What does ‘tamasha’ mean?

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Increase your vocabulary and you’ll make your writing much more precise. That’s why I provide a word of the week. Today’s word: tamasha….

I don’t typically read murder mysteries, particularly not ones in a series, which I often find a bit too predictable for my taste.

Nevertheless, my neighbours across the lane highly recommended a series by Tarquin Hall known as the Vish Puri series. What enticed me? The mysteries include recipes. I was sold!

A former South Asian bureau chief for Associated Press TV, Hall published his first mystery novel The Case of the Missing Servant, in 2009. The title of the fictional Punjabi character he invented — described as “India’s Most Private Investigator” — might make you think of Alexander McCall Smith. And you wouldn’t be far off the mark. Hall displays the same light and amusing touch in his writing.

The fourth title — the one I read —  The Case of the Love Commandos, focuses on the real-life Love Commandos, a volunteer team of citizens who try to ease the way for marriages between Hindus of different castes. The book also gave me my word of the week, tamasha.

Here is how Hall used the word:

There was no substitute for the tamasha of being amongst the jostling crowds of passengers in the stations, either.

Tamasha actually has two primary meanings: first, a grand show, performance, or celebration, especially one involving dance (see photo above). This meaning often refers, in particular, to a traditional Marathi folk art form, widely performed by local or travelling theatre groups within the state of Maharashtra. The second meaning is metaphorical, referring to a great fuss or confusion.

The etymology of the word is Persian and Urdu from the Arabic tamāšā meaning ‘walk about together.’

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