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A Cross-Cultural Glossary
by Shayok Mukhopadhyay
- the major car-brand in India, till recent
de-regulation opened up the
auto industry to foreign companies. Awaking nostalgic memories in British
tourists of the old Morris Oxford, the Ambassador
has been exported as a retro curio, and its antiquated
engine design has emitted much more noxious fumes and consumed
far more gasoline than the oil and dollar-strapped
India can afford. Note that the roots of this
monopoly-serving protectionism go back to M.K.Gandhi's
vaunted Swadeshi Movement.
truncation of "auto-rickshaw". A three wheeled vehicle, built
out of the basic components of a scooter or, less commonly,
a motorbike, popular in Asia. Usually running as cabs, the
driver sits in the front-seat and two or three passengers
can sit comfortably in the rear, limits that are
frequently stretched. Manoueverable and nimble to a dangerous
degree, these cause both gridlocks and pollution.
- a reasonably cohesive regional entity for hundreds of
years prior to the British colonization of the Indian subcontinent and
through the British rule, this province was split into West Bengal
and East Pakistan at the time of Indian/Pakistani independence
in 1947. Note that division of Bengal on a religious basis
was a feat the British had attempted but abandoned in face of popular protest.
It was left to Indians to implement it.
While West Bengal became a state in the Indian union,
East Pakistan was paired off with West Pakistan, an entity
1500 miles away across the breadth of India to form Pakistan.
East and west Pakistans had nothing (not food, not language)
in common but Islam. This cathartic state of
affairs continued till East Pakistan managed to overthrow
its West Pakistani oppressors in 1972, form the nation of Bangladesh,
and install, for most of its existence, an indigenous set of
- a native of Bengal (also its lingua franca). A people in steady decline since
1947 (the year of the partition of Bengal),
in sharp decline since 1970s, it has made major contributions
in the arts and sciences, recognized (inadequately) by Nobel Prizes
and (adequately) by top prizes at international film festivals.
- a crude kind of cigarette made with tobacco rolled
in a special kind of leaf, tied with a bit of twine whose color often
serves to identify brand or grade. There is, of course, no
filter. "It's a woman thing" too, among the economically backward.
- aromatic rice preparation, usually with meat,
similar (at risk of alienating purists, I might helpfully add),
in some respects, to the pilaf/pulao. Versions
sucking up to vegetarians not unknown.
the black cloth that covers the head and face of
the demure Muslim woman and sizzles her in tropical heat
while protecting her from lecherous looks. Usually part of
a head-to-toe black outfit. Foreigners travelling in Muslim
countries with similarly clad wives (in order to be
in compliance with local laws) are not
unknown to have lost them in a crowd thus.
Also known as the chador.
- Central Park
- Humble New Yorkers will no doubt take umbrage at
the suggestion that solar systems exist where The Park
needs a glossary entry. A huge wooded area in the heart
of Manhattan, the lungs of the metropolis, the oxygen
mask of its inhabitants, a tourist-trap if there ever
was one. While New Yorkers and wannabe New Yorkers
locomote on roller-skates, tourists take carriage rides,
whose first stop is at a water-trough, where the horse
is brought, but rarely persuaded to drink.
- Buddhist memorial to the dead.
- large manufacturer of small computers; recently
acquired a small manufacturer of large computers.
- a strange, slow, baseball-like game played in
about a dozen countries, mostly former British territories. Revolutionary
reform by mercurial Australian media baron (sorry, not Murdoch)
Kerry Packer has produced an abbreviated eight-hour long
version out of the original, and still prevalent, six-day
epic that traditionally included a Day of Rest. Predictably, the English
squire's invention and passion.
- Dunkin' Donuts'
- an American fast-food chain focussing on the niche-market
of coffee, breakfast and snacks. Among the better chains.
- the major international airport in New York metropolitan
area, it's widely touted to be the world's worst. Named after
John F Kennedy, the US President.
- Islamic priest; religious and social leader in Muslim community.
- Non-resident Indian. Usually US resident. The new Brahmin.
Indian matrimonial classifieds specifically seek and advertise NRIs.
- US $0.25, the gold standard for vending machines and
- unless otherwise mentioned, the Indian Rupee. Ten rupees
roughly make a quarter today. And dropping still.....
- self-professed Indian godman with a Larry Gomes (for those who
remember this West Indian cricketer overshadowed by more
prominent contemporaries) hairstyle, revealed to
be little better than a second-rate magician by P.C.Sorcar.
Headquartered on the outskirts of Bangalore. Large following.
- Asahi Pentax's once-popular line of screw-mount SLR cameras,
available in huge numbers in the used market in
the US, pushing prices down to a level which, if prevalent in the
third-world, would generate plenty of serious photographers.
- Swadeshi Movement
- M.K.Gandhi's call to boycott British goods during the
Indian independence movement, on closer inspection revealed
to be a sop to his campaign financiers - Indian entrepreuners
seeking to foist inferior and pricier goods on the Indian
poor. Rabindranath Tagore was one of the few to see through
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