THE STATE OF GOA

**************DEVACHEA NAVAN ANI GOEMCARANCHEA MANNANK******************* This blog is an attempt to delve into the traditions, heritage, culture, lore and ambience that spawned an enigma. A state of mind. And to perchance perform a perfunctory probe into the psyche of the Goemcar. ************************************************************************************************* GOEMCAR: Any person anywhere in the world - Goemcar rogtacho!

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Concannim or Konknni?

There has recently been a hue and cry in the allegedly Goan Catholic Community in favour of Roman Script for Konkani. Konkani in Roman Script is being projected as the language of the Goan Catholics and the move is to seek its recognition as such under the `minority rights' enshrined in the Indian Constitution. Consequently a demand is apparently being concocted for an amendment in the State Official Language Act of Goa that contemplates only the Konkani in Devanagri Script. The amended Act should comprise both Konkani in Devanagri Script and Konkani in Roman Script for the sake of the Minority. Rajan Narayan had already said, about 20 months ago ("Goan Observer",Feb.21-27,2004) that the then BJP/RSS Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar "had virtually instigated the Romi Konkaniwadis to demand that the Konkani in Roman Script should also be recognised as the official language". We know very well Parriker's love for Konkani and for the Catholics! The contenders for the Official Status for Marathi are overjoyed for the present agitation will surely help them achieve their goal! The promoters of this movement also demand that the Schools - which have been teaching Konkani in Devanagri Script for 30 years, amounting to a generation - should switch over to Konkani in Roman Script.
1. Most of the `reasons' brought forth are rather complaints or grievances of a presumably affected few that can be well redressed with an amicable dialogue. They do not justify at all the intended upheaval in the social, political and educational fields likely to damage the unique harmonious and secular fabric of the Goan society at large. And that too at this stage where all the educated people of 50 years and below are well conversant with the Devanagri. 2. The slogan " One Script, One Language, One Literature" of Akhil Bharoti Konknni Porishod, right from its birth in 1939,in Karwar, is blown out of proportion to make the gullible majority of Catholics take it as a threat to their culture. It does not actually mean more than the Catholic motto "One Flock and One Shepherd". It does not spell in the least a blow of death on the other scripts and an imposition whatsoever of Devanagri instead. At its widest, it is a `wishful thinking' or an ideal goal unanimously agreed upon by all the Konkanis in the session in Karwar in 1939. 3. Nothing is further from the truth than to say that Konkani was never written before the arrival of the Portuguese. Historical books and documents such as "Oriente Conquistado" and the letters of the Missionaries of that time amply indicate the existence of people who knew to read and write in the local language. Dr. Pratap Naik's contention is that Marathi was written to some extent and Konkani had been only a spoken idiom. He further says that it was the Missionaries that gave it a Script. This trend may lead to a dangerous implication that Konkani is just a dialect of Marathi. It may jeopardize all the achievements of our `giants' of the past and present, like Dr.Gerson da Cunha, Eduardo Bruno de Sousa, Mons Dalgado, Shennoy Goybab, Dr. Mariano Saldanha, Bakibab Borkar, Dr Manoharai Sardessai, Ravindra Kellekar, Purushotam Mallaia, Felicio Cardoso, Dr. Olivinho Gomes, Adv Uday Bhembre - to name only a few - in proving that Konkani is an Independent Indian Literary Language rather older than Marathi itself and, being a descendant from Sanskrit, its rightful script is Devanagari. Fr. Stephens and Fr. Maffei could be quoted in favour of the latter assertion. 4. History shows us that the Catholics, other than the elite, clung to Konkani, that too mostly the spoken one, for want of other options. It was not a "sacrifice" as such! Whereas Hindus were given the advantage of having their education in Marathi, the mavxi bhas, a sister of their mother-tongue, even at the Lyceum level. They had thus the opportunity of enjoying and interacting with the rich literature of the neighbouring regions. Hence the deep multi- centennial influence of Marathi in their social, cultural and religious life. This explains their relative reluctance till today to change their mindset and the painstaking struggle Shennoi Goybab had to endure to win over his confreres to the cause of Konkani. Shedding their centuries old Marathi tradition amounted to shedding off their own skin, as Ravindra Kellekar puts it, for the sake of Unity and Identity of Goans. 5. Dr. Pratap Naik calls "Murkh"(Stupid) the promoters of Devanagri Script. Dr. Mathew Almeida, on the other hand, casts aspersions on the slow process of transition of Hindus from Marathi to Konkani. Both being born and bred in Karnataka and consequently not fully aware of the peculiar historical circumstances that shaped the ethos of Goans, should have been more prudent in their statements. One gets the impression that they are bent on creating a rift between the two communities. 6. Familiarity with the Devanagri will definitely throw open a window to appreciate the Indian languages, such as Sanskrit, Hindi, Marathi and others of the same clan. It will help the Goan Catholics to enter emotionally and socially into the main Indian stream. Or do we intend remaining a ghetto forever? Are the Goans going to be a divided society of "hindu dexi somaz" and "kristi pordexi somaz", as Fr. Moreno says? Inter-religious dialogues tend to be a farce! 7. Tremendous has been the development in the field of Konkani Literature in Devanagri. We have plenty of books of poems, essays, dramas, novels of international standards, many of which already translated into Indian and European languages. We have at least four good Konkani Dictionaries and a magnificent Konkani Encyclopedia divided into four huge volumes. It may take another 50- 60 years to create such a wealth in the Roman Script. 8.Last but not least is the threat of Marathi being an Official Language of Goa. That will be the end of the Goan Identity.

Fr. Jaime Couto, M.S., B.Ed [Professor of Konkani Language in Goa seminaries] strita@sancharnet

Comment:

Fr Couto has eloquently presented the case for the Devanagiri script. He has history and the convenience of usage on his side. But then the acceptance of the suzerainity of Devanagiri would certainly be tantamount to condoning the demise, if not the sentencing to death, of a five hundred year old heritage, the disappearance of Romi lipi Concannim. Because as surely as night follows day, the adoption of any one of the scripts by the denizens of Goem would ring the death knell of the other. One is torn between ensuring absolutely the reign of Konknni and the emotional attachment to a tradition one has grown up with and one that is so , for want of a better or more evocative word, lovely.

And all the arguments for the prevailing of the Devanigiri script are not all that forthright. Take for example the assumption that the commonality of a script will facilitate the access to the rich lore of other Indian languages. All of Western Europe uses the Roman script, not all Western Europeans speak or understand each others languages. And the Devanagiri script is a North Indian script isolated from Southern India. Do the advocates of Devanagiri then prefer the North to the South? And take the argument of access to other traditions. While Devanagiri may well assist as far as the regions north of Goem are concerned, in this day and age of internationalism, would not a script that would give Goemcars the advantage all over the world be more preferable? I am all for delving into the richness of Sanskrit, Marathi, Hindi et al, mother and sisters to Concannim.

But because of who I am, a Goemcar. A descendant from the believers of the Mahabharata. Whose family have adhered to the Roman Catholic faith for about four hundred years. Because of which I have had to familiarise myself with and use Romi lipi. Because I have been brought up in an amalgam of a fantastic eastern and an equally great western traditions, where a European script and a western religion with Eastern connotations have been so beautifully merged, I am naturally inclined to tend towards Roman lipi Concannim.

This is an absorbing argument. The fear though is whether this tussle amongst the Konknniwaddis will hasten the demise of amchi Maim bhas? As our grandparents would have said, "reddea ani paddeachem zuzz , vundracher far yeatta."


All good men and women need to come to the aid of Concannim. May our Maim bhas live forever.

Viva Concannim.

Or Konknni, if absolutely need be.

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