The Adventures of Mark in India travel blog


I was sick again last night. It was all over in a minute. It left me with an aching lower back and I was tired all day, which was a shame because it's my last day with Sarah. I decided not to go to Auroville. I'll do some meditation classes somewhere later on, rather than hold up my trip. Auroville is not at it's best in the off-season.

I packed my things and looked for a bus to Chidambaram. That's the easiest way to get on a the train line that will eventually get me to Goa. I asked a conductor which bus would head there, and he said 'this bus goes there'. 'Is it direct?' I got the Indian head-wobble. It turned out not to be direct and took two and half hours to go 60km.

In the West our heads pivot up and down for yes, and left and right for no. Indian's understand these. But they also have the head wobble which pivots through neither the yes or no axes, but through an entirely new axis, as yet unknown to us. Sometimes it means yes, sometimes no, or 'I don't know', or 'can't you see I don't understand english'. It's very frustrating when you first arrive because you interpret it to mean what you want it to mean.

My theory is that it originated from the population size (I have this theory about lots of things and then I wonder why they don't happen in London). The larger population requires people to have more obvious ways of attracting attention, so their questions are bolder, and plenty of people require horns and whistles, among other things. Then people also need a way of responding to a question which they have no time to consider but can't get away with ignoring. The head wobble response doesn't satisfy anyone and it doesn't have to. We should learn to embrace it as a valid response to questions like 'have you been to the incense factory?', 'where are you staying?', 'how much is your camera worth?'

The first person I came across who spoke english well enough for me to converse with was the ticket seller at Chidambaram. He told me there was a gauge conversion underway. The train tracks only continued for a few more kilometres. I caught two more buses and got to Tanjour at 10pm.



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