Glossary of Terms from Interpreter of Maladies

Aerogram: an airmail letter

Allopath: a practitioner of conventional medicine

Almari: an article of furniture similar to a wardrobe

Areca: a kind of palm tree yielding nuts that are eaten rolled up in the leaves of the betel plant with a small amount of mineral lime

Assansol: the second largest city in West Bengal. Also spelled Asansol.

Attar: fragrant oil obtained from roses or other flowers

Auscultation: listening to the heart or other organs to determine their state of health

Avatar: in Hinduism, the bodily manifestation of a god

Ayurvedic: a practitioner of traditional Indian medicine

Bechareh: an epithet used to designate a pitiable person

Beleghata: an area of Calcutta (Kolkata)

Bengal: a region in Asia mainly comprising the nation of Bangladesh and the Indian state of West Bengal

Bengali: the second most commonly spoken language in India, and the main language spoken in Bangladesh. Also, a member of the ethnic community of Bengal.

Burdwan: a city in the state of West Bengal, in eastern India. Alternatively known as Bardhaman.

Calcutta: the capital of the state of West Bengal, in eastern India. The name was officially changed to Kolkata in 2001.

Carom: a kind of game played on a plywood board

Chandrabhaga River: a river in western India, also known as the Bhima

Durwan: a porter or door-keeper

Emergency, The: an 18-month period between 1975 and 1977 when Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was granted the power to rule by decree

Ganga: the eastern Gangas were a dynasty that ruled a large portion of central eastern India from 1028 to 1434.

Gem therapist: a practitioner who treats illnesses using precious and semi-precious stones

Gramin Bank: an experimental organization started in Bangladesh that provides the poor with small loans without requiring collateral. Also known as the Grameen Bank.

Grundig reel-to-reel: a kind of tape recorder

Gujarati: the language native to the state of Gujarat in western India. Also, an inhabitant of Gujarat.

Hanuman: a species of monkey named for the Hindu god Hanuman. It is regarded as sacred.

Howrah Station: one of the major train stations serving the cities of Howrah and Calcutta

Hyderabad: the capital of the state of Andhra Pradesh, in western India. Also, a district in Andhra Pradesh.

Jackfruit: a kind of enormous, sweet-fleshed fruit widely grown in parts of Asia

Jain: a follower of Jainism, a religion originating in South Asia about the sixth century B.C.E.

Jaipur: the capital of the state of Rajasthan, in western India

Kashmiri: pertaining to Kashmir, the northernmost region of the Indian subcontinent. Also spelled Cashmere.

Khandagiri: with Udayagiri, the site of sandstone caves excavated around the first and second centuries B.C.E. as dwellings for monks. Located in Orissa.

Kishore Kumar: a noted Bengali singer and actor

Konarak: a small town in the state of Orissa. It is the site of the Sun temple built by King Narasimhadeva I (AD 1236-1264) of the Ganga dynasty.

Lord’s: a cricket ground in London

LSE: the London School of Economics and Political Science

Mukhesh: a popular Indian singer known as “the man with the golden voice.” Usually spelled Mukesh.

Orissa: a state on the east coast of India

Orissi: the language spoken in Orissa. More commonly known as Oriya.

Paisa: in India and Pakistan, a monetary unit equal to one-hundredth of a rupee

Pakora: a kind of snack or appetizer dipped in seasoned batter and deep-fried

Palanquin: a kind of portable, enclosed chair

Papadum: a kind of flatbread

Partition: the creation of the two sovereign states of India and Pakistan in 1947, when the areas of South Asia formerly under British colonial authority were granted independence. The Partition was intended as a means of ending racial and ethnic violence. In the aftermath, millions became refugees, as Hindus in Pakistan fled to India, and Muslims in India fled to Pakistan.

Punjabi: a native of Punjab, the region of eastern Pakistan and northwestern India that includes the Pakistani province of Punjab and the Indian state of Punjab. Also, the language of this region.

Puri: a city in the Indian state of Orissa

Quahog: a kind of clam from the Atlantic coast

Raga: a pattern of notes of the Indian musical scale, which is played, then improvised upon. A raga may be associated with a particular mood, emotion, season or time of day.

Rice ceremony: a ritual celebrating the first time a baby is given solid food

Rogan josh: a kind of lamb curry

Rupee: the monetary unit of India and Pakistan

Salwar-kameez: a kind of traditional attire worn by men and women in India, Pakistan and some other countries of South Asia. Salwar are loose trousers and the kameez is a long shirt.

Samosa: a snack usually consisting of a fried triangular pastry shell with a savory potato, onion and pea stuffing

Shillong: the capital of the state of Meghalaya, in northeastern India

Simla: a city in the state of Himachal Pradesh, in northern India

Sixth-preference green card: an identification card for a permanent resident of the United States who does not have U.S. citizenship and is considered “capable of performing specified skilled or unskilled labor, not of a temporary or seasonal nature, for which a shortage of employable persons exists.” (U.S. Immigration Act of 1965)

Tagore: Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941), a Bengali poet, philosopher, visual artist, playwright, composer and novelist

Tollygunge: an area in south Calcutta

Udayagiri: with Khandagiri, the site of sandstone caves excavated around the first and second centuries B.C.E. as dwellings for monks. Located in Orissa.

Vedic: pertaining to the Vedas, the oldest sacred books of Hinduism

Vermilion: a bright red pigment obtained from mercuric sulfide or other materials

Vinho verde: a kind of Portuguese wine

Zamindar: a land-owner

Content last updated: October 31, 2006

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