“Haanh, haanh,” he shakes his head vigorously.
“What? What did you say? Yes or no?”
“Haanh, HAAAN!” Any more vigorous waggling and the head would fall right off its stalk!
“What ARE you saying?” asks the official at the consulate in increasing frustration.
“I said na? Haanh?!”
“Naah? Haan? What? WHAAT?” as he mentally clutches his head…
Jiggle, jiggle, wiggle, waggle, woggle goes the head round and round, in a weird imitiation of a Tanjavur doll (see pic!)
“Now please listen to me, Sir,” tries the frustrated official again (thinking in his head – this guy’s cv says he holds a master’s degree in engineering, he’s got to know English!), “DO-YOU-SPEAK-ENG-LISH?” he enunciates each syllable.
Joggle, joggle, bobble, bobble goes our man’s head, frustratedly trying to convey agreement and wondering why on earth this man does not get a simple head-woggle! Surely English is the language spoken in America – what’s wrong with this guy?!!
Ever had this experience?
When this head wobble is done in silence, as it often is – Indians tend to be dilatory, putting the listener into a semi-comatose state much of the time, where the only thing the guy can do is to stare at you silently as you speak and bobble his head occasionally! Ever seen a snake charmer with a snake and how the snake follows the movements of the pungi – the gourd-like instrument he plays? Basically the snake is caught – in the player’s headlights, so to say – and can’t get free! This is pretty much what happens when Indians listen to other dilatory Indians, expounding on their favourite subject – anything from movies, to cricket to theology to politics – we are all caught by the speaker’s voice and stunned into a torpid state where all you can do – pretty much – is to bobble your head!
The other thing about this bobble is how infectious it is – watch a guy doing it for a few minutes and I defy you not to bobble your head the next time someone asks you a question!
Ever realised just how universal it is across India – with variations – less in the North and intense as you travel down South to Kerala. It may mean slightly different things but basically it could mean anything from vigorous understanding (this gesture needs a neck brace after you’ve done it – there is serious danger of you losing your head!) to acknowledgement of a fellow traveler on a bus, for instance (ah, yes, I see you, I recognise you, glad you are here!). It could also be you are following your own train of thought and nodding away in agreement with your inner self – the need to acknowledge it is enormous – resulting in an almighty bobble sometimes!)
There’s been all this fuss about Facebook coming up with a ‘dislike’ button or a ‘something’ button to signify sympathy/understanding/agreement/whatever – why don’t they just use the Indian head bobble – why reinvent the wheel???!
And so we go round and round with our heads… rather like this savoury teatime snack from Karnataka… the famous…
- Rice Flour 1 cup
- Fine semolina/Chiroti rava 1/4 cup
- Maida / plain flour 1/4 cup
- Grated coconut 1/2 cup
- Any vegetable oil or butter 3 tbsp
- Red chili pwd -1/2 tsp
- Asafoetida 1/4 tsp
- Salt 1 tsp
- Ajwain/carom seeds 1/2 tsp
- Water 3/4 cup
- Oil for deep frying
Dry roast semolina for 2 to 3 mins. Add the maida and mix well.
Grind grated coconut and red chili together to a fine paste with little water.
Mix semolina, maida, rice flour and the grated coconut, red chili pwd.
Add salt, carom seeds, water, asafoetida and oil with the flour.
Knead into a smooth, pliable dough.
Now roll it into long cylinders about the thickness of your little finger – 1/3 cm thick. Cut into to small pieces – about two inches long.
Roll it to small rounds/rings, pinch edges together
Heat oil to medium heat for deep frying.
To check if oil is in correct stage to start frying, just drop a small piece of dough, it should pop up immediately.
Gently slide in the rings to fry. Fry till the oil stops sizzling and it turns a deep golden brown.
Drain and set aside. Tin when cool.
Store in an air tight container.
Okay? Got it? Bobble, bobble?