Medium of Confusion

By Radharao Gracias
23 April 2011 13:56 IST

The struggle to delink grants from medium of instruction, appears to be gaining momentum. The movement may turn, into a typhoon and blow the detractors, into the dustbins of history or may not even gain gale force and simply, dissipate away.

The critical factor is the Church, which has taken twenty years to grant annulment of its earlier policy, to oppose instruction in English. I do feel cynical. I am aware that the Church is essentially for Christ, all the year round. However, when elections come, it is for the Congress! And this, is an election year!

The argument against releasing grants for English medium, seem to hinge on the imputation, that English is an import and that, our native culture would be adversely affected, if children study in the foreign language. However, it is difficult to comprehend, what exactly constitutes Indian culture, considering that our country has been conquered dominated and subjugated for thousands of years, by invaders.

We were witnesses in recent weeks, to euphoria generated by the Indian victory, in the Cricket World Cup. We are still wallowing, in our glory and feel on top of the world. And with valid reasons too. After all we are, the world champions.

But then, is cricket any less foreign than the English language? If we pride in our achievement of dominance in world cricket why don’t we have a right to achieve world dominance, in the English language?

We have watched with glee, the performance of Sachin Tendulkar on the cricket field. Anyone who has followed his cricket will know that he took to playing cricket, when he was just a toddler and represented the Country at the age of sixteen. Now imagine that Sachin Tendulkar was a Goan and was bound to follow the advice, of our “patriotic” experts who insist, that a child must finish primary education in the mother tongue.

Extend the same logic, to sports and it follows that Sachin, would have to play gilly-danda (gonzo-bar) for the first four years, being a native game and take up cricket, only thereafter. Sachin would have ended up saying “Holay” instead of “How’s that”. He would be doing “abling” “doubling” “tibling” and never would have a chance, to reach a century of centuries in cricket.

The same patriotic experts, seem to be citing an UNESCO report of the year 1953, which recommends that primary education must “as far as practicable” be in the mother tongue. There are many other things, that the United Nations has recommended. Are these “patriots” also suggesting, that we should accept the Security Council resolution, to hold a plebiscite on the issue, of whether Jammu & Kashmir should be part of India, Pakistan or be independent? All of us, would like to know.

The Saraswats , who are at the forefront of opposition to English medium claim to be the most patriotic of the people of the State, (read Chandrakant Keni for details) who vehemently fought the Portuguese and preserved and protected, the pre Portuguese culture. History shows, that the Saraswats  were the earliest of Goan Hindus, to study in Portuguese from the Primary level, and become part of the colonial Portuguese administration. Did they lose their culture? Have you ever attended the Annual Saraswat Food Festival? If you have, you should be wondering what the Saraswats  ate, before the Portuguese arrived, in Goa and introduced their food habits and their flora?

The food which the Saraswats  serve, at the Food Fesitval is more Portuguese than Goan. It is nearly impossible to find any food item, not “polluted” by the Portuguese. I have not found any item at the Festival, which does not have at least a chilly, potato, tomato, onion, pineapple, chickoo, cashew, papaya, asofoetida or some foreign introduced vegetable/fruit as one of the ingredients.

If the Saraswats , can continue to claim to be patriots and flaunt their culture, after eating food so much “contaminated” by the foreign introduced vegetables and fruits, how does one become less cultured and less patriotic by merely studying a foreign language, which language, binds the Country together? If Saraswats  have not lost their culture by imbibing foreign foods, why should we fear, that others would, by learning a foreign language? And I still wonder, what the Saraswats  ate, before the Portuguese conquered Goa. And I wonder even more, why the “patriotic” Saraswats  gave up their traditional food for that introduced by the Portuguese.

And of course, we have Democracy, the very basis of our Nation today. Democracy is a completely foreign concept alien to the culture that evolved in our country before European colonisation. Democracy is founded on the concept that all men are equal. Our entire way of life has evolved over thousands of years on the opposite concept that all men are not equal. That man, is born high and low and that each one, is to discharge duties enjoined on one, by the caste, in which one is born. Today, everybody claims to be a democrat, only because we have accepted European style democracy. Should we discard Democracy, because, it is a foreign import and certainly contrary to our culture, the fundamentals of which are based on discrimination?

The question for us, is how do we decide, how much of foreign inputs are acceptable? And who decides? If the Saraswats have a right to adopt food, tampered by Portuguese food habits and call it Saraswat food, why can’t the rest of us similarly adopt English, as our own?  By objecting, to English because, it is foreign are we also not objecting to Democracy which is also foreign? If we have a right to reject United Nations resolution on Kashmir, don’t we have the right to reject the UNESCO report?

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Radharao Gracias

Radharao F.Gracias is a senior Trial Court lawyer and ex President of the South Goa Advocates Association. He is also former independent MLA of Goa. He has been an activist on issues related to Goa for more than three decades.

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Previous Comments

Thanks Radharao for the well informed and well put up article . People are asking for English because they have experience trauma in the present system and not for the fun of it.

My question arises is how can a state government sideline the official language of Goa "konkani" and run Marathi medium shools (Land, Infrastructure and Administration cost being paid by the tax payers money) whereas the Aided schools are doing a service to the citizens by investing their own money in the Land, Infrastucture which goes in huge amounts and they are aided with only Administration cost are borne by the Government . How can some one try to force the people who want to study in whatever langua in an aided school and how can some one force aided schools to choose a particular medium or lose administration grants ( which also is tax payers money)

Where as the so called Konkani lovers should have been forcing the government to shu away from running any schools other then konkani as it is Government topmost duty to uphold suprmacy of Konkani in Govt. primary Schools

the Aided schools are doing a great favour on the society by facilitating and providing good education to the masses without any form of infrastructure fees from the students.

- Francis fernandes, santa cruz | 25 th July 2011 23:56

 

I just want to know how Radharao gracias speaks ,reads and writes ENGLISH so well............Didn't he learnt in Konkani/ Marathi during his primary school????

Please don't pollute the situation mr. Radharao. Just think how much burden it will be on a child's Brain in the early ages if the child starts to learn in English rather in his mother tongue.....

- RANE, MARGAO | 24 th July 2011 02:39

 

Thank you for a well reasoned article. It is genuinely unfortunate that so many Goans feel that Goan culture would be threatened if Goan children learned the English language. In today's world it is English that is supreme,and it gross shortsightedness to deny our children that competitative advantage, by denying them that advantage, in the name of protecting Goan culture and heritage. Our IT industry made India a household name around the world. Today major powers like the USA fear our talented children, and it is because, not only are they talented BUT THEY KNOW ENGLISH. I wish you all the best in your endevour to give Goan children the competative edge they deserve.

- Derek E. Oliver, Pune | 11 th May 2011 13:39

 

To find an honest Saraswat seems to be like finding an Unicorn. Historically the brahminical class in India has survived on falsehood and Chicanery. They were never productive and always prefered to survive on the strength of ' Saraswati' which was their monopoly.

In Goa several of them fell flat on their face during Parrikar's regime who roped them together very smoothly by dangling various carrots. Now that Digambar Kamat is in power who from the childhood took pride in sporting Khaki Chaddi, Saraswats seem to have infested in every departmant. Not as class III and IV employees but as bosses.

The so called bahujansamj on nthe other hand celebrates the glories of their leaders who are either busy nominating their own children in govt.services or deeply entrenched into the swamp of nepotism.

Thanks Radha, at least youy are doing your bit in openig the eyes of those in deep slumber.

- Rajan Govekar, Feira Alto Mapusa | 25 th April 2011 11:48

 

The main argument in favour of konkani primary is the mother tongue argument. It is not just the UN report but generally accepted that the child if exposed to a familiar language to begin with, will do well. If your mother tongue is English, there is no issue with learning English in the primary.

No one is against English. Being multi-lingual is an asset in today's world.

Thirdly, yes, konkani is our own language. It is but natural for every person with self-esteem to have a pride in one's own culture, roots etc.

regards,

Samir

- Samir Kelekar, Bangalore | 24 th April 2011 10:52

 

It's quite a delving deep scoop, into the culture, which otherwise, we would simply ignore for fear of raising unnecessary issues, letting bygones be bygones. Yet, history cannot be forgotten, as it happened.

Our freedom fighters in India, left the Indian shores crossing oceans, at the risk of losing their faith or being tabooed and yet gaining knowledge far alien to our culture, which would eventually stand in good stead for throwing them back whence they came, learning from them. Lack of insight can be detrimental and threat to living freely.

- Ludovico, Old-Goa | 23 rd April 2011 18:31

 

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