Op-Ed: The great neglect of Konkani and tussle over scripts Special

Posted Jul 28, 2009 by Armstrong Vaz
“Konkani does not have a script, isn’t it,” thundered, my Kerala-born photojournalist friend. I shot back saying: “the problem for the Konkani language is not having a script, but scripts?
In your state Kerala people write in Malayalam script, in Karnataka they write in Kanada script, in some places in Urdu script and in Goa, the Goans are divided over the Roman and Devanagri scripts.”
What is in a script some would argue, after all, the spoken word is understood by the masses. But, the script fight in Goa has threatened to divide the Goans on religious lines. Roman script is used by the catholic population in the church ceremonies and it is upper crust Hindu Brahmins who are identified in promoting the cause of Konkani in Devnagiri script in Goa.
Each of the areas in Kerala, Maharashtra and Karnataka have adopted a number of words from the local language into Konkani, like Portuguese in Goa, Tulu in Mangalore, Malayalam in Kerala, Marathi in Maharashtra. As a result it sometimes become difficult for a person from one area to fully understand the language. This has been creating a major stumbling block which has hit the Konkani-speaking people for many years or even decades.
But not in Qatar, in the Persian Gulf.
As the battle of scripts rages on in Goa, a Goenkar priest Gasper Fernandes has brought together people from the entire Konkani speaking region based in Qatar under one banner for church activities. Kudos to him. But teetering problems continue, which happens, as and when, people as diverse as from the entire region, with different scripts come together for a common good of the Konkani language.
A truce is on, as one does not want to ruffle the steady boat. A ship which has been steadied by the people in it, who, are committed to developing and cementing new bonds of friendship in the name of religion. Some may not understand some of the Konkani words ready out by a Mangalorean reader in church services conducted by the so-called “Konkani-speaking group of Qatar” but they bear the pain in the name of God.
If in Goa my friend Minguel Braganza has raised objections to the church afflicted associations using the medium of wine to attract crowds to raise funds for church development , in Persian Gulf countries the dine and dance programme has raked in huge donations for the church.
But the churches in GCC countries conducting religious activities in Konkani have another problem. Call it a generation problem. The threat to Konkani in GCC countries arise from the Roman script supporters. The younger generation are all shunning away from speaking or learning the language, and here, the threat of the real danger lies. And the lack of interest in konkani is not confined to the Gulf but also in Canada as veteran journalist Eugene Correia writing on says:
“Canadian Goans, especially the first generation, have done extremely well in keeping the culture alive through organizing festivals, events and through participation in mainstream functions. The effort of the Goan Overseas Association (GOA) to have Konkani classes proved a failure in its first attempt. The government funds had to be returned for not meeting the required number of attendants at the classes. Though I am not sure if the second attempt was through GOA but, I believe, a handful of Goans, mostly adults, attended the few classes held. An enthusiastic initiative by a Goan teacher of first running some mandatory Konkani classes for Goan children with the ultimate aim to include the language into the Toronto Catholic school system met with no success.”
“The lessons learnt from these experiments were that the youth, "young adults" and children are content with what they are in Canada. They have successfully assimilated into the mainstream society. For them, doing the folk dances at events is more than enough.”
I came across this suggestion on the Goanet regarding Konkani: “In modern times we must particularly pay attention to the youth. Now-a-days, the youths have become computer-savvy. We must use the computer and the internet to propagate our language. One simple method is to post difficult words one by one, giving details along with it, like meaning, pronunciations etc.”
So it is time the 50 lakhs odd Konkani-speaking people in India to united for a greater cause, the scripts may divide us, the state boundaries may keep us apart but the language should be the unifying force. Long live Konkani and the Konkani-speaking people.
If I were to give my piece of mind on what should be the medium of instruction for schools in Goa, then I will defiantly push for English. The reason is simple, I got educated in an English medium school when the so-called primary education in Konkani was not imposed on us. We studied Konkani from fifth to seventh standard and then shifted to French in the eight, till the higher secondary level and then again studied Konkani at the graduation level.
Studying Konkani in Devnagiri script, having studied Hindi, was not much of a problem for us and should be problem for the present generation if they make Konkani a compulsory subject, while shifting back to the English medium of instruction.
But the Goan politicians in whose hands the majority of the people have given their destiny are not ready to make a study, analyze the pros and cons; they have no time for that. They are busy making their own studies in how much cuts they will get on the contracts on roads, bridges and allied staff.
It is time to corner them and push them on the defensive. They are playing with our children future. A entire new generation. Let’s not allow them to do that, they are doing it with no love for Konkani at heart but for the love of politics which gives them the bread and butter, although they deny that “politics is not my bread and butter” .