Literary 'Journalism' of Konkani: Paper to Digital

Posted By संदेश प्रभुदेसाय | 02 February 2018 11:03 IST

Fausto da Costa, the editor and his Konkani monthly “Gulab”, along with other organisations has started celebrating 2nd February as the Konkanni Potrakrita Dis (Konkani Journalism Day). The first Konkani periodical “Udentemchem Sallok” was published on 2nd February 1889. The journalism in the 19th century was strictly not news but mainly views, expressed through periodicals, not a daily newspaper. It’s an irony that the Goa government, which enjoys the Statehood due to the Konkani movement, does not bother to celebrate this historical day, which laid down the foundation of spreading consciousness about Konkani and Goa’s separate identity. They enjoy the fruits, but have forgotten the roots.

The article traces down the history of Konkani periodicals since then, based on the list of periodicals compiled together from the research put in by experts like J B Moraes, Nagesh Karmali and Olivino Gomes as well as the present scenario. Besides print literature on paper, this article also takes cognisance of the text material in a digital form, may it be on the websites, blogs or social media, including WhatsApp groups on Mobile smart phones.

JOURNEY OF 126 YEARS

As on today, in 2018, it is a journey of 129 years, with the first Konkani periodical starting in 1889. Eduardo Jose Bruno de Souza, a philosopher and theologist started “Udentenchem Sallok”, a monthly in Romi Konkani, not from Goa but Pune. It lasted only for five years. But his pioneering effort provided impetus to series of periodicals, promoting Konkani and the literature in Konkani.

It was the time when British had just taken over the reins of India in 1858 and Portuguese had completed almost 380 years of its rule over Goa. In fact it is an irony that Konkani in print could not develop in Goa when Asia’s first printing press was started in Goa in 1556. The only way Konkani was preserved and passed on from generation to generation was the vocal tradition of Folk Literature.

It is a well-known history that Hindus of Goa migrated due to religious conversions by the Portuguese and converted Christians migrated due to Portuguese Inquisition, to different parts of India, especially Karnataka, Kerala and Maharashtra. Later on, the Goan scholars also started migrating to Pune and Bombay, for higher studies and better opportunities. The literary movement therefore started in these towns and not in Goa.

We also know that Konkani literature is one of the few literatures of India that is developed in five different scripts – Devanagari, Romi, Kannada, Perso-Arabic and Malayalam. In fact it started with Romi script. The first dictionary of any Indian language was in Konkani, in 1626, written by Fr Diogo Rebeiro and the first grammar was also written by Fr Thomas Stephens in Konkani, in 1640. But we had to wait for 333 years to start the first Konkani journal, after the printing press was set up in Goa.

Though Udentenchem Sallok died within five years, it inspired many to start periodicals. But they were either bilingual, like Portuguese-Konkani and English-Konkani or even trilingual – Portuguese-English-Konkani. The Konkani part of it was largely literature, either poetry or story, but definitely a serialised novel of romance. O Concanim, A Luz, O Liberal, O Goano, O Amigo, Catholic Sovostkai, Porjecho Avaz were some of these periodicals, most of which were published from Bombay.

BOMBAY: THE HUB OF PERIODICALS

Though quite a few Konkani books were published earlier, Konkani literature got a real boost with periodicals springing up everywhere. The hub of these periodicals was Bombay, till Goa was liberated in 1961 and even after that for a decade or two. But in Karnataka, it was different. It started in Mangalore with a fortnightly Konkani Divrem in 1929 and then it was shifted to Bombay after India’s independence. G M B Rodrigues was the first Mangalorean to start a Konkani weekly Sukh-Dukh in Bombay, in 1948.

Besides these, Konkani periodicals also came out from as far as Karachi, now in Pakistan, in 1914. It was Dor Mhuineachi Rotti started by three priests – Fr Vincent Lobo, Fr Ludovic Pereira and Fr Moniz. Similarly, Dnyanpeeth Award winner Ravindra Kelekar had started a fortnightly – Mirg – in 1953 from Mahatma Gandhi’s Ashram in Vardha. It was in Devanagari script.

To put the records straight, the first Konkani periodical, started in Goa, was in 1895, called O Liberal, a trilingual in Portuguese, English and Konkani. Its Konkani section in Romi script was edited by F X Fernandes. He was popularly known as F X Fernandes-Liberal.

MYTHS AND REALITY

Most of these periodicals were a mixture of News, non-fiction writings like articles, opinion columns, editorials etc as well as fiction like poetry, stories and serialised novels. Many writers, who could not afford to publish their own books, sprung up as powerful writers through these periodicals.

However, the periodicals also have a negative side in the divided world of Konkani scripts. Even Bombay could not unite them. The only uniting factor was the literature in the form of performing art like poetry recital, songs, dramas and films as well as mediums like Radio and Literary Conventions. For example, a poet like Chafra D’Costa from Mangalore became popular even in Goa only when he recited his poems on All India Radio. The obstacle of scripts still continues, though transliterations are now helping a big deal to understand the divided literature of Konkani.

There is another myth that the periodicals in Romi Konkani never spoke against the Portuguese rule. But the situation changed after Ram Manohar Lohia started a Disobedience Movement on 18th June 1946 in Goa. His action rejuvenated liberation movement in Goa and also the movement of periodicals in Bombay. Political literature started flowing through these periodicals, inspiring the Konkani masses to throw out the Portuguese rule.

Dr Juliao Menezes, who had taken Dr Lohia to his Assolna village in Goa for a holiday in June 1946, was already running in Bombay a Romi Konkani nationalist weekly, called Gomantak, since 1939. M S Desai was also running a Romi Konkani weekly Gova Kamgar since 1939, aiming at Marxist-oriented movement to liberate Goa. Dr T B Cunha, a veteran freedom fighter and thinker, started a fortnightly Azad Goem in Romi Konkani in 1953, from Bombay. Bakibab Borkar, Goa’s legendary poet and a freedom fighter, had started a Konkani-Marathi bi-weekly called Amchem Goem, but later shifted to Porjecho Avaz, exclusively in Roman Konkani. Ravindra Kelekar closed down Mirg from Vardha and shifted to Bombay in 1956, to run Gomant Bharati, a Romi Konkani weekly. There is even an incident when Vauraddeancho Ixtt, Goa’s largest circulated Romi Konkani weekly run by the priests, had to face suspension for writing against suppression of freedom of opinion by the Portuguese rulers.

The trend continued even after Goa was liberated in 1961. Felicio Cardoz, yet another writer and freedom fighter, worked throughout his life for freedom, human values and for the downtrodden, by running Romi Konkani periodicals like Sott and then Divtti in Goa. Hugo de Souza, who was running a Portuguese daily in Goa called A Vida, joined hands with Felicio Cardoz, to start Divtti. Evagrio Jorge, another distinguished freedom fighter from Goa became the founder editor of Goa’s full-fledged Romi Konkani newspaper Uzvadd.  Goa’s well-known linguist and freedom fighter Gurunath Kelekar was running a Romi Konkani weekly, called Goencho Mog, from 1975 to 1982. In fact Goa has a history of starting a newspaper through crowd-funding. Novem Goem, a Romi Konkani daily, was started in 1982 after conducting a ‘padyatra’ throughout the state for collecting People’s Fund. The daily was dedicated to the cause of farmers, workers and the whole downtrodden class of Goan society.

What did they create? Obviously, the political literature from Marxism to Gandhism and upheld the values enshrined in the Constitution of India. These editors and writers are today considered to be the legends in the field of Goan Konkani literature, from T B Cunha and Dr Juliao Menezes to Felicio Cardoz and Gurunath Kelekar. They have inspired the common masses with their literary talent and created a niche in Konkani literature.

STUDENTS’ AND WOMEN’S LITERATURE

The trend got reflected even in the students’ movement for a whole decade of ‘80s. Progressive Students’ Union was running a largest circulated trilingual monthly called Udent. With Marxist orientation, the magazine produced young writers and artists, who wrote poetry, songs, stories, street plays and serious research-based political literature. The group also published a monthly for the youth & workers, called Sangeen. Most of the fiction in these magazines was Konkani while the non-fiction was in Marathi and English.

There was a similar successful experiment in the Women’s’ Liberation movement. Hema Naik, a writer and publisher, organised young college-going girls and women, under the banner called Chitrangi in the ‘80s and ‘90s. They published annual issues called Chitrangi. Women writers from this group contributed regularly to all the periodicals. Some of them have even bagged Sahitya Academy awards. The experiment is being revived once again in this decade.

Yet another milestone in Konkani literature is created by three periodicals, run by Christian religious institutions and have been reaching large number of masses even today. The first one is Dor Mhuineachi Rotti, started in 1914 in Karachi, then shifted to Bombay and then Goa. It had a readership throughout Indian sub-continent and even among the Konkanis migrated to Africa. Another one is Vauraddeancho Ixtt, which is a must for every Goan Christian household even today. And the third one is Rakhno, run by the Diocese of Mangalore. Circulation of Dor Mhuineachi Rotti declined at later stages, but Vauraddeancho Ixtt and Rakhno are still rooted strongly among the Christians of Goa. All the three periodicals have created hundreds of literary figures for the Konkani world.

SHOWERS OF LITERARY MAGAZINES

But there was hardly any periodical in Konkani, dedicated only to literature, prior to liberation of Goa. The first experiment goes back to 1908, when B F Cabral edited Catholic Sovostkai. It was a fortnightly in Romi Konkani. The second experiment was again made in Bombay, little before Goa’s liberation. It was a monthly called Sallik, edited jointly by Krishna Karwar, Narayan Desai, Laxmidas Borkar and Shankar Bhandari and published in Devanagari Konkani. This magazine brought together all the writers writing in different dialects from Goa, Mangalore, Karwar and even Malawani of Sawantwadi.

The world of Konkani literature however witnessed a shower of literary magazines after Goa’s liberation. Many writers started publishing monthly magazines in Devanagari scripts. Gurunath Kelekar started it with a fortnightly, called Novem Goem. To name a few which sprung up after that are Konkan Bharati by Yeshwant Palekar, Parmall by Suhas Dalal, Jaag by Sumant and Ravindra Kelekar, Kullagar by Narayan Vadolkar and then Hema Naik, Punav by Suresh Kakodkar, Buyao by Ulhas Buyao, Urba by N Shivdas, Konkan Times by Tukaram Shet and Bimb by Dilip Borkar – all in Devanagari Konkani. Poet Sanjeev Verenkar published only two issues in a year of a magazine called Apurva, providing platform for all the young writers. There were also many periodicals in Romi Konkani, out of which prominent is Gulab, founded by Fr Freddy D’Costa and now continued by his brother Fausto D’Costa.

Mangalorean singer Wilfi Remimbus also published for some time a monthly called Umallo, publishing only literature. Poinnari by V J P Saldanha and then Chafra D’Costa was largely literary. It started in Bombay in 1950 and was then shifted to Mangalore. It celebrated even a golden jubilee and closed down in 2002. Panchakadai, which was started in 1967, is still running and is being now taken over by T M A Pai Foundation. Konkani writers of Kerala have also contributed through periodicals like Konkan Janata, Konkani Vikas, Saraswat Vani and Divtti.

There is still one magazine running of Navayathi Muslims in Bhatkal area of Karnataka, in Perso-Arabian script of Konkani, called Naksh-e-Navayat. It is read among around 25,000 population of Muslims. It’s now also available online with a website www.bhatkallys.com.

In Goa, Jaag, Bimb, Vauraddeancho Ixtt and Gulab have been playing a major role in providing space for young Konkani writers even today. Jaag was stopped for a while with the sudden demise of its editor Madhavi Sardesai, but her daughter Asavari has continued her work by publishing the magazine on monthly basis. Jaag started as an annual issue in 1974 and became a monthly since December 1976. Since then, till today, Jaag has been a forum for all kind of literature, including full-fledged dramas and novels as well as literary criticism and linguistic writings. They even published books of these literary contributions and have over 20 Sahitya Academy Award winners to their credit. Bimb by Dilip Borkar not only followed its footsteps by publishing books of literature published in its magazine, but went a step ahead by instituting several annual awards for writers in various spheres of literature.

Goa has been following Maharashtra’s tradition of publishing annual issue dedicated only to literature, called Diwali Ank, consisting of 200 to 400 pages. Most of these monthlies have also published Diwali Ank while some writers have been publishing only Diwali Ank, like Konkani of Konkani Bhasha Mandal, Jait by Bhiku Bomi Naik, Konkanichem Kullar by Anand Mangesh Naik and Chitrangi by Hema Naik. Sunaparant newspaper carried over this tradition by publishing such annual issue at the time of Chovoth, till the newspaper closed down in June 2015.

There were also experiments made of specialised periodicals, dedicated to a particular literary form. It started in Mangalore, in Kannada script. Jhelo, Mitr and Kurov – these three magazines were publishing only short stories and novels, including mini novels. Parajat was an experiment made for poetry, as an annual issue, in Goa. Rutu, edited by Pundalik Naik, was a monthly, publishing poems from Goa, Karnataka, Kerala and Maharashtra. All these experiments have stopped.  The only known ongoing experiment is Ananya, a six-monthly started by Goa Konkani Academy with its first July-December issue in March 2014.

‘LITTLE’ CHILDREN’S LITERATURE

Very little, but remarkable work is being done in the field of Children’s literature. It started with Konkani Bhasha Mandal publishing few regular issues of a monthly called Apurbai in 1966. Adv Amrut Kansar also started with Ankur around the same time, but could not go beyond one issue. The real work started with Maruti by Kumudini Kelekar in 1975. It lasted around five years. Then came Bhurgeancho Rajhauns in 1990 with Ramesh Veluskar as its editor and lasted for around 10 years. When Sunaparant was shifted to Panaji in 2004, it started publishing a four-page colour weekly called Ami Pikan. It is still running. It started a new trend of children contributing to this weekly through stories, poems, paintings and even cartoons. Bimb also carries a special section for children’s literature on monthly basis. Konkani Bhasha Mandal has now started a tri-monthly called Chirput with its first issue published in February 2015.  

NEWSPAPERS LEAD

Daily newspapers have also played a major role in publishing literature and taking the literary movement ahead. The first such Konkani daily was started in 1907 by B F Cabral, called Sanjechem Nokhetr, apparently an eveninger. The second daily was started in 1932, called Konkani Bulletin by Anton Vincent Cruz. It was running for 10 years. There was also another Konkani-English daily started one year later, in 1933, called Goan Observer. All these dailies were publishing different kind of Konkani literature.  Goa also experimented with three Romi Konkani dailies after liberation – Uzvaad in 1970, Novem Goem in 1982 and Goencho Avaz in ‘90s. All three closed down after some time, but contributed in taking ahead the literary movement in Goa.

Sunaparant was the first Konkani daily in Devnagari script, started as a broadsheet newspaper on 13th May 1987. While it was shifted from Margao to Panaji on 19th December 2004 with more pages and coloured form, it was eventually closed down in June 2015. Facing huge amount of losses, Goan industrialist Dattaraj Salgaoncar ran it for almost for 28 years. Another experiment called Bhangar Bhuim has now started since 2016. On the other hand, O Heraldo publication has also started a Romi Konkani weekly Amcho Avaz since 2012.

Dailies in other languages have also been contributing to Konkani literature. The first such experiment was made way back in 1929. Diario da Noite was a Portuguese daily eveninger. It published a weekly Konkani supplement called Amcho Gao, edited by Luis de Menezes, from 1st January 1929 to 16th November 1953 – total 254 issues. Rashtramat was a Marathi daily started by Konkani writers in 1964, to convince Goans against Goa’s merger into Maharashtra. It was running a Monday supplement called Somar to publish literary works of Konkani writers. This platform helped the Konkani writers immensely.

The literary scenario changed tremendously after Sunaparant started in 1987 as the first Konkani daily in Devanagari script. A wide platform was made open to versatility in Konkani literature, from essays to middles to political writings to research to all the fictional forms of literature, on a daily basis and a buffet of literature on Sundays. This obviously resulted into Konkani literature getting enriched with variety of books.

Sunaparant was then upgraded with colour and more pages in 2004. The newspaper started publishing 50 literary pieces every week, out of which 40 were published on every Sunday. The canvas of literature was widened encompassing the whole human lifestyle including writings by experts in the field of politics, economy, history, geography, health, psychology, legal aid, career guidance, cuisine, fashion, travel, sports and all such varied subjects confronting our day-to-day life. Two major unique experiments among these were publishing a short poetry on the front page EVERY DAY – called Tikli ­– and critical reviews by veterans of a short story and poems of youngsters published the previous week. The front page Tikli was read out in many schools every day at the time of morning Assembly. This obviously enriched Konkani literature further with books on all these lifestyle columns getting published. The Sahitya Academy Award for the Youth was bagged by one such columnist – Naman Dhavaskar.

THE CYBER WOLRD UNITES

The world of Konkani literature is now also expanding to the cyber world, especially through social networking websites like Facebook. Young and enthusiastic writers and activists are coming forward to create literary groups, sharing their literature instantly, with no expenditure involved. There are groups like Konkani Speaks, Hanv Konkani Vachak, Konkani Mogi, Konkani Sahitya and all such names. The groups are started by youngsters from Goa, Karnataka and Kerala and they meet each other regularly, sharing their literature.  Many of them have also started their own blogs.

There are also two websites dedicated to Konkani literature. ‘kavitaa.com’ is started by Mangalorean poet Melwyn Rodrigues and ‘kittall.com’ is run by H M Pernal. It has also become a platform to bring poets and writers from all the states together. Though there is no such dedicated website in Goa, ‘goanews.com’ has created a special section called ‘Sahitya’ for the Goan writers. The Unicode technology has helped immensely in this endeavour as we can now write in any language on the internet, without spending on printing, distributing and pricing the periodicals. Also, it has no time bar like weekly, fortnightly etc since uploading on the net is a continuous process.

Besides this, the young writers have now also started sharing their literature on mobile phones through WhatsApp, either shared individually or through groups. The information technology has opened not only the doors and windows but has even demolished the walls of scripts and distance. Any literary piece can be now shared with anybody in the digital world as an audio or a video file.

The irony is that the Konkani world is still engrossed in its old traditional world of printing on paper while the younger generation is seen very active on digital platform. While paper printing will remain forever with its own strengths, equal or little more efforts are required to promote all the available digital platforms, which are cost-effective and world encompassing without any boundaries. The digital platform also helps in improvised quality literature supported by colours, graphics, illustrations, audios, videos and even animations. It needs to be seen whether a Konkani institute or an individual takes a step in this regard and begins a new era in the history of Konkani periodicals.

References:

1. A brief history of Konkani Periodicals: J B Moraes

2. Konkani literature in Roman script: Dr Olivinho Gomes

3. कोंकणी नेमाळीं - एक इतिहासीक नियाळः नागेश करमली

4. चार दसकांची साहित्ययात्राः रवीन्द्र केळेकार

5. ‘जागा’चीं पंचवीस वर्साः सुमन्त केळेकार

6. Information gathered from Gurunath Kelekar, Damodar Mauzo, Prabhakar Bhide, Melwyn Rodrigues, Hema Naik, Gurudatt Baliga, Sanjeev Verenkar, Jayanti Naik, Chetan Acharya and Dr Soniya Sirsat.

 

(The article is a modified version of a paper presented by the writer at a seminar held by Sahitya Academy in Mumbai on ‘Contribution of Periodicals in Languages of Western India’ on 20 April 2015. )

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The first dictionary of any Indian language was in Konkani, in 1626, written by Fr Diogo Rebeiro and the first grammar was also written by Fr Thomas Stephens in Konkani, in 1640.

Have you seen these texts yourself? Where are they available? The dictionary you mention is Konkni to what?

- RJP, Goa | 11 th February 2018 19:27

 

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