As part of the preparation for our grand India adventure, I’ve been reading everything I can about Pune and the surrounding area.  This includes on-line editions of local newspapers, history books, and blogs.  I’m learning a lot, finding facts, trends, and rumors – the hard and soft aspects of our soon-to-be home and its stew of cultures.

My primary sources are the web-available English language newspapers.  I admit that they provide a skewed viewpoint.  I know that I would not want someone to draw vast conclusions about the US by reading any one or two papers here (especially the tabloids or political slush papers). Still, slanted as they are in reporting eye catching, sensational crime stories, or presenting views tinted by biases I do not yet understand, they are a fascinating source of words, turns of phrase, references, and names of institutions that are new to me.  These usages are just as current, legitimate and topical as any writing or speech anywhere else. I am reporting these not because they are strange, but because they are novel to my ear.

Dacoity – This one was reported by the Resident Male.  In the US it would be called “armed robbery” or in an older time – alleybashing.  Someone sticking up the local convenience store would be a dacoit.

Sharp weapons – Also reported by the Resident Male. We’d say “edged weapons.”  Knives, mostly.  Seems to be the favored arsenal for dacoity.

Nullah – A steep sided gully through which infrequent (but dangerous) storm water surges flow.  If a natural feature, depending on the part of the country here we’d call it an arroyo, canyon, gully, gulch, or gorge.  If man-made it might be a culvert or storm drain.

Housing society – In the US it would be a housing cooperative or “co-op” for short.  A building or neighborhood in which the owners share the pooled cost of common area maintenance and general services for all.  Like here though, there are maintenance fees and (when needed) special assessments.  “Society” is also used to mean the grounds of the housing complex itself, especially enclosed communities formed of single family houses with walled gardens, inside a larger gated perimeter.

Overbridge – Overpass, like a  highway overpass or a traffic fly-over.

Municipal Corporation – Depending on the size and organization of the city or town in the US the equivalent would be the city or town council and mayor’s office.  I’m still working this out, but it appears that civic governance is not by direct election of representatives to the municipal corporation, but I may be wrong.  More on this as I learn myself.

E-Way – The equivalent here would be a expressway, major highway or turnpike, probably a major Interstate or state route.

Lokshahi din – Grievance sessions held by a Municipal Corporation.  Citizens with a compliant about municipal function or services delivery can submit it in writing, then go to a hearing where a municipal commissioner can render a judgement, to which all parties are bound.  These tend to be held by civic zone (what we’d call city ward or district).

Jawan – I deduce this is a security guard, policeman, or soldier on security detail.  Jawans are deployed on the trains to maintain security and order.  I’m unsure if the male uniformed guards checking bag contents and running metal detectors outside of most public buildings would also be called jawans, or what (if any) the equivalent term for a female officer might be.

Chowki – This one caught me by surprise but shouldn’t have.  It’s a local police station or jail.  I’d always wondered where the Brit/US slang “chokey” for the local slammer came from.  Now I know.

Chowk – by contrast, this is a town square.  I guess in India, Arlington Center would be known as Arlington Chowk.

I’ll continue to vacuum up what I can, posting occasional vocabulary updates as my linguistic dust cup fills.

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