English Vocab

The shapes of the worlds within
Last week, I visited my ancestral village and found myself listening to family stories told by my aunts who are well into their 70s. These were stories I had heard before. Nevertheless, like always, they were repeated at family gatherings, attesting to the axiomatic truth of all collective storytelling since Vyasa in the Mahabharata: repetition endows potency. In my head, I often divide these family stories into two categories: stories of the times and stories of people. The former are tales of perilous years when hunger was common and scarcity the rule. These aren’t moral tales but merely their
recounting — a survivor’s sigh of relief — of how far we have all come from the India of the 1950s to this day. The latter stories about people are invariably morality plays — tales filled with ethical breaches, betrayals, and comeuppance (a punishment or fate that someone deserves.).
This time, I heard a real-life story about a man who was a shrewd and feared feudal (absurdly outdated or old-fashioned.) presence in their village — the kind who had managed to be both a functionary of the young Communist party and also relentlessly (in an unceasingly intense or harsh way.) acquire land and wealth. Now in his 80s, after being felled by a stroke, he lay in coma, while, as my aunts described not without some schadenfreude (pleasure derived by someone from another person's misfortune.), his children squabbled over his ill-gotten properties even as they refused to shoulder any responsibility towards his care. It all seemed a bit squalid (showing or involving a contemptible lack of moral standards.), but none too uncommon, familial tragedy in play. What struck me vividly (in a way that produces powerful feelings or strong, clear images in the mind.), however, was a statement by one of my more religious aunts: “It is inevitable given the [bad] karma he accrued by unconscionably fleecing illiterate Mapillahs [Muslims of Malabar] off their lands.”
Everyday secularism
Irrespective of the truth of her statement about his purported actions, what struck me was the ease with which a religious Hindu woman could imagine that a Hindu man could “pay” for his actions towards Muslims. The doctrine (a belief) of karma, as she understood it, supplemented her intuitions about justice towards a fellow citizen, irrespective of her fellow citizen’s faith in the very same doctrine. It is this generosity of her theological interpretations, made on her own — without the sanction or permission of a clergy, without the approval from a book — that allowed her to be secular in practice without any supervised tutelage (protection of or authority over someone or something) of the state regarding secularism. In many ways, she is not unique for a practising Hindu across India. But hers is the kind of everyday secularism borne from the generosity of her religious piety that is often mistaken by Hindutva ideologues for weakness and is often ignored by Left liberals who have little use for religion, far less religiously inspired ethical commitments.
The inner lives of devout Hindus gains all the more salience this week as Kerala begins to celebrate the next three months as a period earmarked for expressions of bhakti. Public and private forms of religiosity will soon decorate the streets. Millions of men from all of south India, dressed in black, heady with vows of brief asceticism, will trek to the temples at Sabarimala. Innumerable festivals at large and obscure temples, performances of various temple arts, concerts and processions, readings and discourses that run for days, if not weeks — it is all quite extraordinary. All of these are public reiterations of a way of living that has evolved over decades, if not centuries — a way of bookmarking human existence as seasons change and time flows.
Being a Hindu
Given all this, it is tempting to think of these external displays as the sole marker of being a Hindu. But unlike Islam or even doctrinaire forms of Christianity, what is less explicitly understood are the set of beliefs that constitutes one’s self-identification as a Hindu. What does ‘being Hindu’ mean? This is a question whose answer goes well beyond any worship of a god or belonging to a specific constellation (a group of associated or similar people or things.) of traditions (sampradaya). The answer — not in an academic or anthropological sense, but as a lived practice — is inescapably tied to the question of what does “being” mean? And then upon answering that, asking what does the descriptor “Hindu” entail. There are maximalists who argue that being human and being Hindu is the same. On the flip side, there are those who deny — usually after suffering from various inequities within the Hindu society — that one can’t be Hindu and human simultaneously. For most people, the truth lies in the proverbial middle not because that is the easy way out but because most human experiences are rarely at the extremes. To answer what it is to be a Hindu in our times is then ultimately an exercise to reduce an archipelago (an extensive group of) of subjective understandings into an island of objective knowledge.
The result is that most writings about being Hindu, even by “insiders”, is indistinguishable from historical accounts of concepts, a cornucopia (an abundant supply of good things of a specified kind.) of myths, or are explorations of high philosophical subtleties (finenesses). All of these are important, of course, but ultimately they are merely the scaffolding inside which Hindu identities learn to organise their inner worlds. If we are to be students of modern India, then this means learning to see how Hindu beliefs, commitments and affiliations are formed, sustain and change. To do this, away from the heat of reactionary furies and banal (so lacking in originality as to be obvious and boring.) identity politics, is to learn to see the world for what it is.

1. Comeuppance (noun): (A punishment or fate that someone deserves/ an outcome (good or bad) that is well deserved) (प्रतिफल)
Synonyms: Just deserts, Deserved fate, Due reward, Just punishment, Retribution, Requital.
Example: The pastor insisted that although some may not get their comeuppance in this life, justice will be served in the next.
Origin: From English come up + -ance

2. Squalid (adjective): (Showing or involving a contemptible lack of moral standards.) (अधम)
Synonyms: Improper, Sordid, Unseemly, Unsavoury, Sleazy, Seedy, Seamy.
Antonyms: Moral, Honorable.
Example:  Politicians are often considered squallid just based on their professions.
Related words:
Squalidness (noun) - Dirty or deteriorated
Origin: from Latin  squalere ‘be rough or dirty’.

3. Doctrine (noun): A belief or set of beliefs / a stated principle of government policy. (मत/सिद्धांत)
Synonyms: Belief, Creed, Dogma, Tenet, Precept.
Antonyms: Ambiguity, Disbelief, Heterodoxy, Skepticism
Example: Since Bob’s religion is based on a doctrine that forbids divorce, he will be barred from the church if he leaves his wife.
Related words:
Doctrinal (adjective) - सैद्धांतिक
Origin: from LAtin docere ‘teach’.

4. Tutelage (noun): (Protection of or authority over someone or something) (संरक्षण/देख-रेख)
Synonyms: Custody, Protection, Supervision, Apprenticeship.
Antonyms: Ignorance.
Example: Under the coach’s tutelage, James became the star of his college’s basketball team.
Origin: from Latin tut- ‘watched’)
 

5. Constellation (noun): (Fig-a group of associated or similar people or things. / Lit- a group of stars) (समूह/तारों का समूह)
Synonyms: Agglomeration, Assemblage, Cluster, Clump.
Antonyms: Individual.
Example: When a cluster of stars appears in a recognizable shape, it is referred to as aconstellation.
Origin: based on Latin stella ‘star’.

6. Cornucopia (noun): (An abundant supply of good things of a specified kind.) (प्राचुर्य/ पर्याप्ति)
Synonyms: Affluence, Exuberance, Abundance, Profusion, Plentitude.
Antonyms: Lack, Need, Want, Rareness, Scarcity.
Example: A cornucopia of rides and attractions will keep you occupied for hours at the amusement park.
Origin: from Latin cornu copiae ‘horn of plenty’ (a mythical horn able to provide whatever is desired)

7. Subtlety (noun): (A fine or precise distinction, feature, or argument.) (तीक्ष्णता/बारीकी)
Synonyms: Fineness, Precision, Nicety, Nuance, Minuteness.
Antonyms: Imprecision.
Example: Only the diamond expert could see the subtle difference between the real diamond and the fake one.
Related words:
Subtle (adjective) - So delicate or precise as to be difficult to analyse or describe.
Origin: Origin: from Latin subtilis means ‘not easily understood’.

8. Banal (adjective): (So lacking in originality as to be obvious and boring.) (साधारण/घिसा पिटा)
Synonyms: Trite, Hackneyed, Cliched, Vapid, Ordinary, Common.
Antonyms: New, Original, Uncommon, Fresh
Example: At parties, Jack tends to avoid banal conversations because they are dull and do not reveal any new information.
Related words:
Banality (noun) - साधारणता

9. Relentlessly (adverb): (In an unceasingly intense or harsh way.) (लगातार/निष्ठुर ढंग से)
Synonyms: Incessantly, Interminably, Endlessly, Unremittingly, Ceaselessly.
Antonyms: Endingly, Haltingly.
Example: During the battle, the relentless soldier continued to fight despite the bullet in his shoulder.
Related words:
Relentless (adjective) - Persistent; unyielding
 

10. Vividly (adverb): (In a way that produces powerful feelings or strong, clear images in the mind.) (उज्ज्वल ढंग से)
Synonyms: Strongly, Perceptibly, Intensively, Powerfully.
Antonyms: Inconsiderably, Insignificantly, Unremarkably.
Example: M. F. Husain is known for his vivid paintings that were distinguished by their colorful hues.
Related words:
Vivid (adjective) - Producing powerful feelings or strong, clear images in the mind.
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