Newspaper boys have characteristic ways of heralding their arrival. Some ring the cycle bells. Some shout “paper”. Some roll the daily like a takeaway dosa from a Udipi eatery and throw into the balcony with admirable marksmanship. Some even make their presence sharply felt by remaining absent. But the new one who delivered my seven copies — three English, three Tamil and one salmon pink broadsheet — had his own style. He came whistling a marching tune lustily.
Though I rushed once, bleary-eyed, towards the door for a darshan of the whistling artiste I couldn’t for he vanished before one could mumble “glazed newsprint” or “forward march”.
The vibrant tune he chose as he ascended the stairs of two floors was Colonel Bogey March, with variations to suit his bespoke style of pucker whistling. At my doorstep, the tune abruptly ceased, followed by a loud thud of the bundle hitting the floor — like the solitary beat of the drummer indicating finis.
A peppy filmy number would not have invited comment. Even then, whistles that could be heard in a multi-storied building would be only from pressure cookers and not lips. Even those kitchen gadgets would keep peacefully mum early in the mornings. But Colonel Bogey March! Golly! From where the ignoble paper boy had picked up that vibrant tune? Maybe he lived near a matriculation school where they hold impressive march pasts with a brass band in attendance on sports days for a dignitary to take the salute. Maybe he wished to reproduce it through puckered lips to banish the tedium from his daily pre-dawn regimen. Indeed, it gave me a quaint feeling of remaining in a barracks, in olive green, with army trucks and tanks rolling by.
Whistling is an art everyone cannot indulge in or master, though the gullible sooner or later could whistle for their money. At best, when challenged, all that a non-whistler’s mouth could produce would be bursts of air, fit only for blowing out lighted candles on a birthday cake. There are guys capable of spellbinding an audience for hours with their whistling concerts with accompaniments. My term “guys” is unisex, including women with admirable breath control, whose rendition would accentuate their pursed lips painted with glossy lipstick.
All good things are sent by the Almighty with an invisible expiry date imprint. As abruptly as it began, it stopped one day. A grumpy lad knocked to make sure he was at the right doorstep of the one who took seven dailies. The newspaper agent who phoned me later explained why the whistler was taken off. There were complaints about his whistling by a crusty resident in our complex — a compulsive whistle blower- whose teenaged daughter felt embarrassed when the adolescent passed her whistling lustily in pre-dawn darkness while she was doing her morning rangoli. Net result? “Colonel Bogey” was given the marching orders.