May 16, 2010
A few years ago when I was in school, one of my far relatives got married in Mangalore. She was born and brought up in Dubai with her brother and had a good Konkani background. Later, her brother moved to USA and started working there.
Coming to the wedding part, well, I heard one of my relatives saying, the whole wedding was conducted in English and not even a single word of Konkani was used except during the raising of toast by her brother. The brother was appreciated for raising the toast in Konkani and being true to his Konkani upbringing. The guests were listening silently to what can be called as ‘pure Konkani’ without adulteration of angrezi words. I was just surprised and wanted to meet the man to hear him speak Konkani but never got an opportunity to meet.
I do remember reading an article on Konkani language by Anil D Souza in the month of March 2010 in daijiworld about the history and the present situation of Konkani. In his article he begins with a question “Hey kid do you speak Konkani?” and the answer goes this way “What? NO NO, My Grandparents used to”.
Well, adding to this I have to share a few experiences I have gone through with regard to our mother tongue Konkani. A few years ago, one of my relatives was sent to Mumbai and was studying in a convent school managed by nuns. After about a year of joining there, her cousin called her from Dubai to have a chat with her. When he was talking to her in Konkani, she continued the conversation in Queen’s language. Her cousin was taken aback by this sudden change as their conversation from childhood has always in Konkani. Unperturbed by this volte face this man continued and the conversation went on in Konglish (Konkani+English).
The shock treatment came finally when she said “brother if would be good if you could speak to me in English as I have forgotten Konkani”. My cousin is not the only one to exhibit such an attitude and repulsion towards Konkani. It is the common story among Konkani speaking people. When we go away from our homeland we behave or pretend to have forgotten our mother tongue. Many Catholics feel speaking in Konkani is a shame and an embarrassment whereas speaking in English elevates their status in the society. We care a damn to slap our mother tongue saying we have forgotten the language through which we were breathing, eating and drinking.
To cite another incident I got to visit a relative of mine few years back when I was in Bangalore. My aunt’s kids were of my age and some were quite elder to me and some younger as well. All had come down to Mangalore during Christmas holidays. As my mom asked me to pay a visit to them I went to visit them. Soon after entering their house I began to doubt whether I had entered the wrong house or my own aunt’s house. My doubts arose from the fact that no one in the house other than the old man spoke Konkani. I could not believe myself as just two years back when I was living in the same house none of them could speak proper English and suddenly within no time they decided to converse only in English as they were away from the town. Along with the children the mother too was conversing in broken English which really sounded weird and grotesque. When I was conversing with them in Konkani their response was in English as if the queen of London had asked them to speak only this language. As I continued speaking in Konkani I happened to ask one of my cousins whom I called dattu (brother) “dattu how come you guys don’t speak Konkani? His answer was disgusting to say the least. “Oh! Konkani! It is an old man’s langauge. By learning this language one is not benefitted in any way. So what is the point in speaking this language? We hardly understand and speak as we were away from Mangalore for 2 years and did not get a chance to converse in Konkani…”.
Gosh! I must say his reply surprised me and I felt like laughing. I kept wondering how people can forget their mother tongue within a short period of just 2 years. I felt saddened by their attitude and it kept bogging me down for many more days.
Many questions bubble up in my mind such as why are we shy to say “I know Konkani”? If we continue to behave this way what example do we teach our kids, and how does the next generation carry forward our language and our tradition? As Anil D'Souza has said in his article “we should learn a lesson or two from Keralites and Tamilians. Whenever two Keralites meet, they tend to speak mostly in Malayalam and when we Mangaloreans meet, we try to help each other by speaking in the QUEENS LANGAUAGE”
We, the present generation have to keep in mind that we should continue to speak this language and teach our kids also. There is nothing wrong in learning or knowing numerous languages. Let’s teach our kids our mother tongue along with other languages as well. Let them be proud of their mother tongue. I have seen a few cases where the older people in the house had no knowledge of English and their grand children raised outside Mangalore had no roots of Konkani at all. One can imagine the scenario when such grandparents and grandchildren meet. They cannot communicate with each other or express their feelings, their love or what they feel about. Even if they express their feelings they cannot understand what they say to each other. This actually builds a communication gap between the grandparents and grandchildren and the relationship tends to remain just so so. I think the parents of these children should try to be in the shoes of their parents to know their predicament when faced with such circumstances.
Let’s be proud of our Konkani language which has good heritage and history. Its one of the Indo Aryan languages, spoken in the Konkan region and the adjoining coastal areas of India like Konkan division of Maharashtra, Goa, Canara, i.e. coastal Karnataka and a few pockets in Kerala.
When we talk about the history, Konkani as a language, flourished in Goa. Konkani language was developed primarily in Gomantak, now Goa in the Konkan region. There are two theories regarding the origin of Konkani. One says that the Brahmins, who lived along the banks of the Saraswati River, must have migrated to Gomantak during the period when seismic activity in the Himalayas made the river run underground around 1900 BC. Their own dialect of Shauraseni Prakrit, over the time evolved into modern Konkani. Another theory states that Konkani is a Sanskritised version of a language spoken by the Kokna tribe and the Aryans who came to the Konkan picked up the language and added various Sanskrit words.
When we have such a wonderful heritage, instead of destroying it, let’s nourish it by taking individual responsibility just by talking to our kids and teaching them. Let’s be proud and say “Yes I know Konkani and I am a proud speaker of Konkani”. Let’s encourage people who want to do something for preserving Konkani culture. When we pat the back of those who have done a lot to the Konkani culture, we will also try to do something for it. In the mean time, a big thanks you to all the poets, writers and thinkers who have contributed to their might to keep the pennant of language and culture flying high.