Addressing India – confounded with how to deal with the myriad help around you?

Here are ways to address them and win brownie points!

There is no exact single-word equivalent for either term in the English language. But this can be translated as brother / sister, big brother / big sister, sir, guy, dude, aunt, etc. depending on context. Used commonly in India to establish instant familiarity and camaraderie with anyone and also as a mark of respect.

A common term used to describe the milkman (and a breed only found in India where deliveries of milk still happen at the doorstep from aluminum cans) or it can be used to describe something which has milk, like “Doodhwali chai” is “Tea with milk”.

Wala is a word that based on the context, either becomes “the one with”/”the one which has” or “the …. one”/”… one” where you fill in the blank with the word preceding “wala”. So the help delivering newspapers – becomes Paperwala or if you want to be kind and respectful– Newspaperwala Bhaiya!

The neighbourhood street vendor selling veggies can be addressed as such. Add ‘bhaiya’ or ‘didi’ along with it and you are ensuring super prompt service even in a crowded busy street!  As an aside: Wallah, or -wala (wali fem.) is derived from Bengali, Marathi and Hindi and is used as an Indian surname or suffix indicating a person involved in some kind of activity, where they hail from or what they wear and commonly used in day to day language!

The luxury of crisp ironed clothes without breaking a bank… That is what the istriwala provides. Loosely translated as the laundryman in English, they provide washing, cleaning and ironing services at your doorstep. The term istri comes from coal-fired irons which are still used in India to provide crisply ironed clothing!

A person making tea commonly seen in offices (before the ubiquitous tea/coffee machines took over). Serves great custom-made tea (with milk/sugar as per requirements), smokes and office gossip too!

India’s local three wheeler transport is driven by this paradoxical community of drivers who are known to be knowledgeable, difficult, in-communicative, helpful and more. What kind you find, depends on your day. So hold out your hand confidently on the side of the road and say Rickshaw… or Rickshawalla for one to stop and take you around the city!

Addressing India – confounded with how to deal with the myriad help around you?

2 thoughts on “Addressing India – confounded with how to deal with the myriad help around you?

  1. Dear Lauryn, We are glad to know that the blog proved helpful for you. We would love to hear your addition in the blog. Please do write to us & thank you for kind words. It gives us enthusiasm to write more relevant & helpful content for relocating employees & their families to India.

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