Learn Konkani, the Romi way


THE PRINTED WORD

Twenty years later, the debate over language in Goa has come a full circle. In 1987, it was Marathi-versus-Konkani. Now, it is a battle over the scripts and dialects within Konkani. FREDERICK NORONHA looks at how this divide ended up in print.

Goa

Language is an emotive issue, no doubt. We in Goa haven’t been able to yet show that maturity to adopt a live-and-let-live approach over our linguistic differences.

In such a context, it’s not surprising to see a new book on the stands recently, called ‘Romi Lipient Konknni Kors’ (Konknni Course in Roman Script). It is authored by Dr Mathew Almeida sj (Thomas Stephens Konknni Kendr, Porvorim, 2007, Pp 252, Rs 250, US$20, UKP10).

At one level, some will see this as an extension of the script-based battle within Konkani. At another level, one could argue that the Devanagari-alone approach was rather untenable, and it was bound to get unstuck sooner or later.

Seen from the positive side, this “kors” should make it easier for those wanting to study Konkani, without needing to learn a new script first. In particular, this fairly ambitious book will help expat Goans, foreigners wanting to study the language, or even new settlers to the state (not all of whom would know Devanagari).

This book is made up of 33 chapters in its main part (Section II), and another four chapters offering Konkani basics. Towards the end are Konkani-English and English-Konkani vocabularies, references, an appendix and acknowledgements.

Probably in a bid to stave off the charge that the Roman script is not “phonetic”, the start of the book contains an elaborate explanation on how to accurately pronounce different Konkani words in this script.

Each lesson is short, of about two to four pages in length. But it’s packed with a great deal of useful information — a Konkani text with a vocabulary in English, grammar notes (in English), response drill and some questions and text.

What’s welcome is the use of English in this book, which is used where needed to teach Konkani. Some language purists have made the task of spreading Konkani all that more difficult by not even including any words of explanation in, say, a fourth standard Konkani school text book! Leaving one to just keep guessing, or give up.

In a way, the book reflects Goa’s diversity better, unlike some Devanagari texts which tend to be more Antruzi-focussed. Whether TSKK can make this title sell is left to be seen.

On the negative side, this book deserves a better cover.

Incidentally, this book was brought out by Mangalorean priest Dr Matthew Almeida sj, and TSKK is itself headed by another Jesuit from that region, Dr Pratap Naik. Which only goes to show that the full debate about so-called ‘outsiders’ is more complex than made out to be. One day someone might be grateful to these two men from having the humility to retrace their steps, and save a Konkani dialect from total submergence into the sea of standardisation and linguistic hegemony.

This book is available from TSKK, B. B. Borkar Road, Alto Porvorim, Goa 403 521. Ph: 2415857, 2415864 Fax: 91-832-2413389 Email: tskk@sancharnet.in website:www.tskk.org It should be on the book-stands shortly.

GOAN GAMES

‘Goyantlem Parampareek Khel’ is a book about Goa’s traditional games. Edited by Bhushan Bhave, this has been published by the Goa Konkani Akademi (243, Pato Colony, Panjim) and is priced at Rs 140 in March 2005.

Goa

Written in Konkani, it’s a useful book, though one would suspect that there would be a need for such a title in English too. It is 152 pages, and in larger-than-usual format.

In the text, Bhave breaks up the games into two segments — traditional ones (‘paramparik’) and those linked to history or religion. The latter category finds inclusions like godgodo, goff, zagor, dhalo, dhirio, coconut-breaking, fuggdi, shigmo, and Sao Joao. Is that a suitable description?

Given the amount of taxpayers’ resources the GKA spends in publishing so many Konkani books, it would make good sense if these books could be better distributed. The low-price, no-distributor-margins policy (or insufficient margins, as against market trends) probably only makes books published by the Goa Konkani Akademi less-than-visible on the stands.

Of course, the back cover of this text includes an invite to visit the GKA’s reading centre and book sale centre. But this is surely not enough….

SLICK BOOK

Goa

HIV/AIDS in Goa: Situation and Response 2005-06′ is one of those slick and well-published book, printed on glossy paper, and highlights the great role our politicians and State is playing on improving the situation on this front.

Which makes one wonder: Is there simply too much money in battling AIDS? Why don’t health concerns really crying for concern — like malaria, anemia among Goan women, TB or the shortage of cancer or heart treatment facilities in Goa — really get highlighted in the first place?

Sixty-three pages, this has been published by the Goa State AIDS Control Society, and printed at Navaditya, Marcela (Ph 2288077).

Some lovely beach photos make the backdrop for the text, printed in this fully four-colour book. If form was one’s priority, then this would have scored. Unfortunately, not much marks for content. We just get an official story here,

Over which significant money has been spent, without asking whether the global thrust matches with Goa’s own health priorities. Or do we simply spend because funds (often, loans) are available?

Feedback welcome: fred@bytesforall.org or 2409490 or 9970157402 (after 1 pm)

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