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Folk Gesture


Folk Gesture meaningful gesture usually practised by the folk people. Some gestures are common to different regions, while others vary from region to region. Folk gestures form part of daily life, but may also be used, perhaps in exaggerated form, in dramatic performances.

While many gestures are common to different cultures, others are different and may be misconstrued by people of other cultures. Many folk gestures are obscene or rude. Winking, whistling, poking out one's tongue, for example, are common to many cultures and carry similar connotations. Others belong to a community. In the west, lifting up one's little finger while drinking tea, for example, is believed to be a sign of upper-class sophistication-but happens to give away one's lower-class origins.

Folk gestures in Bangladesh using the hands and fingers can convey respect, derision, or anger. Thus, young people or students will touch the feet of their elders or teachers with their right hand and then raise the hand to their lips and forehead in a gesture of respect. Similarly, if someone kicks or touches someone else with their feet, they will instantly raise their hands to their lips asking to be forgiven the conduct. This gesture is also replicated in the case of books, which are held in high regard. If someone drops a book, he or she will immediately pick it up and touch it to the lips and forehead in a gesture of repentance.

The thumb is used as a mark of derision. If one wants to crow over someone's discomfiture or suggest that the person got nothing for his troubles, one wags the thumb side to side. Little children use the little finger to show their anger at each other. If they wish to stop being friends, two children will crook the little fingers of their right hands and touch them to each other. When they wish to make up, they will touch their thumbs in a similar fashion.

Other gestures have to do with usual day-to-day activities such as ploughing, sowing, digging, and rowing for men and cooking, cutting, and cleaning for women. The manner of rowing in Bangladesh differs from that in the West. Thus, in Bangladesh, the scull is held with both hands to move the boat forward. The right hand is the good hand; it is used for eating and sowing. Thus, a farmer scatters seeds or fertiliser moving his right hand in a circular manner from side to side while holding the dhama or basket just above the left hip. Rice seedlings as well as vegetable seeds are planted with the right hand.

Some gestures are peculiar to women. Thus, a woman will quickly move to cover her head as well as mouth and nose when fronted by male strangers. Housewives will raise the broom when demonstrating their anger against their small children.

Folk gestures are used in folk performances such as jatra, gambhira, alkap, baul dance, etc. In Alkap, where boys play the roles of women, they resort to women's gestures. The maternal grandfather and grandson in Gambhira, use special gestures to convey the lifestyle of farmers from Chapai Nawabganj.

Despite urbanisation and globalisation, folk gestures are deeply engrained in the cultural ethos and continue to be used even by many educated Bengalis. [Zillur Rahman John]