Tuesday, January 29, 2013


Today in the shower I mentally compiled a small list of things I've noticed here that have reminded me that I'm not in Kansas (or, more accurately, New York) anymore.

The first was the shower (and now you can see how banal some of my post ideas are!). Our showers have no shower curtains, nor any place to hang one. They also have no meaningful separation between the shower area and the rest of the bathroom. The result of this is that any time one of us takes a shower the entire bathroom gets wet. The floor is a huge puddle, the toilet is wet, the walls are wet...and then they stay wet for several hours. It's annoying, because then if you go in the bathroom your feet get wet. And if you're clumsy, like me, walking with wet feet in your tiled apartment results in you falling and bruising your knees, ass, and dignity. So anyway, I started wondering today: do Indians (or other people who are used to this style of shower/bathroom arrangement) end up with soaking wet bathrooms every time they shower? Or do they learn to shower in a neater manner?

Thinking about showering and being neat and clean reminded me that I've never yet seen anyone here sweating. I mean, obviously (nearly) all people sweat, but even people doing manual labor, or the men walking around campus in wool sweaters and vests look dry as a bone. When I mentioned this to Robert he pointed out that it's winter here, and for those born and raised in this climate probably not really hot at all. He probably has a point, but I'm now convinced I'm the sweatiest woman on the IISc campus, largely by dint of being the only sweaty woman. And I'm not even particularly sweaty! But really, nothing says "attractive" like tall, tattooed and slightly sweaty, right?

Um, right? Never mind, don't answer that.

And finally, I bring you...well, I'm not even sure what to call it. The head bobble?

Virtually all Indians I've interacted with make this really interesting movement with their heads. I've never seen anything like it before, and I am totally unable to imitate it. It's sort of a cross between the way snake charmers move their heads in movies (the only place I've ever seen a snake charmer) and the head movement of a bobble head doll. I think it means something like "OK" or "I'm listening to you", but I'm not positive of that! The first person I saw do it was a waiter. We gave him our order and he bobbled his head and left. We had no idea what it meant- especially because to our eyes it looks more like "no" than "yes" (and not really much like either). Were we going to get what we ordered? We did, but that didn't really clear up my confusion about what exactly it was indicating. Especially because sometimes people I haven't even spoken to will bobble their heads at me! Often the guards at the gates to the institute will do so, for instance, when I nod my head or wave at them as the kids and I pass by. So I suppose it could also mean "I acknowledge your presence" as well. At any rate, it's yet another little mystery of India, and a daily reminder that I am getting to live in a country that is totally new to me, and that brings new information, surprises and questions every day :)

No comments: