Indian Head Shake……yes or no?
September 19, 2010 • Photography & Travel
The classic Indian Head Shake or wobble has been the way many Indians communicated for centuries if not millenniums but it is certainly something that has baffled foreigners forever.
We were about 7 hours into our flight to Kochi (via Abu Dhabi), though it felt like 15, cabin lights were dimmed and a stewardess was pushing a food service trolley down the aisle when she came across an elderly Indian man seated across from me a row ahead. His tray table was down and on it was a package unwrapped with some half eaten food on it. She stopped as he looked up at her blankly. She turned to him and said “would you like me to clear that for you, sir?”
He gave her that all too famous Indian Head Shake (IHS) which she did not quite conceive as a yes or no. She obviously has flown this route many times and is only to familiar with the IHS but seemed quite confused by this one. So, she asked again, this time with a different choice of words “Sir, are you done with your food?” No words from our stoic frequent flyer but only another IHS. I have to admit that I could not read this shake myself. I’ll humbly say that I’m a fairly good reader of the IHS but this must be a dialect from a remote region in India. One that obviously me and the stewardess were not familiar with.
In her third attempt to understand she points at the food and ever so patiently says “Shall I take it away?” He now throws her a third IHS plus waves his hand over the food. She smiles at him silently so as to say “I have no idea what the heck you are trying to tell me!” She then releases the brake of the food trolley proceeds to walk away.
He reaches out now and taps her on the shoulder, throws her a fourth IHS and waves his other hand over the food all at the same time. She slams on the brakes, reaches down and clears his tray table. Once everything has been picked up, his stoic expression is now replaced with a wide smile – a silent thank you from our body language expert.
Now who says we have to speak in order to communicate.
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