Monday, December 12, 2005

Why Goa has names for 132 species of local fish... (a brief review)

Thomas Stephens Konkkni Kendr of Alto Porvorim has recently come out with Sod-9, a new issue of the Konkani research bulletin. It's a volume to felicitate Dr Matthew Almeida SJ who completed 70 years recently. Many would know Fr Almeida as a teacher-rector-principal in St Vincent's (Pune), St Britto's (Mapusa), St Paul's (Belgaum), St Paul's Junior College (Belgaum) and in other roles at Loyola Hall (the Jesuit-training institution at Miramar), the first director of the TSKK (when it was transitioning between Miramar and Porvorim) and as Sod editor from 2000.

Those working in Konkani may not get the attention deserved. As his colleague and confrere Pratap Naik sj writes: "Konknni lok mootbhar and toh shipdoon padla sansarbar. Tantun Konknni vachpi chimtibhar. Boroupi teelbhar." (Konkani speakers are a fistful, and they too have been scattered across the globe. Of them, Konkani readers are a pinch-ful, and writers, and even less significant number.)

That apart, this volume, priced at Rs 100, does a good job of bringing focus to a language that adds to the linguistic diversity, and encodes within its rich insights into this what makes this region tick.

Joseph Velingkar of St Xavier's College (Mumbai)-based Heras Institute writes on the village communities in Goa and their evolution. He writes: "This system of village communities, in turn, gave rise to social distinctions among the population. It not only divided into castes, each disputing superiority over the other, but again divided the villagers into two big classes, ganvkars and residents (moradores). The ganvkars, being the descendents of the founding fathers of the village, claimed to be the aristocrats of the place, and looked contemptuously on the residents, i.e. those not descending from the original settlers. The struggle for dominance between these classes is more clearly seen in the celebration of religious feasts and processions."

But another argument seems a bit to simplistic, and officially-attuned: "After Liberation, the village communities being found stagnant, the Agricultural Tenancy Bill was passed to provide security to and reduce the rent burden on the on the tenant cultivators. The tenant was also freed from the absentee landlord's exploitation and kept in direct contact with the State."

Former XCHR founder-director Dr Teotonio R de Souza's focus is on the use of 'confessionarios', or manuals of confession. His chapter is titled 'Missionary tools and their colonial uses: the case study of Goa'.

Souza writes: "The pioneering role of the Portuguese Discoveris in extending the impact of 'modernity' was far from a secular exercise. The age of 'lights' was yet to dawn. The Portuguese 'Padroado' system was a weeding of the State and Church interests on a world scale. The Society of Jesus played a pivotal role in the practical functioning of this joint venture, saving the State much cost in violent domination of the eastern countries."

But he also says: "Even though it is not uncommon nowadays to read derogatory comments about the missionaries as accomplicies of the Western colonial expansion, we need to admit that colonialism could have been a much more brutal reality without such a missionary accompaniment."

Souza tells about his chance find of a "small sized, leather-bound codex (4.5" x 7") in the 'Additional Manuscripts' collection of the British Library some years ago. It begins with 'Arte do Canarym, composta pelos nossos Padres, e tresladada pola mao do clerigo Antonio da Silva Bramane de Margao...."

Delio de Mendonca, sj, the current-director of the Xavier Centre of Historical Research at Alto Porvorim, looks at the 'alvara' (colonial diktat) that deposed the local language from Goa. Mendonca's view questions some current views. He writes:

"If the Portuguese empire in the East had dwindled, Goa nevertheless continued to appear, for the Portuguese at least, as a very important place to be defended. From 1530, Goa had become the capital and centre of the Estado da India and symbol of social and religious unity. Even in the seventeenth century, Goa was spoken of as the best territory Portugal had in India. Had the alvara been implemented, as it is often believed it was, Goa would suffer the most. But some prefer to see this alvara as the work of a paranoid viceroy, or that the alvara was never implemented or that such never existed. Truly, there is no alvara just for ousting the Konkani language, and much less one on the suppression of the language as I had believed earlier this alvara was all about."

Prajal Sakhardande of Dhempe's history department has an article on Margao "the historian's delight". Goa Konkani Akademi's Jayanti Nayak has another piece on 'Lokvedantleayan adhunik sahityachee prerana' focussing on the local popular culture.

Pratap Naik has another piece on the literature of Konkani and its dialects. He explains the concept of a standard dialect, political, historical, social, economical, educational, cultural and literary 'bolis' (dialects). Then he touches on the script issue, and the differences between the Goan Christian speech and that of the Mangalorean Christian. There are also differences between the Mangalorean Christian and the Karnataka Gaud Saraswat. Or, for that matter, between the Goan Saraswat and the average Goan Hindu (aiylo-yeylo, udok-uddik, ashillo-asllo, taka-teka, cholo-chedo, tanger-tenger, chali-chedum, hataar-hateer, etc).

Naik, who heads the TSKK, ends with the orthography he suggests for an easy-to-pronounce and read contemporary Romi script. Using it, the Our Father's Prayer would be rendered thus:

Amchya bapa s^rgi~chya, tuje~ na~v p^vitr za~v; tuje~ raz amka~ ye~v; tuji khuxi s^rgar zata t^xi s^~vsar~t za~v. Amcho disp^ddto gras az amka~ di; ani ami amcher chukl^lya~k bh^gxita~v t^xe~ amchi~ patka~ bh^g^s; ani amka~ tallnne~t p^ddu~k di~v naka, punn vaytta~tli~ amka~ nivar.

[TSKK orthography could be used to write Konkani in Roman script in a scientific way. Except three speech sounds of Konkani other speech sounds are represented in this orthography. Here below I will give you a key how to pronounce Konkani speech sounds for those who are not familiar with Konkani. ^ as in ago. ~ is used for nasalized vowels.]

Rinald D'Souza has a piece on the Goan Fisherman: His Fish and His Life. Would you believe that the traditional fisherman in Goa has a rich-enough vocabulary to describe some 132 species of fish! From Arro (Caranx kurra) to Xinanni (Mytilus viridis). D'Souza does a good job in describes the various mores of fishing prevalent in traditional Goa, now under pressure from mechanisation, trawlers and the lure of the tourism dollar. These include the porsovnni, zalli oddop, gorovnni, poler, davnni, choddovnnechem nustem, kantalli, mag, har, kinv (poy), jilettin, koblem, manos, umallo kaddop, nustem oddop, khannem pikovop, khunttavnni, pagop and ttrolor. Of course, the last isn't traditional, but came into Goa only in the 1960s.

Allan Baptista writes an introduction to the Xavier Centre of Historical Research and its activities, while Matthew Almeida ends with a piece on the evolution and modification of the Roman script for Konkani.

All in all, a very useful publication. Get a copy before it goes out of print, as happens with publications in Goa quickly. One would wish the articles could come from beyond a largely-Jesuit research circuit; but then the difficulty to get in contributions related to Goa (this journal uses English-language pieces related to Goa too) might be one reason.

More details from tskk at or 241 5857 and 241 5867.

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