G L O S S A R Y
NOTE: All names and terms are described only
as they are used in the novel itself. They are generally spelled the way
the novel spells them, based on Urdu script. An asterisk identifies a related
glossary entry that will provide further information.
/Abba Jan./ Zakir's name for his father.
'Abba' is something like 'Dad.' 'Jan' is a title appended to kinship terms
to show intimacy and affection.
/Abul Hasan./ A rich merchant's son who
was betrayed by his friends, and who therefore vowed to seek out and entertain
/ai./ An emphatic exclamation, used
vocatively to command attention or express surprise or consternation.
/ai hai./ An exclamation of rueful
regret, characteristically used by older women.
/Ali./ The Prophet's son-in-law, husband
of Fatimah, father of Hasan and Husain. He is deeply venerated, and is
often referred to by epithets like "the Chosen One" and "the Lion of God."
/Aligarh./ A small city southeast of Delhi,
site of the famous Aligarh Muslim University.
/Ambala./ A city north of Delhi, in modern
Haryana, close to the Panjab border.
/Ammi./ Zakir's name for his mother. 'Ammi'
is something like 'Mom.'
/Amritsar./ The Indian city located right
across the border from Lahore.
/Anarkali./ Lahore's most famous old market,
filled with a maze of tiny lanes where almost anything can be bought.
/Appearance./ The emergence of the Hidden
Imam from concealment, an apocalyptic event awaited by many Shiites.
/are./ An exclamation of surprise.
/Ayub dictatorship./ The military government
headed by General Ayub Khan, which seized power from the civilian government
in 1958 and ruled until Ayub was deposed by General Yahya Khan in 1969.
/Baba Farid./ An affectionate way of referring
to Shaikh Farid ud-Din Ganj-e Shakar, the great twelfth-century saint and
mystic of North India.
/Baghbanpura./ A neighborhood in the northeast
part of Lahore.
/Bahadur Shah./ The last Mughal emperor
Bahadur Shah (1775-1862) used the pen-name 'Zafar' in his poetry, and was
forced to live as a British pensioner. During the rebellion of 1857 he
was made titular head of the rebels; court politics then led to the replacement
of Bakht Khan, the most effective general, by Mirza Mughal and Mirza Ghaus,
two of the emperor's useless sons.
/Bakht Khan./ See *Bahadur Shah.
/Basic Democracy./ A multi-layered system
instituted by the Ayub regime in 1959, in which only the bottom layer,
consisting of thousands of representatives called Basic Democrats, was
directly elected; the system was presented as a nonpolitical one for achieving
rural education and uplift.
/Batul./ *Khalah Jan's real name.
/Bhisham./ See Mahabharat.
/Bi Amma./ Zakir's name for his paternal
grandmother. 'Bi' is a short form of 'Bibi.' 'Amma' means 'mother.'
/Bibi./ A polite form of address for a woman.
/binot./ An indigenous Indic form of martial
art, which relies on dexterity and swift movement rather than on elaborate
/birbani./ In Indic folk tradition,
a woman who has been killed by witchcraft, and whose spirit is used by
the witch for magical purposes.
/Brahma-ji./ In Hindu mythology, the World-creator.
/Brindaban./ See *Krishan.
/Bulandshahr./ A city east of Delhi, on
the road to Aligarh.
/Chacha Jan./ Zakir's uncle, his father's
/Danpur./ A town in Bulandshahr district,
in Uttar Pradesh; the home of Zakir's great-uncle.
/Data Ganj Bakhsh./ A famous eleventh-century
saint and mystic, buried in Lahore and considered to be a patron of the
/Dulhan Bi./ Sharifan's name for Ammi Jan,
referring to her as the 'bride' she was when she came to the house long
/dupattah./ A very long, wide, lightweight
scarf worn by women. It was draped over the shoulders and bosom, and sometimes
over the head as well, with the two ends often hanging down in back.
/Emigration./ The 1947 Partition of British-controlled
India into two states, India and Pakistan, caused many Muslim families
like Zakir's to leave their old homes on the Indian side of the line and
cross the border into the new Muslim nation of Pakistan. For this
experience they use the religiously meaningful word 'hijrat,' which evokes
memories of the Prophet's journey from Mecca to Medina.
/faqir./ A Muslim ascetic, usually a solitary
wanderer living on the voluntary gifts of the pious.
/Fatihah./ The opening chapter of the Quran;
it is traditionally recited over the graves of the dead.
/Fatimah./ The Prophet's daughter, wife
of Ali and mother of Hasan and Husain.
/'57./ 1857, the year of the famous, desperate
rebellion in North India against British power.
/Frontier Mail./ A famous train that runs
between Bombay and Amritsar.
/Gamal Abdel Nasser./ The Egyptian President
who took responsibility for his country's 1967 defeat by Israel, and resigned
from the Presidency.
/Ghalib./ Mirza Asadullah Khan Ghalib (1797-1869)
was one of the two greatest classical Urdu poets; he lived through the
siege of Delhi in 1857 and saw its terrible aftermath.
/Gwalior./ A city south of Agra, in northern
/hai hai./ An exclamation of sorrow
and mourning, frequently used by women when a death occurs.
/Hakim./ A respectful title for a practitioner
of traditional Islamic (i.e., Greek) medicine.
/Hakim Nabina./ A famous early-twentieth-century
*Hakim of Delhi. He was blind; 'nabina' means blind.
/Hare-bhare Shah./ A popular saint whose
tomb is in Delhi near the Jama Masjid.
/Hasan./ The older brother of *Husain; he
had already died before the battle of Karbala took place.
/Hazrat./ A title expressing veneration,
generally used for religious personages.
/Hazrat Sajjad./ A respectful title for
Zain ul-Abidin, a son (or nephew, according to other accounts) of *Husain.
/Howrah Express./ A famous train that crosses
North India from Calcutta to Delhi.
/Humayun's Tomb./ An elaborate monument
in Delhi where the second Mughal emperor, Humayun (d.1556), is buried.
/huqqah./ A form of pipe with a large stationary
bowl in which tobacco is burned, a curved tube to pass the smoke through
water to cool it, and a mouthpiece on a long flexible hose that can be
passed easily from hand to hand.
/Hur./ A general sent out against *Husain
by his Umayyid enemies; but he fought on Husain's side instead, and was
one of the first to be martyred at Karbala.
/Husain./ The son of Fatimah and Ali, thus
the Prophet's grandson. He was martyred on the field of *Karbala by political
opponents who refused to recognize his right to succeed to the Caliphate.
/Id./ The greatest Muslim religious festival;
following a month of dawn-to-dusk fasting, on this feast day families visit
with their neighbors. "Id" is pronounced to rhyme with "heed."
/Imam./ A reverent title given to *Husain,
and to certain of his successors venerated by Shiites. The title is also
used for certain prominent religious personalities, and for someone who
leads the prayer in a mosque.
/Imambarah./ A religious building used as
the destination of processions during *Muharram, and as the site of *majlis
/Imperial./ A large Western-style hotel
in Lahore, well-known during the colonial era but no longer in existence.
/'innovation'./ A theological term for an
illegitimate change made in the *Shariat.
/Iqbal./ Sir Muhammad Iqbal (1877-1938),
the greatest Urdu and Indo-Persian poet of the twentieth century, was also
a philosopher and statesman. He began as a secular nationalist, but
later called for the formation of Pakistan.
/Iqlima./ This daughter of Adam and Eve
is not mentioned in the Quran, and occurs only in certain Muslim folk traditions.
/Jabir bin Abdullah Ansari./ One of the
Prophet's companions during his stay in Medina.
/Jahanabad./ A name for that part of the
old city of Delhi which was built by Shah Jahan (r1627-1658).
/jalebi./ A kind of curly sweet shaped like
a pretzel; made of batter, it is first deep-fried, then soaked in sugar-water.
/Jallianwala Bagh./ An episode in 1919 in
which a crowd of nonviolent nationalist demonstrators trapped in a walled
garden were repeatedly fired upon by soldiers under a British general,
leaving hundreds dead.
/Jama Masjid./ The magnificent Delhi mosque,
also occasionally used for important public assemblies; it was built by
Shah Jahan (r1627-1658).
/Janamashtami./ A popular Hindu festival
that celebrates the eighth day after *Krishan's birth.
/Jhansi./ A city in Uttar Pradesh, north
of Gwalior. It was annexed by the British in 1853, when its king died childless.
His widow, the famous Rani of Jhansi, armed herself as a warrior during
the rebellion of 1857 and died heroically, fighting the British.
/ji./ A respectful and affectionate suffix
sometimes added to proper names.
/Kabuli Gate./ A gate in the northwest part
of the wall around the old city of Delhi, facing toward Kabul.
/kalimah./ The Muslim profession
of faith, "There is no God but God, and Muhammad is the Prophet of God."
It is recited on many occasions, some associated with death.
/Kanan Bala./ A film star of the 1940's,
famous for her songs.
/Karbala./ The battlefield in Iraq on which
*Husain and his small band of followers were killed in 680 by the forces
of their political rivals, the Umayyids. It is a site of the greatest religious
importance to Muslims, especially Shiites. Fields used for Shiite religious
purposes, like the one near Rupnagar (which seems to be enclosed by a wall),
are sometimes piously given this name.
/Karnal./ A small city north of Delhi, in
/Khakis./ Soldiers of the British-controlled
Indian army of colonial times, so called from their khaki-colored uniforms.
/Khalah Jan./ Zakir's maternal aunt, Tahirah
and Sabirah's mother.
/Khan Bahadur Uncle./ Zakir's late uncle,
his father's older brother. 'Khan Bahadur' is an honorific title awarded
to him by the British.
/Khilafat Movement./ See *Maulana Muhammad
/Khvajah of Kalyar./ The title of a thirteenth-century
saint buried in the town of Kalyar, in Uttar Pradesh.
/Krishan./ The Hindu child-god, dark blue
in color, who was raised among villagers in Brindavan, near Mathura. He
was an adorable baby and child. As he grew older, he played his flute and
danced seductively in the forest with the village girls, especially during
the rainy season, which is always a romantic time in South Asia. Soon afterwards,
he left Brindavan forever; he is thus an archetypal elusive lover.
/Laila./ The most famous beloved of Perso-Arabic
story tradition. Although her family forced her to marry another man, she
never became his wife in any real sense; she kept faith all her life with
her true lover, *Majnun.
/Liaqat Ali Khan./ The first Prime Minister
of Pakistan, holding power from 1947 until his assassination in 1951.
/Lorraine./ A restaurant in Lahore, no longer
/Lyallpur./ A town in Pakistan, west of
Lahore; it is now called Faisalabad.
/Madina./ The city in Arabia, north of Mecca,
to which the Prophet made his *Emigration, and which he used as a base
of operations during the latter part of his life. To Muslims it is almost
as sacred as Mecca itself.
/Mahabharat./ A great Sanskrit epic
poem, one of the sources of Hindu story tradition. It culminates in a terrible
battle on the field of Kurukshetra, near Delhi, in which the Pandav brothers,
led by Yudhishtir, win the kingdom back from their cousins. Bhisham, the
uncle of both sets of cousins, dies on the battlefield, pierced by so many
arrows that they form a bed for him. While lying mortally wounded on this
bed, he gives the Pandavs many final words of advice.
/majlis./ A gathering in which Shiite Muslims
remember and mourn the death of *Husain and the events at Karbala. The
person who delivers the elegaic oration at such a majlis is called a 'zakir.'
/Majnun./ The most famous lover of Perso-Arabic
story tradition. He went mad when his beloved *Laila was married
to another; from then on he wandered in the wilderness, singing to Laila
and undergoing torments in the name of love. He thus earned the epithet
'Majnun,' or 'Madman.'
/Mall Road./ The "Main Street" of the Westernized
part of Lahore.
/Maulana./ A respectful term for a man of
religious learning. It is applied to Abba Jan by his friends.
/Maulana Muhammad Ali./ Maulana Muhammad
Ali (1878-1931) was one of the most important leaders of the Khilafat Movement
(1919-1924), which sought to shore up international Muslim unity by restoring
the power of the Caliphate. At one point Muhammad Ali supported Ibn Saud
of Saudi Arabia in his fundamentalist program of demolishing the shrines
and tombs of some of the Prophet's companions, on the grounds that these
had become overly important in popular Islam.
/Maulvi./ Similar to *Maulana.
/Meerut./ A city northeast of Delhi, in
modern Uttar Pradesh.
/Memsahib./ A title compounded of "Ma'am"
and "*Sahib," used for English ladies.
/Mir./ Mir Taqi Mir (c1722-1810) was one
of the two greatest poets of the classical Urdu ghazal tradition; Ghalib
was the other.
/Moradabad./ A city east-northeast of Delhi,
in modern Uttar Pradesh.
/Mount Qaf./ In Islamic story tradition,
the mountain that surrounds the edge of the world; it is inhabited by jinns
and other non-human species.
/Muhammad Ali Jinnah./ Muhammad Ali Jinnah
(1876-1948) was the chief architect, and first Governor General, of the
new state of Pakistan.
/Muharram./ The first month of the Islamic
calendar, during which Muslims observe ten days of mourning, culminating
in the Tenth Day which for Shiites includes special *majlis gatherings,
and processions that carry tall standards bearing religious emblems.
/Munir Niyazi./ A well-known modern Pakistani
poet (1923- ) who lives in Lahore.
/Munshi./ A polite term for an educated,
/Najaf./ The city in Iraq where *Ali lies
buried; it is much venerated for that reason.
/Nandi the Bull./ In Hindu tradition, Nandi
is the mount on whom the great ascetic god Shiva rides.
/Narbada./ A river that flows through the
southwestern part of Madhya Pradesh into Gujarat.
/Navab Hazrat Mahal./ The wife of the Navab
of Avadh who was deposed by the British in 1856. She participated in the
rebellion of 1857.
/Nazir./ Vali Muhammad Nazir Akbarabadi
(1735-1830) was a popular Urdu poet, known for his use of Indic and Hindu
themes along with Perso-Arabic and Muslim ones.
/Om, shanti, shanti, shanti./ 'Om'
is a sound that expresses the vibration of the cosmos, and 'shanti' means
'peace.' In Hindu tradition phrases like this can be repeated over
and over to induce a meditative state.
/`Pakizah'./ A romantic, melodramatic, extremely
popular film (1971); its heroine, Pakizah ("Pure"), played by the famous
actress Meena Kumari, was the illegitimate daughter of a dancing-girl and
an upper-class landowner.
/pan./ A widely popular blend of
betel nut, spices, and sometimes tobacco, wrapped in a leaf; it is held
in the mouth and slowly chewed, producing a red, flavorful juice.
/Partition./ The 1947 division of British-controlled
India into the two new states of India and Pakistan.
/pipal./ This tree, considered sacred by
many Hindus, is often associated with temples and shrines.
/Prince Firoz Shah./ A grandson of *Bahadur
Shah's, who continued to fight a guerrilla war against the British even
after the rebellion of 1857 had been crushed; he finally left India, and
died in Mecca in 1877.
/Rabia of Basra./ A famous eighth-century
female Iraqi saint and mystic.
/Rahul./ The Buddha's son, who in folk tradition
became a monk.
/Raisina./ A small village set on a hill,
which eventually became part of New Delhi.
/Ram./ See *Ramchandar-ji.
/Ram nam satya hai./ "The name of
Ram is truth," a phrase often chanted by Hindus as they bear a corpse to
/Ramayan./ See *Ramchandar-ji.
/Ramchandar-ji./ The hero of a great Sanskrit
epic, the Ramayan, and of countless traditional Hindu stories. Although
he was an incarnation of the great god Vishnu, he was known for his humility
and respectful behavior, including kind treatment of his loyal monkey allies
and other animal helpers during his years of exile in the forest. His animal
army helped him find and recover his kidnapped wife, Sita. When the squirrel,
trying to be helpful, was laughed at by the monkeys for its smallness,
Ramchandar-ji said words of comfort and ran his fingers down the squirrel's
/Rashid ul-Khairi./ Rashid ul-Khairi (1868-1936)
was an extremely popular writer of melodramatic domestic novels about female
/Ravan./ The hundred-headed demon king who
was killed by *Ramchandar-ji.
/Ravi./ The river that flows through Lahore.
/Red Fort./ The famous fort and palace in
Delhi, built by Shah Jahan (r1627-1658), from which *Bahadur Shah ruled
until he was deposed in 1857.
/Rupnagar./ The (imaginary) town in which
Zakir is born and spends his childhood. It is located somewhere in northwestern
Uttar Pradesh; the nearest large city seems to be Bulandshahr. 'Rup' means
'beauty, form, shape,' and 'nagar' means 'city.'
/rutting./ An adjective describing the wild
and violent behavior of male elephants in the mating season.
/Sabbo./ Diminutive for 'Sabirah.'
The name 'Sabirah' means "patient, enduring."
/Sadhora./ A small town near Ambala whose
residents are considered to be stupid. The town of Kursi, near Lucknow,
has a similar reputation.
/Sahib./ A polite form of address for a
social equal or superior.
/Savitri./ A wife famous in Hindu story
tradition for her absolute devotion to her husband Satyavan.
/scooter-taxi./ A three-wheeled vehicle
like a motorcycle in front, with a second, canopied seat between its rear
wheels that is wide enough to hold two passengers.
/Shah namah./ The Persian national
epic, by Firdausi (c940-c1020).
/Shaikh./ A title generally given to descendants
of the Prophet's companions; descendants of the Prophet himself are called
/Shamnagar./ A neighborhood in Lahore; 'Sham'
is derived from a name for *Krishan.
/Sharar./ Abdul Halim Sharar (1860-1926)
was a well-known novelist and journalist.
/Shariat./ The received body of Muslim faith
/Shesh./ In Hindu mythology, the immense
/Sialkot./ A city in Pakistan, north of
/Sikandar Mirza./ An army general who was
elected President of Pakistan in 1956, then deposed and exiled by Ayub
Khan in 1958.
/Silk Handkerchief Band./ A group of Muslim
fundamentalist revolutionaries who took refuge in Afghanistan and communicated
with their allies in British India by means of smuggled messages written
on pieces of silk. When one such message was discovered, the plot (1915-16)
/Sir Sayyid Ahmad Khan./ Sir Sayyid (1817-1898)
was a controversial and extremely influential modernizer and social reformer,
founder of the famous Aligarh Muslim University.
/'65./ In 1965, there was an indecisive
seventeen-day war between India and Pakistan.
/Solomon./ In Islamic story tradition, God
has given Solomon power over all the animals, and especially over the birds.
In Quran 27:22-28, a bird carries a letter from Solomon to the Queen of
/Specials./ Special trains transporting
refugees between India and Pakistan at the time of Partition in 1947.
/standard./ See *Muharram.
/Sultanah the Brigand./ A famous Uttar Pradesh
highwayman of the 1920's, whose exploits and elusiveness made him a folk
hero. In folk tradition, a British police officer named Young was his chief
/Tantiya Topi./ One of the most formidable
rebel commanders of 1857. Even after the rebellion was all but crushed,
he continued to fight a guerilla war in the area around Jhansi until he
was betrayed to the British in 1859. The British hanged him; he faced death
with great firmness.
/Tenth Day./ See *Muharram.
/Umayyids./ See *Karbala.
/U.P./ Then the 'United Provinces,' now
'Uttar Pradesh,' a large Indian state encompassing most of the Gangetic
/Vaid./ A title for a practitioner of the
traditional Hindu system of ayurvedic medicine.
/Verse of the Throne./ Quran 2:255, a glorification
/Vyaspur./ The (imaginary) larger town where
Zakir and his family settle after they leave Rupnagar. 'Vyas,' meaning
'Arranger,' is the legendary author of the *Mahabharat; 'pur' means
'town.' It seems to be somewhere between Delhi and Moradabad.
/Wagah./ The border-crossing point between
Lahore and Amritsar.
/Walton Camp./ One of the camps set up in
Lahore in 1947 to house refugees arriving from across the newly-drawn border
/yar./ A rough, comradely, affectionate
term of address used among male peers. Its general sense is something like
/Zafar./ See *Bahadur Shah.
/Zakir./ The central figure of the novel,
who is sometimes the narrator as well. His name means 'rememberer' or 'teller.'