By October 20, 2014 0 Comments

How our walls speak a thousand words

Simply Body Talk

“Deewar Pe”, a recent ad by Berger Paints lets us peep into our souls and discover how we are unconsciously attached to the wall in our homes for a thousand different reasons. A young girl would put her head against the wall to exercise. The same girl would measure her height against the wall or kick with her feet against the wall while talking to her friend on the phone. Kids and pets love to “decorate” the walls with their art. Maids put their dirty hands against the wall to claim their say in the household. The diwali diyas get to leave their mark on the wall, narrating an after tale of the festivity long after it is gone. It is really worth pondering on just how many different ways and styles we use the walls in our homes to communicate without words.

In general, walls help us to secure our territory and define our personal space. We feel comfortable once we step into the four walls of a known territory, be it our office, our home, our class. When it comes to decorating these walls, we treat the external and internal walls differently. While external walls have to be strong and sturdy, weathering all extremities, internal walls have to be warm and cozy, they have to have a character and personality of their own. In fact we are obsessed with wanting to decorate our walls so they reflect who we really are. This is evident from the tons of material varieties that are available in the market to decorate walls. We don’t like empty or drab walls. It reminds us of confinement or celibacy. In fact, whenever we think of decorating our home, an almost instinctive purchase is that of a clock or picture to go on the wall. All other accessories come next. It is as if we don’t want to remind ourselves that we are caged in four walls and decorating them makes us feel like we had a say in the boundaries that we have drawn up against ourselves.

If we take a step back in history, we can reminisce the walls of the times of kings and maharajas, where they served a greater purpose than defining the space of the palace. Our very own wall of Kumbalgarh from the times of the Mewar rulers extends over 36km and is the second largest wall in Asia. It speaks of how kings used to go to great extents to build walls to protect their territory. Breaking of the wall very often foretold breaking up of the rulership. Ever wondered where Wall Street gets its name from? Even though today the name signifies financial districts of New York and reminds us of suited up bankers and busy traders, the name itself has a very humble origin in being a territory protector for the Dutch from the native Americans way back in the 17th century.

Walls have also been used to metaphorically divide territories. In the widely criticized climax of the movie Parineeta, we see Saif Ali Khan physically breaking down a wall he shares with his neighbour, ending the boundary they had drawn in their relationship. The 1987 movie Sansar shows an imaginary line between two families. Even though the physical wall does not exist, the families do not cross the wall, or boundary. It reminds us of the ill fated Lakshman Rekha from Ramayana.

All of us who are detective fans, whether books or movies or teleserials, know for a fact how walls are a detective’s favourite canvas. The detective pins up his field work, his research, his maps, all on the map. Sometimes serial killers are shown to put up their ‘prizes’ on the wall or leave behind messages on the wall to degrade the victims. Detective Mahone gets a major break on the escaped convict Scofield in the teleserial Prison Break because of the marks of pin ups on his home wall which told the story of his detailed research. Sherlock took the pinning up of detective work to a different level by engaging in his “mind palace”, an effective memory enhancing technique of Greeks where one creates imaginary physical rooms with walls separating each section and stores items in these sections.

Touching the wall can also mean a lot of things under different contexts. The detective goes around tapping walls for hollows in the wall, looking for a secret lock to open up the wall. The wall in these instances marks a boundary between very extreme worlds – one evident to the sweeping eye and the other surreptitiously hidden away with much effort. When a group of friends or a couple hang around in an alley, one of them might lean his elbow by the wall to open up with comfort or lean with his hand high up on the wall to show his dominance by making the wall an extension of himself.

Pounding on the wall tells a different tale – it speaks of grief of the person. Very often movies of yesteryears depicted scenes of widows breaking their bangles against walls when they heard of the demise of their husbands; or of mothers breaking their heads against walls of temples to plead to All-mighty for help. Toddlers may also bang their heads against the walls, boys more than girls, to relieve themselves from pain or frustration or merely for attention. Metaphorically we say one is banging his head against the wall to symbolize one’s inner frustration. Men kick the wall in frustration. Someone hearing bad news takes support of the wall and sits down in shock. Kids who are scolded also often go and sulk besides the wall. It seems like in these cases the soul of the human is fighting the physical boundary and wants to escape from the situation.

The favourite obsession with walls still remains that of writing on them. A toddler learns the magic of rubbing a chalk or crayon against the wall and glees in delight at the wonder he created out of thin air. Not only do we now get paints which are easy to clean, there is a paint named IdeaPaint, which is a special kind of paint that can turn anything into a dry-erase writing surface. It is used in schools, offices, hospitals, and homes around the world. IdeaPaint, in its marketing campaign, urges its users to write on the entire wall instead of a small whiteboard. In fact, Evernote has tied up with IdeaPaint to propose a bizarre encouragement to our wall obsession. They say, after a long brainstorming session on your wall, snap a photo with your digital camera or smartphone and use Evernote to make all the text searchable. You can also now share those images with your class, team or colleagues.

Men have historically loved their walls and will continue doing so. With products that encourage us to embrace our walls, we couldn’t be far from graduating into offices and homes with makeshift walls, which can come up and down as requirements demand.

Written by,

Khyati Bhatt

Body Language Consultant

Simply Body Talk

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About the Author:

Khyati Bhatt has trained for mastery in Nonverbal Communication with retired FBI special agent Joe Navarro. She founded Simply Body Talk in 2013 to help individuals and corporates fine tune their nonverbal behavior and nonverbal communication. Khyati believes in taking a scientific approach to body language. Her experience as a wealth manager, currency trader, and family entrepreneur has helped sharpen her nonverbal instincts. She is a fervent reader and has explored the work of many psychologists and anthropologists in her field of work.

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