Column: Mind Your Language

(Please note: This is my fortnightly column that was published in The Goan on Saturday)

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When I was a kid, my dad convinced me to speak English as Konkani would not take me very far. I’m glad I paid heed to his words, but altered his statement. Learning a new language is never a waste. So, in an English medium school, I talked to my classmates in Konkani and conversed with my teachers in English. Now in Mumbai there is no distinction. If you’re a Goan and if you know Konkani, that’s our language.

Last year when I visited Goa, I happened to meet a college friend. I greeted her with a smile. However, she chose to start a conversation. It started by enquiring about my health and Mumbai — all in English. I grabbed a chance and replied in Konkani. She then asked me how I was faring at work — again in English. All is good, I said in Konkani. And like this we continued our part English-part Konkani chat. It annoyed me how she didn’t realise that I was interested in talking in Konkani. In my opinion, she had subscribed to the idea that I could have possibly forgotten my mother tongue when I shifted to Mumbai. Darling, you got that wrong!

Initially, I was shy to talk to any Goan in Konkani. I never uttered a word that didn’t sound like English. But gradually, I made myself comfortable and hugged the language I had abandoned in the first two years of my stay in Mumbai.

Today, any Goan I meet can’t escape my Konkani. And mind you, it’s quite fluent. My Konkani is what my grandmother would call it — Sashtti Konkani. It’s rounded and definitely doesn’t sound like Marathi. I call it the proper Goans’ perfect Konkani.

Apart from speaking the language, I also like to listen to Konkani kantaram composed and sung by Lorna, Olavo, Lynx to name a few. This is not all. My sister and I love watching tiatrs. So as and when we can, we dedicate a couple of hours of this traditional Goan drama. Till date, I recognize fish in Konkani. Remember Rechaad Bangdo (Mackeral)? Also, I know Sangot (cat fish), Mori (Indian Dog Shark), Bombil (Bombay Duck), Surmai (Sheer fish) and this list can go on.

This should suggest that I’m still in touch with the lingo. My father was right when he said I wouldn’t reach too far if I was fluent in only one language. How far could I go with Konkani in a city like Mumbai? It’s not all that similar to Marathi to get away with. And I need English to live in Mumbai. But why am I deprived of Konkani when I go to Goa?

If when in Rome, do as the Romans do, when in Goa, do as the Goans do. Relax, make sure you’ve taken your siesta, sip on some beer or feni, and talk to me in Konkani. I’m returning from Mumbai, not America.

P.S. My Konkani is not dying a slow death. It’s alive and kicking.

Photo: www.number27.org

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