Autobiographic Recollections - Music

Although we didn’t have a radio or gramophone in the house, there was music around. My brother Nimal sang ceaselessly and also played the harmonica. He also whistled a merry tune.He gave me a harmonica when I was around 10 years and I soon was able to play any tune that came into my head. I whistled as well and I still whistle. I recall George Siegertz, who was a great whistler in my day.He reached a pinnacle of whistling when he was selected by David Lean to be the lead whistler, whistling the “Colonel Bogie’s march” in his film “The bridge over the river Kwai”

I have been reprimanded by teachers and prefects in college for whistling. For whatever reason whistling and walking arm in arm was frowned upon in college when I was there in the nineteen fifties. I never understood this as I was not given to crude wolf whistling at girls or anything like that. There were no girls in the vicinity  of college even if I was so inclined. Whistling a tune had become a sub conscious activity, like humming a tune in your head. Whistling seems to run in our family. My brother Nimal was always whistling, when he was not bellowing some aria from the Barber of Seville. I have noticed that my younger brother Daya always enters a room whistling, as if to warn people of his arrival. I have been hushed many times by airline hostesses for whistling on  flights.

I reached my pinnacle in whistling recently, when returning on a flight back to the Katunayake airport. I was standing in a long queue of girls returning from Dubai, and sub consciously whistling above the din of chattering girls. When I reached the custom’s official he looked at my passport and then at me and peremptorily asked me “ Are you Whistling Nihal ?”  Mr “ whistling” Nihal is a well known whistler and whistles on TV and has released a CD of himself whistling. Fortunately I knew all this, so I replied humbly “ he is an Ustad, I am still practicing.”

Whistling has proved to be very useful to me as a birdwatcher. If you can mimic their calls, you can get them to come close.

I have “Pavlov” trained my daughter from infancy to a whistle so I could keep track of her in a crowd. This has worked well and I have trained several people who are frequently around me to whistles which are an onomatopoeic for their names.