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Monday, May 23, 2005

Konkani script row: Cultural bond comes to the fore

Kannada writers consider the attempts to replace Devanagari as script for Konkani as a ploy to undermine cultural harmony between Kannada and Konkani.

An interesting debate on the appropriate script for Konkani language has started off in the literary circles of coastal and malnad Karnataka, in the wake of alleged attempts to impose Devanagari as a uniform script for the language.

Even though Konkani has been included in schedule 8 of the Indian constitution, scholars are yet to decide on the right kind of script for it, in the absence of a script of its own.

Several organisations are demanding that the government allow use of Konkani as a medium of instruction in schools. However, the absence of a universally accepted script is proving to be a stumbling block in their endeavour.

Second thoughts

Lack of consensus on the issue of the script to be used for Konkani language has also put the litterateurs in a spot. The prospect of winning award becomes brighter when the script used is Devanagari. It is also a fact that literary works of Konkani written in Devanagari script is being considered for awards by prestigious bodies like Kendra Sahitya Akademi.

As a result, Konkani writers, who have been using non-Devanagari script have started having second thoughts about their stance.

However, it is a known fact that there is a huge repository of Konkani books written using Kannada script. Several translations have also been undertaken from Konkani to Kannada and vice versa, enriching both the languages. Recently Konkani Sahitya Academy has brought out an index of important works in Kannada script.

Cultural fusion

There are four Konkani newspapers and journals which are being brought out in Kannada script, of which two are being brought out from Mumbai.

When Konkani and Kannada have complemented each other so well for decades now, is there really a need for the Devanagari script to be imposed on the language, ask many Konkani writers.

‘Internationalising’

Meanwhile, there are also some attempts to impose Roman script on Konkani, in a bid to ‘internationalise’ it.

According to them, once Konkani acquires the Roman script, it can be made popular using the internet and thus can reach people across the globe.

Bond with Kannada

It may be noted that a majority of the present day Konkani scholars, litterateurs and journalists had their schooling in Kannada medium institutions.

Consequently, there had been a lot of give and take between the two languages, besides the all important cultural assimilation between Kannada speaking and Konkani speaking communities.

The attempts to hoist devanagari script on Konkani has also annoyed some eminent Kannada writers. Criticising the move, Na D’ Souza, an eminent Kannada short story writer, in a statement issued to the press recently had warned the Konkani Sahitya Akademi against such misadventure.

He had also expressed reservation about the meeting being convened by the Akademi in this regard.

However, the President of the Akademi, in a rebuttal had denied any such move, and clarified that the meeting was being conducted just to elicit the opinion of writers and thinkers.

Konkani litterateurs, who have been using the Kannada script, also see the present move as an attempt by some to secure national level awards.

They are also of the firm belief that depriving one language of the other would be a great injustice to the cultural heritage of the coastal belt.

Process begins on adopting common script for Konkani

MANGALORE: A decisive step has been taken to find an acceptable solution to the issue of adopting a common script and dialect for Konkani before its introduction as a subject in schools in the State.

While 37 of the 126 representatives invited for the meet by the Karnataka Konkani Sahitya Academy turned up on Sunday, its chairman, Eric Ozario, said the views of the others on the issue will be collected by May 26 and the results of the process announced by the end of the month.

If it fails to throw up a consensus for any reason, the majority opinion will hold good, he said.

The issue of introduction of Konkani as an optional subject in schools has been a long-standing demand of the academy. While Mr. Ozario's predecessors, Basti Vaman Shenoy and Alexander F. D'Souza, made efforts in this direction during their tenure, the issue has gained momentum now.

The `Lokam Prathinidinchi Jamath' or consultative process aimed at arriving at a consensus on the issue saw invitations being despatched to 48 former and present members of the academy, 32 winners of awards instituted by the academy, 27 representatives of various organisations working for the cause of Konkani and 19 editors of Konkani newspapers and periodicals.

While there was a difference of opinion among the participants on the script with views varying between adopting Devanagari, Roman and Kannada script, there was near unanimity on the issue of dialect. Most felt that this is one matter that should be left to linguists to decide for it cannot be decided on extraneous considerations of caste, creed or religion.

Mr. Ozario asserted it is important for Konkani-speaking community to set aside their internal differences and think about the cause of the language. Noting that all concerned have a responsibility in resolving the issue, he said the jamath is purely a representative body of all Konkanis.

Those making a pitch for popularising Konkani through Devanagari were of the opinion that Kendra Sahitya Akademi recognises this script and it is also the official script adopted by the Goa Government, where Konkani is an official language.

For those vouching for Kannada script, it was a case of affinity for the local lingua franca. They opined that since students study Kannada from the beginning, it will be easy to teach Konkani through Kannada script. Hindi is taught as an optional language only much later and it will be difficult for students to learn through a new language, they felt.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Scholar develops Konkani Grid Script

A research scholar in Konkani language, Xavier Lobo, on Wednesday said Grid Script developed on the scientific basis of Indian alphabet and International Phonetic Alphabet is better suited for the development of Konkani language.

Speaking to The Hindu, Prof. Lobo, who has developed a Grid Script for Konkani language, said the reason for his contention is that the Indian alphabet is most scientific in its sound pattern.

Besides, the IPA is based mostly on Roman/English alphabet, which is known and used throughout the world. Konkani is spoken all along the vast stretch of Konkan Coast with all its variations.

However, when it comes to expression in writing, a Konkani-speaking person in Kerala uses Malayalam script, the Konkani in Karnataka uses Kannada, in Goa, English or Devanagari, in Maharashtra - Marathi, and in Gujarat - Gujarati.

As a result, the Konkanis of different areas cannot read the Konkani of the others and be enriched. Hence, for a common mode, whereby written expression could be done, the thought of Grid Script becomes practical and workable to let all literate Konkanis communicate with each other. "People are in ease with English, so Grid Script is practical,'' he says.

He said if all Konkanis accept this proposal and start transcribing all their literature, Konkanis all over the world would benefit. Konkani would then have one medium of expression through a common script. It would enrich Konkani literature in many ways. So far the reason for the slow development in Konkani literature has been the absence of a script.

He said if only all Konkanis decided to use the script daily, the difference could be seen immediately. The main goal should be the enrichment of Konkani. Similarly, people speaking other languages without script could develop and prosper, if they used Grid Script.

According to UNESCO, there are about 6,000 languages in the world now. Over the ages, many had become extinct for lack of scripts along with their generations. The only way of keeping their languages alive and in circulation, with all regional and cultural heritage, is to adopt a script vigorously and make use of it.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

GSB community in Kochi elated

KOCHI: It is indeed a proud moment for the Gowda Saraswat Brahmin (GSB) community in Kochi as the Sree Sahasra Shankabhisheka celebrations began at Sri Vyas Mandir, Haridwar, on Wednesday.

The celebrations, which will go on till May 22, are being held to mark several milestones in the history of the Sri Kashi Math Samsthan and the birthday celebrations of Srimad Sudhindra Thirtha Swami, the present madathipathi of the Samsthan, who will turn 80 soon.

Friends and neighbours of the pontiff at his birthplace in Kochi are a happy lot. He grew up in Kochi as Sadashiv Shenoy, the fourth son of Ramdas Shenoy and Draupadi Shenoy of the Kappassery family on TD Road.

He lost his mother when he was four years’ old. Since his father was a religious person, little Sadashiv naturally took interest in performing pujas, singing bhajans and rendering stotras.

He studied at St Albert’s School till Class X and did his intermediate at the Maharaja’s College.

It has been recorded that the young Sadashiv heard a call from his inner self, which told him that he was destined to become a sanyasi. In 1944, he was initiated into sanyasa by Srimad Sukriteendra Thirtha and he took the name Sri Sudhindra Thirtha.

He was installed as the madathipathi of the Samsthan in 1949, becoming the 20th pontiff of the Samsthan.

A scholar in Sanskrit, Swami is also proficient in seven languages. His 56-year tenure saw many welfare activities being undertaken by the Kashi Math for the first time.

The Sree Sukriteendra Oriental Research Institute at Kochi and the College of Homeopathy at Chottanikkara too were built under his guidance.

He also initiated the construction of the ‘Kuladevatha’ complex at Ambalamedu in Kochi in 1994 to enable members of the GSB community in the South Indian states to worship their family deities.

The highlight of the ongoing celebrations at Haridwar will be the abhisheka of Lord Veda Vyas by Swami Sudhindra Thirtha using over 2500 conches.

Representing his family at the function is his elder brother Dattatreya Shenoy who has already left for Haridwar to take part in the celebrations.