Until fairly recently I believed roundtana was a pan-Indian term. I’ve now learned it’s a South Indian original that never quite caught on in the rest of the country. I fail to understand why. What better word than roundtana to describe a traffic island? That wonderfully peculiar urban phenomenon that is a cross between a merry-go-round and an intersection. You must admit that as a word it has entertainment value. Roundtana. Notice how entirely nonsensical and made-up it sounds. How difficult it is to say it out loud just once. How it begs to be repeated — like a secret chant. Did I mention, that for no good reason, except that it makes it even more fun to say, the ‘d’ is silent? This is a word that undoubtedly deserves far more airtime than it currently receives. My husband, who only recently became aware of its existence, is now single-handedly trying to make up for lost time (almost always at the cost of making sense). “Hurry up you roundtana,” he tosses over his shoulder, as we are climbing a hill. And — “Look at that roundtana!” he will exclaim, pointing to the nearest vaguely circular object. His enthusiastic if inaccurate employment of the word is infectious. A drum-shaped water tank by the side of the road is now a roundtana. A towering tree with a massive trunk, a roundtana. A conversation that keeps circling back to the same subject — roundtana. This whirlabout, wonderful life and all that it traffics in… Roundtana, roundtana, roundtana.
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