Thursday, April 14, 2011

Let Konkani be...!

Overview: Let Konkani be…! (1134 words)

This is the birth centenary year of an illustrious Goan litterateur B.B. Borkar who wrote in both Konkani and Marathi fluently and successfully; of the two especially creditable is in Konkani because during the times he was writing, Goa was still under Portuguese rule and Konkani was relegated only to speaking at home and humming Konkani folk songs in a sort of amateur fashion. However, in the 50 years after its liberation when Goans had all the opportunities to amalgamate and develop its language, have they succeeded in doing that?

Government Recognition: If Goa had found itself in political turmoil immediately after it joined the Indian union in 1961, its language Konkani has been undergoing the same fate. Owing to the colonial rule, there was no great literary work in Konkani in Nagari script but through Roman script it did achieve high but unacknowledged literary standards. Even though it was of foreign origin writing in Roman script had advantages since it was the script of colonial masters who understood and encouraged it. On the other side Konkani in Nagari script has earned its reputation only since Shantaram Varde Valaulikar (Shanei Goembab), B.B. Borkar and a host of other talented Goans started writing in the last 100 years.

Reportedly there are over 5 million people with Konkani as their mother tongue settled all along the west coast of India between Mumbai and Kochi besides Bangaluru, but most in Goa. Konkani linguists are in both main religions, Hindu and Christian. A galaxy of its literati has written in Konkani, in whichever script each word represented a neuron in their brains firing, and the heart pumping blood at its full throttle. This passion after much flow resulted in Konkani being included in the scheduled group of Indian languages. It even more importantly succeeded in making Goa a rightfully independent state of India. Besides, it has been awarded the prestigious Dnyanpith award and a basketful of Sahitya Academy and other literary awards.

Amen! Konkani, as if till this point, had scripted its own progress. Up till the time statehood was declared there was no big noise about the fight over script. A few divergent views were overheard and ignored. The picture looked unrealistically rosy.

Internal Predicament: The bane of India and its societies is also the bane of Goa and its language. The caste and religious divide! Goa, always a bit ahead of the rest of India in societal emancipation never had as much social discrimination as elsewhere, possibly due to the Portuguese presence but it had indeed existed at subtle levels in many imperceptible ways. As Goans who moved out in search of career aspirations and brought back reports of events and happenings in the rest of India, the resident society was unknowingly and psychologically alerted to pursue applications of the imported knowledge when the Portuguese dominion ended. One such problem has been the caste oriented accents and semantics. Every Indian language including Hindi has accents which may differ from community to community. And, just as in Hindi, often the words originated and transformed with the migrating communities ever since the first settlers decided to make Goa their own home, even before Konkani as we know now existed. Any person who loves languages and its main purpose, to communicate, appreciates these humane variations. Sensitivity of tongue (pun intended) is so fine, an ancient Sanskrit proverb says it all, ‘a language changes about every 5 kilometers, food every 100 kilometers and dress every 500 km’. Even in the style crazy and quick air transport of today, this is quite apparent as one travels within or away from Goa.

The most serious charge often made by many people is that there is no standardized way of writing Konkani as an established language should have. Every caste and religious group claims its Konkani is the real language. Some of them are migrants to Goa often with similar sounding dialects as in Malwani from Maharashtra. Add to this the confusion related to Roman and Nagari scripts. Modern science is finding out the need to communicate or speak in different languages lies at the root of human intellect. In fact, this need and ability possibly encourages intellect. It is, then, utterly wrong to summarily dismiss the practice of writing in Roman script with a whole gamut of quality literature being produced and referred to in it, which was being followed for hundreds of years by a community of hundreds of thousands, and ask them to forget Romi Konkani, as it is called, ASAP.

Building bridges: One of the tenets of management methodologies of the 21st millennium is about discussing and accommodating rival view points. This is similar to building bridges over deltaic mouths of a river. Goa’s Catholics are not primarily averse to learning Nagari script, which would help not only in understanding nuances of refined Konkani but providing linkages across many other Indian languages, too. Goa’s Catholics have been blessed with social consciousness, progressive minds and ability to keep steps in tune with time. Their entrepreneurial skills are a legend and this step of learning Nagari script should immensely benefit them than not learning it. Moreover, with the above mentioned qualities this would help position them as leaders of the Goan society.

The problem lies in self centric and myopic views of protagonists of any accent or script. However, unlike the older generations few of the younger leaders are sufficiently futuristic minded. These youths have the necessary resilience, firmness and people friendly approach but importantly, are not unenthusiastic to breaking new grounds. There are acclaimed Konkani writers who write in different scripts and in a host of other languages such as Bengali, Hindi, Marathi and English. They could well be the architects to build the bridges.

Tides and Tones: Language is an expression of one’s personality, his manner of communication to interact with the world. It is intimately connected with his life and even career. It becomes richer not with vocabulary alone, but varied nuances in pronunciation, accent and meanings across its varied dialects. It would be excruciatingly boring if everybody had talked and written a sterilized language.

In Goa’s coastal village Sancoal while discussing with a fisherman his own ‘mother-tongue’ assumes an extra dimension of musical quality with backdrop of sea breeze, pounding waves and salty air. A flat intonation of any holy language including Konkani would sound incongruous and rhythm less along the Goa’s coast whose livelihood depends on sea. One has to go to a Velsao beach and listen to this symphony of language, its speakers and environment. Could anyone say Velsao fishermen should talk properly? Better still do they talk Nagari or Romi Konkani? It is Konkani through and thorough and Konkani with a lilt at that.

One may only say, let Konkani is where is!

Published in Herald on 14 December 2010
Kalidas Sawkar, Caranzalem, Panaji Goa---9158985758:

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