MORE NEW VOCABULARY

More words that though not new, are new to me as I read local newspapers and advertisements, and learn more about Pune, and India in general.

Guntha – A measure of area, about 10 x 10 meters, roughly equivalent to 1/40th of an acre.  It’s common to see magazine articles noting the reservation of a certain number of gunthas, to be dedicated to parking or some other specialty use.

Dabbas – Lunch boxes.  These are the Indian version of bento boxes, traditionally carried by school children or workers.  There’s even a whole industry dedicated to speedy transport of dabbas from home to office workers, or to supply catered dabbas for those who need non home-cooked meals, ensuring a hot, fresh-cooked lunch when and were it is needed.  Note the multiple compartments for keeping several items warm and separate until they are eaten.  I’ve also seen these called tiffin boxes or tingkats.

Gutka – A word from the tabloid papers.  An addictive, chewed stimulant based on betel nuts, plus other substances.  Apparently there is a thriving trade in this illegally manufactured, untaxed, carcinogenic, (and often dangerously contaminated) stimulant.  Every now and again there’s a piece on the arrest of a maker, transporter or gang of distributors.

Gram Panchayat – A village council, or local government body at the village or town level.  Panchayat representatives are elected from panches – the village wards or districts.   A proportion of each local panchayat’s seats are reserved for women representatives.  Panchayats can levy taxes on some local activities, and are responsible for civic activities, including street lights, public education, drinking water, sanitation, and population records. Sadly, not all seem to serve in the public interest though, because occasional newspaper pieces talk of isolated cases of voter coercion, misapplication or misappropriation of funds, or naive choices with unforseen outcomes.  Not unlike local governments in other places.

Techie – A member of the “New India” workforce, especially one working in an engineering or technical field.  The tabloids especially seem to have a fascination for young professionals and their doings.  Many are 20- and 30-somethings with disposable incomes, far away from the watchful eyes of their families.  Not surprisingly, occasionally they or come to harm, either self inflicted through careless behavior, or through victimization; or they commit crimes of passion.  These especially are reported with breathless detail.

Tatkal Tickets – These appear to be railway tickets booked in advance like airline tickets, as opposed to tickets that are purchased at the train station.  There’s a surcharge for advanced purchase.  And since it’s probably now clear that my new words are largely furnished by the sensational crimes section of the local papers, there are occasional pieces on folk who have figured out how to hustle the system, and scalp tickets.  Photo ID is now required for passengers boarding trains with pre-paid tatkal tickets.

How do I like it here?  My friend Osa was right.  Every day is an opportunity for limitless learning and the development of infinite patience.  Small challenges can be daunting (like finding someplace to buy the very unusual light bulbs used in the apartment) but while accomplishing these quests may take time and present transient frustration, the sense of accomplishment, and joy in new things is palpable.  In short, I’m having a great time.

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