Humming Bee In The Bonnet

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 I caught the bug ‘humming bee’ while quite young. Don’t get me wrong. It was not a virus-human or computer. It was just that I started humming tunes even before I learnt to talk. Humming was more or less a family pastime. Pastime? It was more of second nature. In fact I could never understand how people could go through life without humming! Our whole family was one happy beehive with all the members humming their own tunes_brother in bed, sister in bath, me in the study et al. Woe betide the one who hummed the same tune as yours.”Why are you humming my tune?” “It is not yours, It is Lata Mangeshkar’s” “But I hummed it first” “So what?” etc.

Once I was busy humming as usual, oblivious to the annoyance of those around me. My sister held out an old prescription of our family doctor and asked me to tell what was in it. Using all my skills to decipher it, I triumphantly handed the chit back to her with my answer and resumed my humming. She exclaimed in despair,” Oh, no, not again! I gave the chit to stop you from humming. Who is interested in what is in it!”

Humming is an art. Not all can hum tunefully. I had a colleague whose humming resembled that of a mosquito. Music teachers walking on the road could always be identified by their loud humming accompanied by ‘tala’ in the midair.

My humming career started with nursery rhymes followed by film songs and later classical Carnatic music. In fact, my brother would remark that in my later days my humming resembled a ‘mini kutcheri (concert)’. When we were in Shillong, the municipal water tank pump would always set up a single toned drone that would sound like a ‘tamboora’ to me and set me humming film songs, Keertanas, varnams and devaranamas. So much so, my neighbor lent me her ‘sruti box’ and encouraged me to sing in the local Kannada sangha.  But then my children took strong exception to my loud singing which could be heard all over the colony and made them bend their heads in shame while among their friends.

One of the greatest stimuli for humming was the ‘walkman’. But when I was presented one it was on the condition that I would not hum with it plugged to my ears. I can quite understand why. While I would be enjoying music sung by the best singers with 100 and odd piece orchestra composed by maestros, people around me would only hear snatches of my single toned, off key humming.

Now, there are ever so many tunes_on TV, on radio and in my neighborhood for me to pick up and hum. The neighbor’s car sings ‘Saare jahan se achha’ while reversing.  His door bells chime ‘Jingle bells’, ‘Itsy, bitsy spider’. Another car sings ‘Jai jagadeesha hare’. The ‘Kole basava’ boy plays monotonously on his nagaswara the same Hindola piece, the only bit of music he has learnt perhaps. So, you will find me humming in turns being patriotic, juvenile, religious, classical etc depending on the stimulus provided at that moment.

There are now jingles from TV_literary ones from DD, the very high pitched ‘Jeevankaa…’(featuring the now famous actor Vidya Balan) which drives my husband up the wall, the tunes at the beginning of serials_ one particularly reminding me of the elephantine gait of one of our national leaders ( Haagomme, Heegomme….). There are of course beautiful tunes such as A.R.Rehman’s Airtel one and one of Apollo tyres which are so sublime that they are impossible to hum.

My research has revealed that whenever songs are presented in a sequence, it is always the last tune that is hummed. (You ask a baby, ‘Whom do you like, mummy or daddy?” “daddy” “Whom do you like, daddy or mummy?” “mummy”).  In a music concert the audience always comes out humming ‘pavamana’ (the final item) irrespective of what scholarly pieces were presented earlier.

                                                                                ___  From Vimala Ramu’s RAINSONG

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