The Romi Awards

By Prabhakar Timble
09 October 2013 22:30 IST

Whatever may be the reasons that prompted the Vishnu Wagh led Kala Academy to announce awards for literary works in Romi script, no harm is caused to Konkani language and Konkani people due to these awards. The opposition to these awards looks to be based on narrow and parochial considerations. The considerations that motivated Vishnu Wagh could be political; the opposition to these awards is no less political. There is a section in those who oppose who hold that the Kala Academy has no locus standi to institute such awards. This does not hold water as this institution has been giving these awards in the past. Even if there are no precedents, it does no injury to anybody if the new trend commences. The argument that it’s the job of the Goa Konkani Academy alone to institute awards for literary works is raising a childish dispute. The more the merrier and no doctrine of estoppels works preventing the GKA or any other bodies to institute similar awards, if they so wish.

A fear expressed is that such awards will create disunity and split Konkani people and movement into two camps. This fear is based on the erroneous assumption that there is unity and secondly that there is one pure and solid camp.  Unity comes through sharing and exchange. Unity comes through understanding of ground realities. To speak of uniformity when both the streams are in unequal and inequitable positions is exploitation. There are positive ways to promote togetherness and sense of belonging to each other. This needs sacrifices and the urge to give with joy. A strong step in this direction can come through transliteration of every new literary work of Romi in Devanagari and vice-versa. Awards are small motivations and to oppose them without any rational ground is bad in taste. We need to take the big step forward to celebrate together.

Those who oppose Romi awards express a threat perception to Konkani movement. The threat to Konkani as to all other Indian regional languages comes from the English language and English becoming the natural choice of parents and children as medium of instruction at primary stage of school education. The threat to Konkani language and Konkani (Goan) culture could emanate from a few fanatics of Marathi language. I need to record here that there is no threat from lovers of this Indian language. At present, there is no threat but the forces have nuisance value.  There is no possibility of any threat to Konkani and Konkani culture from those who write and read in Romi. I refuse to buy this type of an argument rooted in colonial and “brahminical” thinking. 

The Konkani language binds Goans in Goa and worldwide. It is our identity and uniqueness. We should not permit the script to divide us. If this factor divides the Goan communities, we should totally avoid making it a bone of contention. This will keep us secular and in harmony with each other. Though a common script to the Konkani language is a dream, we have to give time to reach that goal. Perceiving Romi as a threat to Konkani and clipping its wings is a choice which we can ill afford. If our division is providing fuel to the communal forces in Goa who wear the mask of patriotism and nationalism, each and every Konkani Goan, young and old, junior and adult should join to cut the fuel pipeline before the enemies of Goan harmony and togetherness ignite the fire.

If the Romi awards extend in a battle, Goans will fall an easy prey to the forces which want to divide the communities. The blame would definitely not be on the Kala Academy or Vishnu Wagh. The culpability will squarely lie on the Konkani people themselves. Awards cannot and should not split the Konkani people. Governments and politicians always play with religion, caste and language to divide the communities and their games succeed because the leaders are either gullible or cannot see the end of the tunnel. We have seen the unceremonious removal of Sahitya Academy award winner Dilip Borkar from the Goa Konkani Academy by the government and the meek surrender and acceptance of this dishonor by our Konkani leaders of steel and substance. No formal protest, not even a murmur. This speaks volumes of our unity!! If the government throws some crumbs, the fraternity amongst literary figures goes for a toss.

The official language accepted in Goa is Konkani in ‘devanagiri’ script. This is a settled issue because of the sacrifice and enlightened minds of the leaders of all communities. For the purpose of education from primary to university level, Konkani in devanagiri script has gained acceptability and the new generations across communities including the migrant population have achieved proficiency in Konkani. Romi is an accident of history and it is in the fitness of things to accept and understand this accident rather than erase it with the stroke of a pen. We cannot rewrite the story so fast. It may take another hundred years or possibly never.

The Konkani speaking and Konkani culture loving Goans stood together during the historic Opinion Poll and averted the merger of Goa with Maharashtra.  We had to rally together for Official language status to Konkani and later for full-fledged statehood. For all these struggles we were aware about the contribution of Romi script in reaching out to the Konkani speaking population. How do we suddenly turn blind to the reality? Why is Romi script projected as a dark horse?

Let the Romi sugarcane too stay juicy.  Let us not bite to injure.   Except for the purpose of official language and education, let all other institutions be holding companies for Konkani irrespective of scripts. ‘One language, One Script, One community’ is not a wrong dream. But, it’s an ideal paradise whose time has still not arrived. The Konkani people should be the priority. In today’s world of technology and growing aspirations, it is English which has the magnetic pull. The challenge is to retain Konkani on our tongue rather than proving our nationalism by fighting like street dogs over the bones that government or their agencies throw to split Konkani people. The saner and moderate voices of Konkani and for Konkani should join together during such testing times.

Disclaimer: Views expressed above are the author's own.

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Prabhakar Timble

Mr Prabhakar Timble is an educationist and a legal expert. He has served several educational institutions, especially as the Principal of Government College at Quepem, Kare College of Law in Madgao as well as couple of Management Institutes. He was also the State Election Commissioner of Goa.

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I fully agree with you, Mehta bab. Bhai's excellent article does hiccup at "one language, one script, one community". I can understand the concept of 'one script', mistaken though it might be, but the concept of 'one community' was either a trap that was set up right then or an idea that has been hijacked by the right wingers. An idea that, nevertheless, was based on singularity as opposed to the principle of plurality. Can we not discard that which is irrelevant and/or incorrect and move forward with what was and will always be "right" - just plain, simple "ONE LANGUAGE".

- Dilip Prabhudesai, Margao | 12 th October 2013 08:44


---"The threat to Konkani language and Konkani (Goan) culture could emanate from a few fanatics of Marathi language"

Could you explain how?

- Bhai narendra, Goa | 11 th October 2013 22:43


Kudos to you Bhai for an extremely well written article. An eye opener indeed! Konkani is weak in terms of numbers compared to several Indian and International languages and within the stagnant water of this tiny well, several frogs croak, in self praise, glorifying their own pedestrian standards, in an overconfident tone that emanates out of ignorance rather than humility that comes out of enlightenment.

The overall quality stinks, with an exception of a few who dare to break the shackles and create something memorable. And instead of unitedly fighting to get out of the quicksand of mediocrity, various factions are busy pledging to push one another further down.

Vodlem nustem dhaklya nusteak khata ani dhaklem nustem xxx khata is a well known parable in Konkani. Several 'Mhalgade' do live up to it when they degrade Romi by questioning the literary value of works written in that script. What are their parameters?

You have also aptly exposed the myth and hollowness of the so called unity. Now you could be branded as a supporter of a particular camp for expressing your thoughts.

However, I find your statement ‘One language, One Script, One community’ is not a wrong dream.' sounds like ' Hindu, Hindi, Hindustan' by right wing extremists that insults and undermines the diversity, advocating the regimentation of thought and behavior. Konkani is written in several scripts and that is the real strength of this language. But it was always portrayed as a weakness by those who wanted their hegemony over others. The imposition of stereotypes by those with stronger political power and might is certainly a despicable and insensitive act. Hope sanity prevails and Konkani wins.

- Shailendra Mehta, Mumbai | 10 th October 2013 22:59


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