Monday, April 25, 2011

Is it a head wobble, bobble or shake??

...and what does it mean?

Karthik stops the car, asks a passerby if we are going the right way, the passerby wobbles, Karthik wobbles and off we go......communication had passed between them but as far as I was concerned it might as well have been Hindi, or for that matter Japanese!!

When Sweetie brought her little daughter to visit, she wobbled, begging Wills to ask, "Are Indian babies born able to do that?", by that time I was beginning to think maybe they are!

In India there are hundreds of local languages, so when North meets South, sometimes, the only common ground is the wobble and hand gestures. Having, now, studied the wobble for some time - it gets more confusing - it seems there are different versions - the meaning to some extent dependent on degree of tilt, speed of rotation and accompanying facial expression.

Essentially, it is a positive expression of goodwill, the faster the rotation, the bigger the tilt and the wider the smile, the more goodwill. It doesn't however always mean yes, which sounds confusing but is actually quite useful. If someone offers you something (Indians are very hospitable) but you are not sure whether its actually convenient or putting them out - if you wobble - their response can be "oh OK another time then" or "great, do come in" and everyone is happy!

Wobbling can also be an informal greeting - you can wobble to someone across the street, when you wouldn't be heard above the traffic. It can also mean "thank-you." I was asking Karthik to teach me some basic words in Kanada (the local language). When I asked what the words for thank-you and sorry were, he said I wouldn't need them. I thought this very strange but then I realized you don't need them, you wobble!!

Beware - the wobble is we wobble or bobble? - I'm not sure but we definitely do something. When someone comes to the door (there is always someone at the door) who doesn't have English - I wonder why they are smiling at me, when last time they came round they just looked coldly at me - and then I'd realized I had wobbled, or made some head gesture that looked somewhat like a wobble!! and was therefore saying "hi, welcome, can I help you",  in a langauge we could all understand!

The forcefulness of the wobble also indicates to what degree the wobbler understands what I'm saying. If I"m asking in a store for something and the wobble is slow and unsteady it means no-one has a clue what this crazy lady is on about - however if my request is met with several violent wobbles it means the wobbler thinks they know what I want  -whether we are actually on the same wave length or not is another matter!!

So, when we return to the US if I start inclining my head from side to side, you'll know I've not developped some tropical disease with strange tics but am just saying "hows it going" or "have a good day".

1 comment:

  1. Very good! My sister informed me a while ago that the 'wobble' can mean - yes, no, maybe, I'm good, how are you & I have eaten today, all is good.
    It seems you can interpret it how you like!! Keep up the blog,