in the police custody for accusations of sexual harassment by some comely ladies walking by them if they happen to be ardent enthusiasts of the Time’s Up and #MeToo movements. 

Whistling with life

I am not defending any perpetrators of violence but only trying to make a case for the sanctity of pure whistles.  I always stand strong against all sorts of harassments (let alone sexual) and violence. The sickle and its holder made of wood  ( ‘khurpithyak or khurpeto’ )  make a fine music together but  I deem them to be the most  ferocious symbols of  male  domination in the hills as most  males love to sport it. I don’t think the Westerners have ever funded any NGOs working toward raising awareness against those violent sickle holders. What hangs in front may be often constructive but what hangs behind (except for a child on somebody’s back) is mostly destructive.   

Music never ceases to be in the countryside. The swift birds that fly, live and love nesting near the cliffs and riverbanks sing in sync with the murmur of the streams and the burble of the waterfalls. Their abode is between the heaven and the earth. A song included in a recent Nepali movie Kanchhi captures the essence of beauty and perfection of these birds: Chari chatta pari bhruru kholi tiraitir… (transliteration: smart bird flies swiftly  by brook banks). 

They find it wondrous when the whistlers stop whistling and kneel down to drink water from the creeks. The streams are not only the thirst quencher for humans, animals and birds but also a source of the most dynamic music in the world. Old Kanchhi movie song goes more onomatopoeic:  kala kala chhala chhala   chhala chhala chanchal bagi jane kholiko… (transliteration: the agile brook flows murmuring and bubbling). It celebrates the ever changing dynamics of mysterious and mellifluous songs of the brooks.

Life in the hills can be hell if it were not for the whistles and hums. Whistle gives strength to people who are out of breathe while traversing a steep trail with a heavy load on their backs. A whistle can combat loneliness, fear and sadness.  I resorted to whistling whenever I was afraid while grazing the goats in the deep woods. A whistle in the distance alone was more than enough to provide me with psychological solace and sense of safety. I whistled a lot near the waterfalls thinking nobody heard me do so, which is not the case in reality. The waterfall burbles never mask a whistle. They don’t let the whistle interfere with their flow nor do they interfere with it. They run parallel and never cross each other.

Know the difference 

There is a basic distinction between whistle and hum. Whistle is not copyrighted and will never be. However, hums could soon be vulnerable to intellectual property rights laws. Hum might be somewhat  secondary.  I am sure K Street will one day witness a case being filed against some wealthy celebrity for humming a song of some popular singer. K Street is a street in Washington DC where high profile lobbyists, advocacy group members,  and  attorneys make their living by influencing the policy decisions of the occupant of the White House,  leaders and members of US  Senate and Congress in the Capitol. They also pit the latter against each other based on their convenience. In short, they influence American politics in similar fashion as does the Wall Street in New York influence the global economy.

The meaning of a whistle is mostly contextual and relative. If a peer group sharing similar tastes, character traits and social values assembles after a certain hiatus, and if any of its members start whistling at each other that could be a compliment or even flirting if it involves opposite sexes. It is mostly an appreciation of beauty or something somebody owns. The very whistle could prove explosive if it is aimed at some strangers. It can cause an abysmal psychological wreck and unprecedented wrath in the recipient. Therefore, whistling at strangers is an act disproved across the globe.

Some live to love. Most love to live. There are very few who master the art of living and loving at the same time. Those who love, whistle and hum live life full. Happiness breeds positivity and imparts purpose in life. Moreover, happiness is a great leveler in this epoch of unequal distribution of wealth around the globe. Prosperity is all hum but no whistle. Don’t hunker down. Your fellow human beings need you more than ever in these dark and dismal times. Be happy, be jolly, share love and joy.  Don’t ever be coy.  Be men and women of souls. The mannequins at the front of designer shops can’t hum nor can they whistle because they don’t have any souls. Live your own life but try to make others’ days as well .Whistle and bristle with energy in life.

The author loves to write on contemporary issues

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