Abdul Hamid was my source of inspiration. No, not the Indian soldier who died fighting Pakistani forces in the 1965 war but his namesake who was my elder brother's classmate.
I don't remember the exact year but it was 1983 or 1984. I tagged along with my brother and Abdul to watch a movie in a neighbourhood cinema.
Just as Abdul stepped into the dark hall, he inserted the thumb and forefinger of his right hand in his mouth and let out a very sharp and loud whistle. I was both shocked and impressed by his brazenness. He became my hero and I decided to master the art of whistling.
I started devoting hours to mastering the art. I dreamed that whenever I went to a cinema, I would also whistle.
But in any cultured family, whistling in public places is taboo. Hence, learning to whistle at home can invite dangers, especially if your mother believes only in corporal punishment.
In my house whistling was considered a tool or weapon used by school and college dropouts and unemployed bums to tease women in public places. Or a way of enjoyment for the 'uncultured' lot who occupied lower or rear stalls in cinemas whenever the vamp gyrated to a raunchy number or the hero bashed the villain.
Braving the dangers, I started working hard to become a skilled whistler. The early results were poor. But as the days passed, my perseverance paid off. The loudness and the sharpness of my whistles increased, as did my parents' admonitions. But I persisted and the final results were excellent.
I didn't have to wait long to put my whistling to test. I was in Class 11. Senior students were being shown Guns of Navarone in the school auditorium. There's a scene in which a woman is stripped and caned. A nudge from the friend sitting beside me was sufficient. I didn't miss the chance and whistled. It was perfect - short, very loud and piercing. The students stopped murmuring and started watching the movie. I was deliriously happy. And got off unpunished.
But that was the first and the last time I whistled publicly. Later, whenever I was in a cinema, I would get engrossed in the movie and would forget to whistle. Recently, I suddenly wondered whether people still whistle in cinemas. I was thinking of this when Tees Maar Khan was released.
The song, Sheila ki Jawani, from the movie was already all the rage and I thought here was a song that would generate mega- whistling. I impatiently waited for the song. Katrina looked stunning as she oscillated her hips. But nobody whistled. When the movie ended, I wanted to ask the young men coming out why they didn't whistle during the song. But I kept my mouth shut.
Have audiences become cultured? No doubt, no man will dare to whistle with his girlfriend sitting beside him. But have guys stopped watching movies in groups? Have we lost the small joys and innocence of making a little mischief forever?
Rohit Ghosh is a Kanpur-based freelance writer and coordinator with INTACH. The views expressed by the author are personal.