Konkani: Goa’s official language, icebreaker in Mumbai

konkani speakers parking only

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

In a previous column, I wrote about how I immediately switch to Konkani when I meet a fellow Goan in Mumbai. But there was one aspect I failed to mention. It’s definitely about the language, but it does not end there. It’s about the form of Konkani that is peculiar to different parts of Goa and how I encounter this every single day!

The reason I’m writing about this is because I face this situation more often than imagined. It took me over four months to realize that my workplace houses dozens of Goans, and every time we run into each other in this huge office, we automatically exchange hellos in our mother tongue. And this gets worse when I greet a north Goan considering I belong to the south. Now I’m sure you know where I’m heading.

The dialect south Goans speak is way different from what the other side of Goa speaks. And this argument is never ending. Our receptionist, the secretary to the CEO, a couple of Sr. Vice Presidents, some Managers and a lot of Executives are Goans. Out of these most are north Goans and a handful are from the south.

Recently, when the group was speaking with each other, we got into a friendly-argument (if you know what I mean) over whose Konkani is superior. Thankfully, there was no verdict on this. According to the north guys, south Goan Konkani is too rounded and every word sounds abusive. So we snapped and said that their Konkani sounded a lot like Marathi and that it loses its unique essence every time someone utters a word.

The argument was not just about the multiple dialects that have emerged within the state, but also about which dialect is more clear and understandable. In our chirping about the language, we go back to the age-old debate of whether Konkani is a dialect of Marathi or not? While some, I would like to say, stubbornly think so, the fact that it is included in the 8th Schedule of the Indian Constitution as a separate language isn’t reason enough for us to stop the debate. We would no doubt like to believe, it has nothing to do with the neighbouring state!

Konkani is Goa’s official language, and surely loves to hog our attention. To me, it’s all about staying rooted in tradition and retaining my culture. Konkani also sinks in the idea of comfort. When I speak with a fellow Goan, there’s this comfort zone I enter. Once the conversation is over, I exit that zone and switch back to English.

In a way, these “friendly” arguments are a good icebreaker. One has a view, then someone else is roped in, the third person has a different view altogether, the fourth person chooses to be a spectator and finally we’re all having lunch together and laughing over what we were squabbling about. Like this, we at least learn everyone’s views on the language without affecting the brotherhood we share.

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