wobble – in response to rebecca miller

18 Apr

I’ve heard it called the head waggle, but I call it the wobble and I came to absolutely love it. Wobble for yes, for thank you, for “yes I’m not from here but I’m just walking through”… I would catch old ladies eye contact, and they would stare with curiousity and sometimes fear or uncertainty, then I’d let slip a little wob of the head and they’d respond vigoursly, smiling wide. This made me feel like I was stuck in the wrong body, that I’d always belonged in India, and that any differences were trivial.

I knew they did that before I went, I just didn’t know how powerful it would be if I did it. (That reminds me of a joke an acquaintance told me when I told her I was going there; “how do you stop an Indian person from communicating? Hold her head still” I appreciate now just how much weight that has and how much of both their verbal and non-verbal communication relies on this simple manuever. OR maybe not so simple for some! After a few weeks there was one guy who tried to do it and managed to keep both Indian and Australian co-workers frustratingly perplexed as to if he was nodding, shaking, or wobbling)

So the head wob and calling auto-rickshaw drivers ‘ana’ (brother). Both worked wonders.

I was treated differently in the classroom from the streets: in both contexts I was continually stared at, but in the classroom, if I shook one hand there would be 50 others reaching at me. Scary and exhilarating stuff.

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