Konkanni Konnachi?

By Dr Oscar Rebelo
26 October 2013 17:38 IST

The language “Narkasur” has raised its ugly head, yet again, on the eve of the Festival of Lights. (If only we could be enlightened!!).

It is dismaying and totally disheartening to see, otherwise perfectly decent and honorable men and women of Goa, abusing and cursing one another, in full public glare, in agonizing, ill tempered tones, funnily enough in perfectly spoken Konkanni (whatever the script).

When a miniscule population of a minuscule state, with a minuscule amount of land left for posterity, cannot find sufficient, mutually acceptable definitions of what constitutes our identity, our culture, our heritage and our language, it is no wonder that we, as a people of Goa, find ourselves on the brink of being declared an endangered species, soon to become some curious museum pieces of history.

Whatever, be the merits and demerits of the complex script and language issue, that  has dogged us for over a quarter of a century and whatever be the pompously “ official” title bestowed on one of them, there must be a few non negotiable positions in the minds and hearts of all our charged up language warriors.

Have a war, (of words) by all means, but you can use only conventional weapons of dialogue and debate, no chemical weapons of gutter abuse and personal attacks.

So, Let’s keep these as the rules of engagement:

1. There must be genuine and abiding respect -- that’s the key word -- RESPECT for Devnagari Konkani, Romi Konkani and Marathi. No genuine literary figure can be repelled or hate a language or script. It is akin to Wagner despising Jewish music.

Literature, any literature, is about uplifting the soul, not destroying it.

What would our desolate, empty lives be without the scintillating works of a Pundalik Naik, or a Manohar Rai Sardesai or a Tomazinho Cardozo or a Pula Deshpande?

How much poorer, would we be without the glorious entertainment of a tiatr or a natak?

How less blessed would we be if couldn’t invoke all our Gods in the language or script of our choice?

Respect for one another is non-negotiable and paramount. Everything else can wait.

2. Scratch the surface and peep into the heart of every Goan, who may be proficient in any national or international language. Written in proud, bold letters it is unmistakably Konkanni. We may love Marathi or Hindi; English or Portuguese but we ARE Konkanni. And what you ARE can never be taken away from you.

3. Those that inflict maximum damage on our dear blighted land are those that are eerily silent, slippery and snake like.0 They hardly speak anything, but dig, build, plunder and destroy. From our illegal and unrepentant miners and real estate sharks; from our funny money operators in the casino, drug and sex industry; to many of our polluted politicians. So, the more we squabble amongst ourselves, the bigger their profits.

4. The language and script controversy must never be allowed to degenerate into a caste or communal battle, whatever the level of hurt and grievance of any party. It does no good to the social fabric and future of Goa.

5.  The Government (and apparently the opposition) has taken a position that the official language Act of 87 will not be touched. To keep the peace!!

Fair enough. Why open a can of worms to infest and crawl unwelcomingly in our so far peaceful lives. But political leaders must act as healers and facilitators to a negotiated settlement between all warring groups. They must refrain from fishing in troubled waters reopening old wounds.

This is easier said than done since positions are so entrenched and intransigent but the simple rule of the game should be that no language (Konkanni or Marathi) and no script (Devnagari or Romi) will be allowed to triumph over the murder and demise of another. A bed of roses, sitting on a graveyard, is not always a pretty sight.

Goa, my friends, will be destroyed not by the malice of those from the outside (or inside) who see her beauty, as an object to be sold to the highest bidder, but rather by the age old prejudices, rancour and lack of peace and goodwill amongst ourselves.

We will need to heal ourselves first, before even tempting to heal this tragic paradise, we call Goa.

It would be wise to remember, that when Goa becomes a cacophonic, morally depraved, environmentally devastated, drugged out, garbage dump of a purported “Pearl of the Orient” our voices will be so feeble and irrelevant, that even the birds and the pigs will not lend us a ear, leave alone read our scripts.

Our choice is clear. We either walk hand in hand, on a path of some peace or continue to trip one another on the highway to hell.

Post script: I recall an elderly couple who were my patients. She was blind, deaf, mute and a Gujarati Hindu. He was deaf and could speak a few halting words, he was a Parsi.

When she had an ailment she used to touch his hand, in a sign language, difficult to decipher and he used to translate it for me, slowly using just the key words.

I then used to ask further questions and give my prescription or instructions to her in writing. He would read it and the whole exercise of touching her hand in a rapid sign language would repeat itself, and she would nod, once she understood everything.

It was so fascinating, this communication between two human beings. So difficult and yet so simple.

On a piece of paper I wrote: Mr. Mistry, what do you call this language of yours???

With a gleam in his eye he mouthed just one magical word:  LOVE!!! 

Ladies  & Gentlemen, of the jury, I rest my case.

Blogger's Profile

Dr Oscar Rebelo

Dr Oscar Rebelo is one of the leading social activist of Goa and a practicing doctor. He led the historic peoples’ movement in 2006-07 to get the anti-Goa Regional Plan scrapped and save Goa from total destruction of Goa’s ecology and natural beauty. He is a Goa-based leader of Aam Aadmi Party. He is also a columnist.

Drop a comment

Enter The Code Displayed hereRefresh Image

Previous Comments

Mr. Vishnu Wagh want Marathi and Konkani adopt

official language of Goa. With this regards BJP should

think of his demand to loose Goa. Konkani is official

language already what he is talking about Marathi. Seem

to me he is Marathi monos, such demand kick him out

from BJP party and from Goa as well.

- Domnick, Goa | 11 th November 2013 13:06


Good one Dotor!! The post script is just touching!

You have put down what exactly a Niz Goenkar feels.

- Ashley, Goa | 03 rd November 2013 13:22


Dr. Oscar,

Well said. I think you mentioned exactly what 'Konkani Goenkars ' feels in their heart.

Yes, the learned educated MUST move away from the cacophony created by the kinds who wants to extract the political miles to their credit.

It is Konkani that connects me to my land because it is my 'mai'-bhas. Marathi connected me to my culture when the void of not having enough literature in Konkani was filled up. I am indebted to this wonderful language that came in time as my 'maavashi' to rescue.

I need to know 'English'as a universal language to be successful in this world but not at the cost of my culture.

And I appreciate the fact that English is another language that can enrich our life.

Reality is that there are ones connected to Konkani with backgrounds of several different languages and religions.

All of this makes us Konkani and hence we cannot ignore our language and our culture.

There is no option to teaching Konkani in schools, only if people realize that it is one big link in keeping us linked to our roots.

-Magan Savant

- Magan, Hong Kong | 27 th October 2013 11:51


Related Blogs