Dear readers,

I have tried to keep the use of Indian (Hindi or Urdu)  to an absolute minimum in these novels, however at times it has made more sense to use the original word. This is India after all! Below is a glossary for the series, to shed light. Hope this helps!



Aam junta – the general public / the ordinary masses

Abbu – Islamic term for Father

Alghoza – a pair of flutes joined together and played simultaneously

Astrakhan hat– hat with the dark curly fleece of young karakul lambs from central Asia.

Bajra – black millet

Beedis – thin Indian rolled cigarette

Betel nut – areca nut.

Bhel puri – Mumbai’s signature street food dish of puffed rice, onions, tomatoes, spices, and hot chutney and served with a tiny deep fried bread called ‘puri’

Boondi raita – savoury dip of yogurt, spices and tiny gramflour pearls.

Brinjal – aubergine

Carrom – “strike and pocket” table game akin to table shuffleboard.

Dahl – lentil dish

Dhaba – a motorway curry house diner

Dhoti – traditional men’s garment wrapped around legs and knotted at the waist

Diwali – Hindu festival of lights

Diya – cup-shaped terracotta oil lamp traditionally lit on Diwali.

Duffer – an incompetent or stupid person.

Dupatta – long scarf made from light fabric

Eidi – gift for festival of Eid eg. money, presents or flowers

Ghazal – poetic form consisting of rhyming couplets and a refrain

Goonda – thug or bully

Hajji – Muslim person who has successfully completed the Hajj to Mecca.

Hapoos – Alphonso mango, considered ‘king of mangoes’

Hawala – illegal method of transferring money outside of traditional banking systems

Hookah – instrument for vaporizing and smoking flavored tobacco

Jaggery – cane sugar

Jagirdar – feudal landowner or landlord.

Jowar – sorghum flour

Kabaddi – a traditional form of Indian wrestling

Kabuli Biryani – traditional chick pea biryani dish from Hyderabad

Kameez – long tunic worn by many people from South Asia, typically with a salwar

Khansama – male cook, who often also assumes the role of house steward

Kurta – loose collarless shirt worn usually with a salwar or pyjama.

Lakh – One hundred thousand

Lathi – a stick / baton

Makhani – a Hindi word meaning “with butter” or butter sauce.

Masala movie – a movie embodying a blend of genres

Masala sambar – spicy lentil-based vegetable stew

Maya – “that which is not” (i.e. illusion)

Mawali – Mumbai slang for lowest class of male street ruffians.

Morcha – an organized march or rally.

Neem – Indian tree used for its antiseptic properties

Nukkud natak – Indian street Play

Pajama – a pair of loose trousers tied by a drawstring around the waist

Panchayat – a village council in rural India

Pomfret – popular fish found in Indian restaurants

Parotta – a layered flatbread

Peepal – sacred fig tree

Ram ram – a common Hindi greeting meaning hello.

Rangoli – decorative patterns created using colored rice, dry flour, colored sand or flower petals

Salwar – a pair of light, loose, pleated trousers, usually tapering to a tight fit around the ankles, worn by women with a kameez (the two together being a salwar kameez)

Sadhu – a religious ascetic or holy person

Sarpanch –  elected head of the village council (the panchayat) in India.

Shatranj – old form of chess from which modern chess developed

Shree – polite form of address equivalent to the English “Mr.”

Swami – holy ascetic initiated into a specific religious order

Sundari – double-reed wind instrument

Thaali – Indian steel platter with individual sections to serve a variety of dishes.

Vasta waza – Kashmiri term for a head chef

Vedji – traditional Indian Ayurvedic medical practitioner

Yaar – akin to addressing someone as “mate”

2 thoughts on “Glossary

  1. Hello, As someone who loves elephants and India, having spent a lot of time there over the past thirty years I write to say how much I have enjoyed your baby ganesh books. I particularly enjoyed the last one as I have spent my working life in the film industry and have done a bit of work on Indian productions in my time. In fact after finishing the latest book I thought that these books would make a great film/TV series, they are just made for the screen. As I read the acknowledgements see that you have a pending option, disappointing for me as I would have welcomed the chance to discuss it with you, but good news for you, I wish you much future success.
    Coincidentally some years ago as a young clapper boy I worked on “Hannibal Brooks” directed by Michael Winner, starring Oliver Reed and Aida the elephant.
    I look forward to the next book.

    Best wishes.



    • Hi Jerry. Thank you for writing to me and telling me you enjoyed the books. It’s a joy to write about India and these characters and so nice to receive feedback from enthusiastic readers, particularly those who have some experience of India. I love the fact that you’ve even had some experience working on Indian films! My aim was always to take readers on this journey to the heart of modern India, particularly Mumbai, so it is gratifying when people write to tell me they liked the novels. The books could not be successful without your support!

      I hope you had a great Christmas and I wish you the best for the new year, Vaseem, London


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