What is Konkani, bro?

“Where do you come from?”

The most dreaded question any Konkani person living outside Goa will hear. The red line under ‘Konkani’ indicates that WordPress is unaware of the language as well. To the question above, I usually explain that I am a Konkani person, but I stay in Andhra Pradesh while I am originally from Kochi. Also, I was born in Chennai.

The reply is usually:

“Oh I have never heard of that language!”


“You mean, Tulu?”

To which I am forced to reply:

“No, not Tulu…Konkani is Konkani. It is a language and also is one of the languages you will find on any bank note.”

Still no progress.

“It is the official language of Goa”, I say.

“Ohhh…Goa”, the bloke smiles reminiscing memories of a holiday possibly, at which point I am ready to clobber his head with a fist.

I mean, if you are going to Goa, is it not essential to at least know what language they speak in the place? Are people under the impression that Goans do not speak at all and communicate in sign language? Most people come there to drown their bodies in alcohol and the beaches but have not an iota of knowledge of the place’s culture or language.

Most Konkani people can pull it off as Kannadigas, Malayalis, Marathi people, Hindi people and members of almost every other linguistic community owing to the fact that they live in other states and have had to pick up the vernacular language, thereby leading to a degradation of their own language. I have encountered relatives using Malayalam words while speaking Konkani which has blended into the language which I believe is bad. The continuous assimilation of different languages into one’s own feels like an unwanted visitor entering your house and not leaving. He eventually becomes a part of the house and you even accept his being there.

Konkani writers such as Manohar Rai Sardesai, Charles Francis, Damodar Mauzo, Madhav Borkar, Ramesh Veluskar, Pundalik Naik and many others have put the language on the literary map but the idea of a fractured identity always haunts the non-Goan Konkani individual.

In a conversation with Jerry Pinto following a talk that he delivered in Chennai, Pinto explained how the Konkani language was crippled by the Portuguese colonizers who stayed around until 1961, much after India got its independence. He also explained how Goan mothers caught singing Konkani lullaby’s to their child would have to watch soldiers pulling away the child and slamming the little one against the wall. Konkani was outlawed and the religious imprint left a lasting mark on the Konkani community.

My ancestors along with thousands of others, the Konkani Brahmins, determined not to get converted, (for which I am extremely grateful to them) fled to Kochi, Kerala. There is a large population of Konkani speaking people in Kerala, Karnataka, Maharashtra, and several other states in the country owing to the colonial misdeeds of the Portuguese.

I have had a professor in college telling me about what Konkani is:

“So for instance, take Konkani…it is a mixture of Kannada and other languages.”

“Sir, but Konkani is not a mixture of Kannada and anything else”, I reply.

“But I speak Kannada”, he says.

“True sir, but I speak Konkani”, I say.

It happened again at another person’s house where an intellectual conversation was going on about how Konkani is a “bastardized language”. The man was so drunk that he could barely speak in English, and here he was blabbering about Konkani, a language he clearly had no clue about. On the brighter side, he had at least heard about Konkani.

Back in school, a Marathi friend told me:

“You people took our language and made a whole culture out of it!”

Yes, we came all the way from where the Saraswati river was, all the way to Maharashtra on our way to Goa, just to steal your language, because you see, up until then, we communicated in sign language.

Image of Gosripuram, Konkani temple situated in Mattancherry in Kerala – Source: Wikipedia

The positives are that Konkani people now continue to cook their pathrodo, ambat, dalithoy, song (not music -song, it is a spicy dish), undi, maskat (made from overripe bananas), valval, sandan, various kinds of tambhali, sassam, vodi, adgayi, humman, sukkhe, ghassi, upkari, patholi, sanna polo, gova polo, phanna polo, rontos, godda appo, panka ronti, godi ronti, ponsat, ambsat, kokum and many more dishes. The food carries with it much of the culture and flavor of the Konkan folk.

Image courtesy: https://konkanikhann.blogspot.com/

The purpose of this article is not to establish myself as a proud and abhorrent Konkani lunatic, but to instill an idea of what Konkani is and that it actually exists and is one of the official languages of India. Konkani must not be dismissed as a “dialect of Marathi”, nor should people associate Goa with “booze, sex and parties” (although tourism is the primary source of revenue for the state).

To conclude, the language urgently needs a revival and piecing together in order to facilitate a healthy life of the same. As Jerry Pinto mentioned in his talk, language is not something that belongs to us, it is something that we pass down to our future generations. And what use is there in handing down something to your daughter or son if it is broken beyond repair?






Links that may be of interest:

  1. https://www.theweek.in/leisure/society/2019/01/12/guna-carouses-fractured-soul-goa-damodar-mauzo-life.html
  2. http://www.ameyhegde.in/blog/english-translation-of-a-konkani-poem-on-attitude-of-gratitude-by-poorva-gude-and-amey-hegde
  3. https://prabhaskitchen.wordpress.com/recipe-list/
  4. https://mayashenoi.files.wordpress.com/2018/04/gsbcookbook.pdf
  5. https://www.deccanherald.com/content/664936/a-konkani-touch.html
  6. https://konkanikhann.blogspot.com/
  7. http://blog.preetishenoy.com/2008/01/who-is-gsb-konkani-anyway.html#comment-form



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