Sunday, September 30, 2018

Konkani Muji Mai Baas

Konkani Muji Mai Baas... translates to "Konkani is my mother tongue..." and this past month of September reminded me of this on several occasions. 

The Konkani connection with September comes from the way Monti Fest is celebrated in Mangalore. Monti is Konkani for Mount... and so the celebration of Monti Fest is the celebration of the Feast of the Mount... or the celebration of the birthday of Mother Mary. However the Birthday celebrations in Mangalore is combined with the celebration of the harvest. In our growing years, the usual Inland Letter formats in India were replaced by enveloped letters in the month of September containing a few ears of blessed corn. The blessed corn we received was mixed in with milk or a sweet and consumed with a Thanksgiving prayer. Further the celebration includes the Novem meal including an odd number of vegetarian dishes (five, seven, nine...) along with rice with the dessert of waran (payasam). 

While I attended a Konkani church service for the first time in Chembur, it was a perfect connection to my roots. But even more special on Saturday 8th September was to hear my mother tell the world (definitely the whole of Auckland) about Monti Fest on the radio - Susegad Danpaar on Planet FM 104.6

The other Konkani event for me this month was the nomination of my son from school to participate in an inter-school Elocution Competition organised by the Goan Institute in Mumbai. While my son participated and was shortlisted among the last 15 in the senior category in the English Elocution, the highlight of the competition was the Konkani Elocution. In the age where the Konkani language is dwindling, this initiative truly saw some great performances paying rich tribute to Goa and Konkani in poetry. 

The Chief Guest to the wonderful afternoon of poetry was Dr. Elaine Charles, a renowned Mumbai educationist who shared her A to Z of public speaking. Among the special guests at the Elocution Competition was Odil Madeira - a prominent writer and speech and dramatics trainer from Mumbai. She was honoured even more by the fact that quite a few students recited pieces written by her. 

The Goan Institute is committed to encouraging talent and development among the Goan community and besides handing over trophies to the Goan kids who performed at the competition also felicitated Goans who excelled in the recent Xth and XIIth Standard exams. Was really privileged to see one of my parishioners get a scholarship at the event. 

The Goan community has a long history with Mumbai. The area where the Goan Institute is located in Dabul around the Kalbadevi area of Mumbai (close to Metro Cinema and St. Xaviers College) has been home to Goan Clubs or koods which became home to Goans migrating to Mumbai looking for job opportunities. Check out this interesting documentary about Goan clubs in Mumbai.

And the last of my Konkani interactions of the month was with the Indian Express Film Club at the screening of the Konkani movie 'Juze'.

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The film depicted the realities of life in the villages of Goa and the fight for survival of a young teenager against oppression and other challenges of life. An excellent film put together by a young director was an eye opener that however much progress has been made, life continues to throw up challenges for one and all that we have to win over in our quest for survival. The movie set in the remote villages reminded me of the stories I myself have heard about the challenges that various family members have faced in their journey of life and how they made their choices. Among others I recalled visits to relatives homes in Mangalore where there was no electricity in their houses in the 1970s and the 1980s. I seriously wonder what the progress has been in the villages that they lived over the years and how much progress they have seen. 

Konkani to me has been my 'Mai'-baas or the language of my Mai (meaning mother, we affectionately addressed my maternal grandmother as such). Since she only spoke in Konkani and other Mangalorean languages (Kannada and Tulu), we had a compulsion to speak to her in Konkani. However after her passing away, I lost touch of the language. My wife's family though are strong proponents for the Konkani language and she stays in close connect with Konkani by her participation in the Konkani choir (which is led by a young 20 year old girl). 

I am thankful for the reminder to my mother-tongue and look forward to many more interesting interactions in Konkani going forward. Over the years, I've enjoyed some of the very best of Konkani music and have had my own opportunities to sing in Konkani during my days in the Mumbai band circuit in the 1980s and 90s. Signing off this post with this medley of traditional mandos. 


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