The other day, my supervisor and I were recollecting a day we both were having an animated discussion about something. Gradually we were both getting louder and more emphatic about our individual p.o.vs (points of view). When we actually bothered to listen to each other, I found myself saying "THAT is exactly what I am saying!!". Turned out we were actually both on the same side. There was no need to argue! So she went "well, you kept nodding "no , no" against what i was saying..so i didn't think you agreed with me".
Those were the days. when I was new here, FOB, as they say. (Fresh Off the Boat ;)) Now I just stick to email when i've to communicate important opinions or decisions with my supervisor. ;)
So this is something that confuses a lot of westerners..or at least that's what I saw when i came to the U.S. They can never quite understand the typical indian "head-shake" and what it means. The American way of doing it is clear cut. A bob of the head- up and down- indicates affirmitive. A shake of the head- left to right - indicates negative. But when we indians use head-gestures to convey decisions, and often crucial ones, a lot can be lost in translation. I tried to explain to my american friends the subtle nuances that distinguish the various gestures.
There's the sliight up and down bob.. and if the eyes are closing and opening in rhythm to the slow nod, it denotes an exasperated affirmation. Does not necessarily mean I agree with you, it just means "i see what you're saying, i've heard that before, now let me speak..." When the movement is a left to right one, you've to pay attention, was that just a tilt or was it a vigorous shake?? Was the head bowed or was it straight?? Because a slight left-to-right tilt, with the head bowed, could mean a "yes"! it's the kind of nod a lot of us do to the beat of classical music, picture a typical tamilian going "aama, aama" and you see what i mean.. Now, the slow left to right tilt, in a circular, recurring fashion could denote affirmation. But a similar movement, just done once, accompanied by a smirk on the face and a "hmh" sound, is actually a nod of disapproval, or scorn. As in " hmh, chala aaya, apna naya gaadi dikhaane". A vigourous shake of the head from left to right, on the other hand, clearly conveys a NO. And then finally there's the desi-desi nod..they type we reserve for other desis when we see them at bus-stops or grocery stores, and don't really know them, but it's just a gesture of support or feeling of belonging..
My american friends couldn't quite wrap their head around all this, so to speak. Then I took them to a beautiful classical dance performance that took place on campus. The compere explained what the basic gestures in bharatnatyam conveyed, as the dancer performed them. And while my american friends loved the performance, suddenly, the great indian nod was a little more clear to them, as I observed them all nodding in agreement and applauding the performance. :-)
P.S: I discovered blogrolling! lookee lokeee ova there!