I can thank Jill G. for teaching me how to whistle in 5th grade. We sat at a girl’s basketball game against Nokomis School blowing ourselves breathless to get a sound. Country girls do this, and because Jill grew up around horses, whistling comes with the territory. I just wanted to know how to make a loud, sharp sound.
Forty years later, I showed my friend and personal assistant-housekeeper-bodyguard Auisha that I knew how to whistle. We were walking in a very remote area in the Nilgiri mountain range. I showed her in secret. She was impressed. You see, especially in India, ladies don’t whistle, my husband warned me. This advice came with the other cultural customs that have shaped me over this past decade into a more conservative woman.
Recently my husband went to Europe. During his absence a series of events occurred—which usually requires a man to resolve. The pump stopped working—no water for 8 days. An electrical problem that prevented our house from running for 1 week, aside from the power outages lasting for three or four days at a time. The monsoon storms, high winds that knocked trees over power lines, the howling winds at night. No broadband internet connection for three weeks. Have you ever bathed with less than 2 liters of water, including washing your hair? It’s do-able. The power of these limitations was starting to build up inside of me.
First, I’d like to offer that I’m most grateful to be where I am in this special time. There’s no better time than right here, right now. But after these events and the fight I have had to put up to get things done I was left with an invincible feeling. Let’s “Just do it!” or maybe “Just get it done, damn it!” depending on whether I had had to chop fire wood on an empty stomach (I’m grumpy without food sometimes) or not.
A few weeks ago we were on the way to the lab; I wasn’t in the mood (I had a fever) to walk the extra two kilometers if the bus didn’t stop. Auisha and I signaled to the conductor to stop the bus and get off. The bus was packed tightly with people. A man in front of us got off of the bus to let us get out at the Rose Garden stop. The bus conductor stands at the back of the bus to collect the money and is the one who whistles at the bus driver: two whistles to go, one whistle to stop. This conductor thought that the man was getting out and that we were staying. Oh, the comedy of errors! That man chased the bus. Even after I told the conductor to stop, he didn’t whistle.
So I turned around, and let loose one loud whistle sound. I looked around to see Auisha’s face. We both knew who whistled. We both had serious faces. The bus screeched to a very abrupt halt. People were looking around to see who had whistled, and so did we. As we were stepping off of the bus, the man who was chasing the bus got back on and the bus drove away.
We giggled like schoolgirls. Ladies don’t whistle, only sometimes.
Posted by Susan F Rajkumar. Posted In : Life in India