Do you remember the term Jet Set? Am I dating myself here? I remember hearing that phrase as a kid, the expression identifying an international social group of wealthy people who travelled the world to participate in social activities unavailable to ordinary people. I love traveling the world and exploring far-away cultures. But do you know what (or who) I equally enjoy? Ordinary people! Ordinary people are where the money is at I jokingly say. The money or the Dong or the Sol or the Rupees.
I learned this during my first true international excursion to Vietnam ten years ago. Like the Viets, Indians are modest in spirit, with a sweetness reminiscent of the silver foiled Haldiram’s candies they passed on at the start of the trip - royal traditionalists of the finest elements. Reserved like the Vietnamese, they're quieter and less playful.
A bit of chiding brought their playfulness out:
“Sir, may I tell you something, sir?”
Me: “But of course sir, what is it?”
“You, with your beard, sir. You appear to be… Abraham Lincoln.”
Me: (laughing) “Oh, sir, it’s a fine compliment, sir (love the sir thing). You do know that Abe Lincoln was our Mahattma Gandhi, yes? And if I take a closer look here at you, with perhaps a Doti (the traditional white wrap garment) and the iconic specs, a similar resemblance, no? (Much, much laughter).
Much laughter coupled with much head warbling, as the Indian’s share they're own funky, original head jiggle. The Bobble as its referred to "can be a nod, shake, slow turn, raise or spasm of an Indian’s head”, informs an online source. True! Researching, I was happily surprised to discover The Indian Head Bobble defined by Wickipedia:“The head bobble, or Indian head shake refers to a common gesture found in South Asian cultures… the motion usually consisting of a side-to-side tilting of the head in arcs along the coronal plane. A form of nonverbal communication, it may mean ‘Yes’, ‘Good’, ‘OK’ or ‘I understand’, depending on the context. Many different styles define the move . As my dear friend Sherif – and I made some dear friends on this trip – put it so comically: “Did you see THAT guy? I thought he was going to snap his own head clean off.” The warble is downright endearing, and so I thank India again, with a deep bow, along with a vertical, horizontal, and circular neck motion.
Comedic, soulful exchanges lit the way from arrival to departure. On an in-country jaunt that had us on IndiGo Airlines, the former advertising creative in me noticed their snappy marketing, with decent copy and engaging ideas. Having their air hostesses sport buttons that read Girl Power was one of their better ideas. “I want you to know how much I like your pin,” I told one of the sky stewards. “You gals appear very empowered and this looks like a great gig for you, traveling your own land and being of service to people.” What I didn’t know at the time was that India’s Girl Power is an entire movement, inspired by female leaders, many rape victims themselves, on a mission to combat a culture of rampant disrespect and harassment.
When we disembarked, Shanti (meaning Peace in Hindi) was at the door smiling wide. “Sir, I want to thank you for your kind words. I appreciate what you said to me. And I’d like to give you my pin.” Baby Ghat back. My Goodness, Om Namo Shivia, like an arrow - or sharp pin - to the heart, I’m still glowing now as I recount the story (I lingered at the luggage carousel, but unfortunately this was a group trip). My plans to marry Shanti and move to New Delhi aside, I sported that pin proudly all over India, down and all around with the collective, worldwide healing of the feminine Divine. Not just in Hollywood folks. Or Bollywood for that matter.