India is a colourful country and so are its people. In gestures this can range from traditional greetings to irresistible head waggle; in speech, this veers from Victorian English expressions to new Hinglish words. In response to these quirks in your new adopted city, Bangalore is sure to keep one expression on your own face: a smile.
Ah, the head shake, one of India’s most famous features. Far from being a refusal, this has many positive meanings all rolled up in the one move, from ‘uh-huh, understood’ to ‘yes, I’ll be there’ to ‘thank you’, not something you often hear in Bangalore, but something you see.
THE VINE GUIDE TO HEAD BOBBING
Super speedy: I’ve really understood and I will literally stick my neck out to prove it.
Faster with no expression: Yes, sure, but don’t expect me to get excited about this
Slow, soft and smiling: Jackpot – you’ve made a Bangalorean friend.
Basically, the more vigorous the head shake, the more emphasis you are putting on the expression, but if the shakee doesn’t stop after a couple of minutes, ask yourself: ‘are they saying thank you or having a fit?’ and act appropriately.
Warning to Viners, this move is as catchy as it is endearing. After a few months, you won’t be able to stop yourself doing it any more than you can stop yourself doing the actions to the macarena when it comes on (or is that just me?).
Namaste is for northerners, really*. Few people in Bangalore will greet you this way, but the phrase can come in useful in many other circumstances. For example, if you do not look Indian, there’s a good chance (I’d say a conservative 99%) that you will be stared at. If this is making you uncomfortable, an Indian friend gave the advice: make eye contact and say the magic word with your hands in the prayer position, thumbs close to your chest. Namaste will have a similar effect as the expelliarmus spell from Harry Potter, with a far more pleasant approach. You may even get a slow head bob.
*If you go to any 5-star hotel, you may come across Indian porters, dressed in a highly stylised way who will use ‘Namaste’. You’re a Bangalore Viner, so there’s no fooling you: this is put on for tip purposes.
We all pick up phrases from the area we live in. The joy in Bangalore comes from the mixture of English and the other 20-odd languages that you will hear in the melting pot that is this city.
Some of the expressions come from a direct translation of Hindi to English: Aapka shubh naam kya hai? becomes ‘what is your good name’? Others refer back to pre-independence India, when the East India company would post its officers to particular stations: thus ‘going out of town’ is often referred to as ‘going out of station’. Either way, there are some rich phrases that will creep into your own vocabulary and before you know it – you’ll sound like a true resident.
Vine Tip: Do take the chance to incorporate some delightful Indian-English phrases when you get home. Ask your friends for their ‘good name’, tell your mother to ‘do the needful’ and ‘cousin-brothers’ to ‘please revert’ to invites that you might have to ‘prepone’.
One of the most endearing things about Bangaloreans is their attitude to children as a gift from God. You may not feel that way when forced to sit in Funky Monkeys for the millionth time, but the city is more patient than you. A common way of showing appreciation is for a South Indian to pinch your child’s cheek with the backs of their middle fingers, which they then kiss. This is both hygienic, in not touching the child with your mouth directly, and respectful, in that they don’t grab your kid and squish them as they clearly want to.
WORST FOOT FORWARD
Feet are considered repellent in Indian culture, being the lowest part of a person’s body (conversely one’s head is sacred). It’s therefore considered polite to step over items that are sacred, such as books, money or the threshold of a temple. With regard to touching people with your feet, it is considered disrespectful to the divine in someone else and woe betide the person who lets their feet brush lazily against another’s. No footsie playing here please, we’re Indian.
Disclaimer: This article is intended to entertain and amuse the reader and not designed to offend or mislead anyone. The author kindly asks that you take it in the spirit in which it was intended.