Friday, September 30, 2011

The Characteristic Indian Head Shaking

"Oh boy! What does that mean? A Yes or a No!? For God's sake just speak it out!' the client asked me when I nodded my head as a response to his query. I understood his fury as that was not the first time I had done that in front of him.

I have seen this characteristic in Telugus (Andhrites), especially from my native district, not to generalize though. We simply nod our head in response to a lot of questions. And that would neither be a perfect vertical swing in agreement nor a horizontal in denial – but a unique way of shaking that only natives could understand (correctly) and would make outsiders pull their hair to guess. So, for an American who expects mainly a word of ‘Yeah/No’, there is no surprise that my nods irritate him.

While the silent nods are a distinctive feature for my natives, the head-shakes among many Indians are such vigorous that I sometimes visualize cows watching them. Almost every Indian – we move our heads a lot while talking and even while listening too. While moving hands in the right way when talking is considered as a good non-verbal gesture, I do not remember something similar being said about heads. In fact, it is suggested to keep head still and make proper eye-eye contact while speaking or listening.

Whether during my stay in US or in Hollywood movies, I have rarely seen an American moving his/her head as much as Indians do while talking. While listening too, they just nod their head vertically once/twice as acknowledgement – nothing more than that.

Some of you may think I have generalized it too far, but these have been my observations over the last 4 years :->>

Though I annoy people with my silent nods (shakes), I think I hardly move my head while listening. This used to annoy my lecturers in college, who felt I was not acknowledging and not paying attention in the class room, in fact, with my blank stares were defying them!

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