Here are some more words and terms I’ve stumbled across during my India-migration preparations.  Again – I point these out not because they are laughable or substandard, but because they are new to me, and illustrate the fact that English while common bridge among many speakers, can befuddle as well as unite. Please note that my sample is skewed to the sensational, because most of my sources are newspapers.

Here are three from local news coverage that all have to do with social action.  There’s probably nuance or hierarchy of severity here that I’m missing.  I’m inferring definition from context, and I don’t have tons of data points to figure out finer shades of meaning.  Please chime in with corrections if you  have them.

Bandobast – I love the sound of this one.   From the usage it appears to be an ad-hoc group pursuing a common purpose, especially a grass-roots one, as opposed to that of a standing organization.  There appears to be a nuance of self-organization, individual action, and spontaneity to a bandobast.  A group of volunteers picking up litter after an arts festival or handing out water to marathon runners might be considered to be bandobasts.  But not all bandobast actions are benign.

Morcha – A morcha seems to be used when a group of people self-organizes to pursue a specific social or political agenda.  Although I see traffic-blocking street protests referred to using “bandobast,” “morcha” seems to be used more for organized actions we’d call labor strikes or work slowdowns.  I’m unsure if the Occupy Movement’s actions in various US cities this year past would be considered bandobasts or morchas.

Bandh – This appears to be a major form of organized protest – a universal strike, in which the entire population of a region stays home, eschewing all work, school, commerce, or travel.  It’s a powerful tool of civil protest. I’ve found through further reading that it has been banned, although calls for bandh actions are still made.

 And some more general terms:

 Godown – From context, seems to be a storage facility or warehouse district.  I’ve seen some articles that use ‘godown’ to refer to industrial buildings of indistinct past use but large size, now repurposed to serve civic needs.

 Octroi – I know this one from Medieval history.  In historical usage, it’s a tax, levied on the goods moved between states; not exactly a customs duty, it’s more like a custody transfer tax. In the India context I’m unsure if this is a commercial tax, paid by corporations and possibly by municipal entities, although I think it is – as opposed to a direct tax paid by individuals.  (That’s not to say that costs aren’t trickled down.)

 Corporators – the closest I can figure is that these are local representatives.  In the US, depending on the type of local governance and size of the local area, these might be ward representatives, town meeting or city council members.  I am unsure if Corporators are appointed or elected.  More reading is warranted.

 Scheme – this is a nuance difference in usage.  In the Indian newspapers, scheme appears to be used as a synonym for plan.  For example, municipal corporations (city governance organizations) can have schemes for handling various civic challenges.  However in the US, a scheme would have a sinister connotation, with an undertone of illicit secrecy.  It’s a word used in the US more to designate the plans of evildoers and malcontents, than it is used to describe honest and forthright actions taken to benefit others.

I’ll keep on posting these from time to time, to entertain and edify. Perhaps some future expat will find these posts useful.

2 responses

  1. The term “scheme” may have been used in the positive sense at one time in modern Scotland. At least, I’ve read that “schemie” is an insulting term for someone who lives in a housing development “scheme” in Scotland, such developments having gone the way of well-intentioned tenements and low-income housing in many places.

    1. Yup. I agree. Scheme has different meanings depending on where (and when) one is. But in common modern American usage, it carries a negative connotation. As an expat-to-be reading contemporary Indian newspapers, struck me as slightly unexpected.

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