In tune with life's rhythms

In tune with life's rhythms
Residents of Ghim Moh estate often hear their neighbour Theresa Lee even before they see her - her trademark whistling announces her presence as she roams the neighbourhood.
PHOTO: The Straits Times

The early-morning silence in the Ghim Moh neighbourhood is regularly broken by cheerful whistling.

Happy tunes fill the air around Blocks 14, 15 and 16 Ghim Moh Road when long-time resident Theresa Lee starts her day at 5 am.

The 75-year-old, who uses an umbrella as a walking stick, starts whistling the moment she steps out of her four-room flat in Block 15.

Many of her neighbours, including storeman Amran Darni, 49, hear her before they see her.

"I hear her every day, early in the morning, as she walks past my corner. Once we hear whistling, we know that it's her.

"It's very nice, I love listening to her, and so does my wife," said Mr Amran, who lives in Block 16.

Mr Ang Yang Siah, 67, of Block 15, said: "I used to get woken up a lot because she whistles at 5am or 6am and it's very loud.

"It still happens now, just less frequently.

"She's old, just let her be happy. She'll be lonely without whistling, so I'm not complaining."

Mrs Lee's whistling is also heard by those who visit the places she frequents - the nearby Ghim Moh wet market, or the Holland Drive market about 10 minutes away.

She is known to give food to the construction workers renovating the estate.

But the playground in the estate is her favourite site for showing off her talent. "I actually whistle for children. I love children," said Mrs Lee, who has two daughters and four grandchildren.

She cannot recall how long she has been whistling but it is a talent she said she developed over the years. "I didn't use to be very good at it, but I learnt bit by bit till I could whistle songs," said Mrs Lee, who has been living in Ghim Moh for almost 50 years.

Her tunes are from English, Chinese and even Malay songs but she is not able to recall any of their titles. She also tends to do a mish-mash of songs. "I whistle whatever comes to mind, some are my own songs," she said.

In fact, she has honed her skill so well that her whistling can be heard a number of blocks away.

Madam Fitri Isnawat, 49, a resident in the area, said she once encountered Mrs Lee on her way to Buona Vista MRT station.

"She was about 300m away and I heard her! That's how loud it was. I was so shocked but I suppose it's a talent," she said.

While most neighbours are amused by her whistling, some find it bothersome.

A couple living in Block 16, who wanted to be known only as Mr and Mrs Lee, are not her fans.

"She's very noisy! It's so early that she wakes people up. I don't get woken up because I wake up even earlier to get to work, but those living nearer to her are not very happy," said Mr Lee.

But Mrs Theresa Lee is unaware that some residents are unhappy with her whistling. "People walk up to me and praise me for my whistling," she said.

"I just like being friendly."

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This article was first published on July 2, 2015.
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