When I lived in San Francisco, my friends and colleagues would irritate the hell out of me when they would answer any of my questions with a “nod”. For those of you who know what I am talking about, and for those who do not, the nod is a quintessential characteristic of the Indian form of communication. I used to get infuriated, even offended, when people would make fun of the “nod” because I had no idea where they were coming from. And when I would express my irritation, I would get responses like, “C’mmon, every one in India nods when they want to say yes” or “I am sure you know what I am talking about – the nod is the Indian way of saying yes or agreeing with you.” Clearly, I was blind to the idiosyncrasies of my own culture, until the last few months where I have become distinctly aware of the “nod” and how every blessed soul in Mumbai, be it rich or poor, dark or light-skinned, upper caste or lower caste, all indulge in their fair share of nodding.
Think of a bobble head. That is exactly what the nod is. Wikipedia aptly describes the bobble head stating that, although the neck is connected to the head, “Instead of a solid connection, its head is connected to the body by a spring or hook,in such a way, that a light tap will cause the head to bobble, hence the name.” It is safe to say that in India, a lot of us are bobble heads.
Courtesy to You Tube, I am sharing this clip that I found quite intriguing:
I have found that, in general, people prefer to have their heads bob from side to side, than to say yes. Even funnier, I have noticed that often times, people will say yes with a bobble, as if to double assure you of their response. However, what is interesting to me is the fact that I myself am gradually picking up the nod and noticing it being a more pronounced part of my communication style. I never, in my wildest dreams, imagined that not only would I get irritated with my Caucasian friends over the nod, but also use it myself. I am not sure how I feel about it, considering I do not identify with this style of communication and yet I am using it more often than I would like. I can only conclude that this is one of my ways of fitting in to the Indian culture. It’s really amazing how human beings adapt to their surroundings and pick up cultural traits that will allow them to be more accepted into the dominant culture. A few weeks ago I was at a party where there were several expats and I was talking with an anthropology student, visiting from the US, and if I had a rupee for every time he nodded while talking to me, I would have been a rich gal by the end of the evening. I was surprised and amused by how well he had mastered the art of nodding, as if he lived here all his life.
On that note, here’s to a nation of bobble heads! I shall continue to observe my own bobbling and be amused by this new and unintentional adoption of one of the many Indian styles of communication.