Saturday, December 24, 2005

The REAL bobble-heads

The lonely planet book says that a sideways movement in the head can mean yes, maybe, "I understand you" or even No in Indian culture. This sounds to be a challenge, but how much do we really shake our heads? not all that often.

Unfortunately, this is not the case in India. For some reason, even Indians who speak very workable English are quite reluctant to say "Yes" or "No". Instead, you are far more likely to get "The Bobble". This is much better demonstrated than described, but basically it is a mostly round motion of the head with a diagonal emphasis, like one of those little dogs you see on the back shelf of someone's car, but with more of a diagonal movement as well. It is certainly floaty.

So, when do you get the bobble? Well, all the time. Our first experience in Pondicherry was negotiating for an autorickshaw (like a fully covered tuk-tuk) from the bus station to our hotel. I was gunning for a very good price of 20 rupees, and I had the competition of rickshaw drivers on my side, the first offered 50, the second offered 35, and the third agreed with my 20, I just didn't know it, because his head was bobbling wildly with no sign of speech, as I repeatedly asked "20 rupees okay?" he was repeatedly agreeing, but the diagonal movement just wasn't convincing for me. Add to this that there are hardly any street signs, and the unbelievably chaotic streets with 1000s of signs and vehicles, and I was convinced we were being taken back to Thailand for some exorbitant fare! However, we held out and arrived just where we wanted to be quite directly. I gave the drivers a tip for actually taking us where we wanted to go. Trust the Bobble!

But not all the time. Often the Bobble means "who knows" or "I can't do anything for you". We have also noticed that the bobble is an unbelievably effective way to get waiters over to your table, which is all the more surprising because 1. we have found no other way to get such prompt attention and 2. indians use the bobble all the time in conversation so how can the waiters use it as a signal from the customer? I think the only possible explanation is that my imitation of the bobble happens to be the "we need service NOW" bobble in the Indian bobble parlance.

We are still studying the possibilities of the bobble...


Blogger George Morris said...

OK, I can't be the only one bobbing my head while reading this post :)

10:23 AM  

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