Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Is Konkani relevant anymore?



Is Konkani relevant anymore?


My friend Mervyn stoked up the disappearing embers by writing this:




There was a time, especially during the colonial era in Goa

and other parts of India, when many of our Goans would not be

seen talking in their own mother tongue; not that these individuals

couldn't speak the language. For them,  speaking in a foreign

tongue gave them that air of superiority(at least so they thought!).

They felt important. Speaking in Konkani was considered below their

dignity.  SHAME ON THEM!

  As a lover of Konkani myself and all that our culture embodies,

I find it difficult to gauge the motives of these "foreign" Goans.

The following verses(sadly, the only ones I can remember) - from

a poem composed during my school days by that well-known

Jesuit historian, the late Fr. Claude Saldanha, S.J. - seem to sum up

everything. Referring to these self styled foreigners as kalafirngis-

Black Europeans), this, in 1940, is what he wrote:


   'They are shy to talk sweet Konkani

    Because they think it's low,

    They rattle off in company

    A foreign tongue for show.

       The men put on some pantaloons

        And think they look quite fine,

        They hardly know - the good buffoons

         That borrowed plumes don't shine!

Melodious mandos -swaying songs

With all their hearts they hate

Which cannot swing the girls around

With arms at any rate.

       And so, they say, 'the mando's dead'

       Not meant for cultured folk,

       But all their culture it is said

       Would not impress a bloke!


Konkani is such a sweet language, with greetings and

expressions not found in other foreign languages.

Take the daily salutation, for example:

   'Deo boro dis diun (May God give you a good day)

or 'Deo bori rath diun(May God give you a good night).

And what of that nightly blessing from our Elders?

 'Deo bori rath amcam somestam di Saiba etc (Lord,

give us a good night etc etc).


This last expression has certainly more meat  to it than the

plain 'Thank you'. Besides, all these also have one

thing in common - they embody Christian principles.

Far from being ashamed of our mother tongue, folk

songs and dances, let us make every effort to revive

and keep them going forever.


Future generations will thank us for this.


Mervyn Maciel


A friend answered back in the firmest and most sensible in the negative of the argument.


No many young people in Goa speak the mother tongue. They choose English because they all have dreams of leaving for England.


Even few new, second and third gens in the diaspora speak Konkani because in the great sphere of things it is quite irrelevant. No one else knows or speaks the language.


It natural for Goan migrants to assimilate in their new lands, especially in the language because without it one is complete marooned.


I don’t know of any young people in Australia who speak Konkani, certainly not the descendants of the East African migrants. My children don’t and don’t want to. There is a move in the GOA in Sydney where a small group has started Konkani classes.


In my mind, Konkani is useful to have if you visiting Goa.



Mervyn replies to his friend.


For your 'exhaustive' response to my article which in

no way was directed at those like yourself and others who were

brought up in an English-speaking environment. 

Like you, I too knew precious little Konkani since my parents

both conversed in English. It is only when we were on holiday

in Goa that I heard Konkani for the first time and picked up very

few words. Much later, when I was schooling in Goa and needed

to use Konkani both inside and outside the home, I took an

interest in the language since I also love our folk songs.

  I would never speak Konkani or Swahili for that matter were

I in the company of friends who only spoke English; but I 

have been embarrassed on occasions when some of my

Goan friends, conscious of the fact that we were among

English friends, still passed a few odd comments in Konkani!

   Yes, it is sad to see the erosion of our Mother tongue even in

Goa with the influx of Indians from other parts of India.

Sadly, we Goans are fast becoming a minority even in our own

country and before long I fear that the little bit of Goan-ness

that still exists in some quarters may soon be a thing of the


   All the best, and as they'd say in Goa   VIVA!



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