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Brazil. Russia. India. China. Four rising powers. One blog to explain them all.

India Glossary (Update)

Explaining India, one word at a time, from aam aadmi to zindabad....

 

Chai panni (Hindi): This one is in the news seemingly every day this year, as the other C word -- corruption -- is on every Indian's lips. Literally, chai panni means "tea water," but it's never used without a lilt in the voice and a little wink-wink, nudge-nudge, friends, because what it really means is bribe. A little water to make the tea, or grease for the wheels. It's all one and the same. And the banal, yet essential nature of the phrase -- boiling water for tea is as vital to Indian life as arranging marriages or blowing your horn at the intersection -- suggests just how accepted, and ubiquitous, the culture of bribery remains.

Literal meaning: tea water

Pronunciation hint: Don't say chai like they do at Starbucks. And panni rhymes with Armani, not granny.

This is a Wikistyle project, too, my desi brothers and sisters, so I welcome comments and submissions via the comment section here or on my twitter feed @joverdorf.

INDIA GLOSSARY A to Z:

Aam aadmi (Hindi): Sonia Gandhi's favorite word, and the most frequently used term in the political lexicon, apart from "scam," aam aadmi literally means "the common man." The real meaning? Here I need "vote bank," another glossary term, this time from Indian English. Yep, these are the guys who'll show up to vote when nobody else cares, as long as you make a few empty promises about delivering tap water, jobs, housing, free TV sets, or under-the-table booze. But the meaning is changing, folks.  Even though "the common man" is entering the middle class at slower than a snail's pace, the OED of Indian political speech (my somnolent brain) has detected that in a strange phenomenon aam aadmi (a Hindi phrase) is increasingly coming to represent the elite readers of the English press, who think of themselves as middle class, and are always looking for a tax break.

Literal meaning: the common man.

Pronunciation hint- Pretend you're at the dentist and say Ahhh

Besharam (Hindi): Part of the peculiar subset of Hindi-Hinglish-English that makes up the Bollywood lexicon (along with "baseless," "exposing," "filmi," "gorge," "superhit," "dishkyaon," etc), besharam literally means "shameless," but it's principally used to describe small-town hotties without the backing of film families, like Mallika Sherawat (India's answer to Elvira: Mistress of the Dark, only she doesn't know it yet) or Rakhi Sawant (India's Charo, and she owns it). You score extra if you use it to slander someone for doing exactly what you're known for doing (such as when Malaika Arora criticizes other item girls for "exposing," as though she's Meryl Streep). The real truth is, you can expose all you want without any of the other girls blinking an eye. It's when you start opening your mouth that they start getting catty.

Literal meaning: Shameless

Pronunciation hint - BAY shar um 

Chai panni (Hindi): This one is in the news seemingly every day this year, as the other C word -- corruption -- is on every Indian's lips. Literally, chai panni means "tea water," but it's never used without a lilt in the voice and a little wink-wink, nudge-nudge, friends, because what it really means is bribe. A little water to make the tea, or grease for the wheels. It's all one and the same. And the banal, yet essential nature of the phrase -- boiling water for tea is as vital to Indian life as arranging marriages or blowing your horn at the intersection -- suggests just how accepted, and ubiquitous, the culture of bribery remains.

Literal meaning: tea water

Pronunciation hint: Don't say chai like they do at Starbucks. And panni rhymes with Armani, not granny.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatches/globalpost-blogs/bric-yard/india-glossary