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Head wiggling / waggling is something we English just find utterly bemusing. It is also quite difficult to get right as well. Well for this gora anyway who has little or no rhythm in his head and neck regions…this does pretty much spread to other parts of the body, but we will address this under Bollywood dancing at some stage.


In the West we are so accustomed to our rigid up and down for yes, left and right for no, that this general bobbing and bouncing around in front of our eyes leaves us frowning and questioning, “is that yes, or no, what exactly is that”.


Head wiggling is more like when two pariah dogs enthusiastically meet each other in the street with their tails wagging away as they greet each other.


So here are a few explanations*


Firstly the movement: Rotate the chin to one side, about 15 degree and dip the ear. Once complete quickly and smoothly repeat the motion in the other direction. Repeat and carry on for as long as is required. Often for several seconds or longer if you are really getting animated. The essential part to remember is that the movement must seem effortless and smooth.


What can a wiggle get you?


Responding in the affirmative:


If talking to an Indian and you find yourself in complete agreement then you can show this agreement by wiggling your head. Example: a conversation between Bob and Dave (two classic Indian names):


Bob “George Bush is a complete idiot, who has alienated many cultures in the World and propagated terrorism”

Dave does not need to respond by saying “I agree”, he just wiggles away emphatically and they are both of the understanding that they are in agreement that George Bush is a complete arse. Beautiful.


Saying thank you:


Saying thank you in India is much less fashionable than it is in England. However it does not go amiss. A simple wiggle of the head will make this gesture.


Dave “Here is your chai”, he hands Bob his tea.

Bob wiggles away, with no need of opening his mouth.


Acknowledging ones presence:


Normally in the UK a hi, a nod or a small wave will acknowledge your presence. But in India, simply make eye contact and wiggle away.


Making friends:


To say that wiggling your head makes you instant friends with somebody is probably an exaggeration, but it isn’t far from the truth. If you wiggle and get a wiggle back then you are well on route to becoming life long buddies with your fellow wiggler. Apparently though this will not get you a discount in Mumbai’s redlight district, but you may end up with a, not so pleasant, itch.


Disarming people:


Gregory Roberts puts it so eloquently in Shantaram “gradually, I realised that the wiggle of the head was a signal to others that I carried an amiable and disarming message: I am a peaceful man, I don’t mean any harm”


So if there are a bunch of goondas hanging out on the street corner, a little wiggle will suffice in ensuring your safe passage. Though I would ensure that you have practiced, getting it wrong may suffice in getting your head kicked in.


To confuse things even more, apparently there is a difference between North and South wiggles. I have not been North yet, so can’t comment, but I am sure it will take a while to adjust my wiggle.


Furthermore, unlike the pariah dogs and their wagging tails – head wiggling should not be followed up by trying to sniff the anus of your fellow wiggler and then trying to hump them on the street. This, as far as I know, is not an Indian integral cultural norm.


Ref:, Shantaram, by Gregory Roberts




Novels about war reveal great truth as to what it is to be human. Maybe more so than any other genre of writing. I am going to dig out some quotes from novels and place them here, just for the sake of placing them here and no other particular reason.

Kurt Vonnegut – Slaughterhouse 5

“American planes, full of holes and wounded men and corpses took off backwards from an airfield in England. Over France, a few German fighter planes flew at them backwards, sucked bullets and shell fragments from some of the planes and crewmen. They did the same for wrecked American bombers on the ground, and those planes flew up backwards to join the formation.

The formation flew backwards over a German city that was in flames. The bombers opened their bomb bay doors, exerted a miraculous magnetism which shrunk the fires, gathered them into cylindrical steel, containers, and lifted the containers into the bellies of the planes. The containers were stored neatly in racks. The Germans below had miraculous devices of their own, which were long steel tubes. They used them to suck fragments from the crewmen and planes. But there were still a few wounded Americans, though, and some of the bombers were in bad repair. Over France, though, german fighters came up again, made everything and everybody as good as new.

When the bombers got back to their base, the steel cylinders were taken from the racks and shipped back to the United States of America, where factories were operating night and day, dismantling the cylinders, separating the dangerous contents into minerals. Touchingly, it was mainly women who did this work. The minerals were then shipped to specialists in remote areas. It was their business to put them into the ground, to hide them cleverly, so they would never hurt anybody ever again.”

 Gregory David Roberts – Shantaram

“Men wage wars for profit and principal, but they fight them for land and women. Sooner or later, the other causes and compelling reasons drown in blood and lose their meaning. Sooner or later, death  and survival clog the senses. Sooner or later, surviving is the only logic, and dying is the only voice and vision.  Then, when best friends die screaming, and good men maddened with pain and fury lose their minds in the bloody pit, when all the fairness and justice and beauty in the world is blown away with  arms and legs and heads of brothers and sons and fathers, then, what makes men fight on, and die, and keep on dying, year after year, is the will to protect the land and the women.

You know that’s true when you listen to them, in the hours before they go into battle. They talk about home, and they talk about the women they love. And you know it’s true when you watch them die. If he’s near the earth or on the earth in the last moments, a dying man reaches out for it, to squeeze a grasp of soil in his hand. If he can, he’ll raise his head to look at the mountain, the valley, or the plain. If he’s a long way from home, he’ll think about it, and he’ll talk about it. He’ll talk about his village, or his home town, or the city where he grew up. The land matters, at the end. And at the very last, he won’t scream of causes. At the very last, he’ll murmur or he’ll cry out the name of a sister or a daughter or a lover or a mother, even as he speaks the name of his god. The end mirrors the beginning. In the end, its a woman, and a city.

Joseph Heller – Catch 22

“There was only one catch and that was Catch-22, that specified that a concern for one’s own safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind. Orr was crazy and could be grounded. All he had to do was ask; and as soon as he did, he would no longer be crazy and would have to fly more missions. Orr would be crazy to fly more missions and sane if he didn’t, but if he was sane, he had to fly them. Yossarian was moved very deeply by the absolute simplicity of the clause of Catch-22 and let out a respectful whistle.

“That’s some catch, that Catch-22,” he observed.

“It’s the best there is,” Doc Daneeka replied.”

I am currently reading Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts. A great novel and interesting provider of insight into Indian culture and its ways.

This is a quote that intrigues me (P367) “When we act even in the best intentions, when we interfere with the world, we always risk a new disaster that mightn’t be of our making, but that wouldn’t occur without out action”.

This quote is relevant to my interest, and to a certain degree, concerns about charity work.

I would like to place myself in a situation whereby I am helping those who most need it. But here lies the problem – if you educate and help people and increase their chances of opportunity then what if these opportunities do not exist. All then you have done is provide a false sense of hope.

A false sense of hope is a dangerous concept. It can lead to apathy, drug abuse, violence etc. This is something that I must keep aware of and will be one of the biggest challenges surrounding the charity aspect of my trip.

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