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Newsletter. Issue 2010-11. May 22, 2010

 
 
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Commentary

The statements, opinions, or views in the articles may not necessarily reflect that of the Goan Voice Canada.

 

Goan Christians and their Identity
http://www.navhindtimes.in/panorama/goan-christians-and-their-identity
By Tomazinho Cardozo

Although identity means uniqueness, personality, individuality, distinctiveness, etc, the phrase Goan identity means different things to different persons. Conceptualisation depends on the background of the person trying to interpret it. For example, a person who feels that his mother tongue is Konkani will have a different explanation for the term compared to the person who believes that his mother tongue is Marathi. And there will be the third version from a person who considers English or any language other than Konkani or Marathi as his mother tongue.

However, in recent times I have come across articles, views and opinions from certain quarters that have sometimes left me disturbed. According to these views (a) The Christian community in Goa is drifting towards westernisation, (b) They prefer learning English to Konkani. (c) They feel shy to make use of Konkani in public. I do not wish to dismiss these statements outright, but I would like to clarify some misunderstandings created by these statements.

First, all Goans, irrespective of their religion are showing an increased inclination towards western culture. The lifestyle of the present day youth is proof of this. Second, majority of students from the Christian community learn Konkani in Devnagri script at the primary level and as third language at secondary level. All schools, primary numbering about 126 and secondary and higher secondary numbering about 150, of the Archdiocesan Board of Education offer Konkani at primary level and as third language at secondary and higher secondary levels. There are hardly any schools other than Archdiocesan schools doing this great service to the cause of promotion of Konkani language. Third, although it is a universal craze to feel superior by conversing in English, it is observed that many Christian families in Goa, particularly those from coastal areas, do try to speak in English with their children at home. I feel that there are economic compulsions for such behaviour from certain families living in places where there is an influx of foreign tourists. Otherwise, all their daily activities, including religious activities, are carried on in Konkani only, written in the Roman script.

Having said that not only Christians, but all communities in Goa, have been bitten by the bug of westernisation, one cannot brush aside this trend, which can finally make a ??Goykar? feel out of place in his own land in the future. Konkani is the most important element of Goan identity. A mother tongue is always loved by its followers. The Christian community in Goa was the greatest supporter of Konkani language. All Christians in Goa displayed their wholehearted dedication to Konkani during the successful language agitation. However, their love towards Konkani has shown a decline over the last 20 years. The reason being the Goa Official Language Act of 1987; Konkani became the official language of Goa, but, unfortunately, Devnagri script chosen as the official script.
 
Roman script has been used to write Konkani right from the 16th century when a printing press was brought to Goa in 1556 by the then Portuguese government. Since then writing and printing books in Konkani continued in the Roman script. The Catholic Church of Goa made and still makes an extensive use of Konkani in Roman script for religious activities and hence Konkani in the Roman script has become a part and parcel of the life of Goan Christians. At present it is only the activities in Goan churches that keeps Goan Christians close to Konkani and consequently the Goan culture.

The language and culture of the Christian community in Goa has developed through Konkani in the Roman script over the last four-and-a-half-centuries. Elimination of Roman script has only adversely affected Goan Christians. During the last 22 years the number of Konkani-medium primary schools has not increased. On the contrary it has decreased. The majority of Hindu managed schools in Goa opt for Marathi medium education in primary schools as well as for the third subject in secondary and higher secondary schools. The impression given by Devnagri protagonists is that Konkani in the Devnagri script will unite Goans irrespective of caste, creed and religion has remained a myth.

In the recent times it has been observed that the number of students in primary schools belonging to the Diocesan Board of Education has been on the decline. On the other hand the number of English medium primary schools has increased ten fold over the last 22 years. Many students from Christian community have been compelled to move away from a Konkani education. This means they are drifting away from the Goan culture because the Goan culture cannot be preserved and promoted without learning and using Konkani.

The need of the hour is to bring Christians of Goa closer to Konkani language. And this can be achieved, even though it is very late, only through the use of the Roman script. The Government and the so called leaders of Konkani will definitely oppose the teaching of Konkani in Roman script in schools because they know that if an opportunity to learn Konkani in Roman script is given then a majority of the students will prefer to learn Konkani in the Roman script, which might well be the end of teaching Konkani in Devnagri script. Hence, I am of the opinion that the church must start classes to teach the correct method of reading and writing Konkani in the Roman script. Such an act will keep Goan Christians attached to the Konkani language. If the church authorities do not act now, the church activities in Konkani will go on dwindling and we will be responsible for driving Goan Christians away from Konkani language, the Goan culture and Goan identity.

 

Why diversity matters
http://www.thestar.com/printarticle/808037
Editorial in Toronto Star | May 12, 2010


In the Toronto region, where visible minorities will soon constitute the majority of the population, embracing diversity is not just about creating vibrant communities and ensuring social harmony. Diversity, particularly in management and leadership roles, is also a vital component to building a strong corporate sector that can succeed in our increasingly global economy.

In a speech to business leaders in Toronto this week, Governor General Michaelle Jean made a strong case for ensuring that ethnically and racially diverse Canadians can get a foot in the door - and have a fair shot at the corner office.

?Saying yes to diversity is saying yes to modernity, to opportunity, and to the very future of our country,? said Jean. ?But saying no carries a huge price. For each time social exclusion closes a door, another door is opened to desolation, frustration, and despair.?

We already know those conditions lead to neighborhoods full of poverty and criminal activity that drive up public costs and, ultimately, scare away business investment. Politicians, community leaders and increasingly business executives themselves routinely state that Greater Toronto?s incredible diversity is one of the region?s greatest assets. And yet, visible minorities are still woefully under-represented in the upper rungs of corporations.

Studies have linked diversity in leadership to better corporate performance and more creative thinking. As we struggle to recover from the economic crisis, we ought to be more conscious than ever of these benefits of diversity.

 

Bleddy Goans ... and all that
Commentary by Fred Noronha |  
May 14, 2010 10:04:16 PM

DEVIL'S ADVOCATE/Frederick Noronha


It has been quite awhile since I've seen a piece of text stoke up so much heat and motions in a positive way. More so, one that did not go about merely raking up divisions of religion or caste, nor even language.

It wasn't even one of those bitterly-argued pieces of writing one sees ever so often nowadays, which is basically targeted at an individual we don't like. Instead, it was just a piece focussed on the environment; the crucial question of how to respond to the change that we in Goa are all facing at this very point of time.

Admitted, the language used was rather strong. Someone by the name of Godfrey Pereira wrote an article titled "A Letter To The Bleddy Goans From An East Indian Bugger". If you want to see the text of what he wrote, visit: http://bit.ly/bc9guK

After first emerging on Goanet, it quite did the rounds. It surfaced on various networks linked to Goa. In a world where email opens up new forms of communications, this means it reached far and wide. This brief text soon started benefitting from a 'viral marketing' campaign of sorts, which was never planned for it in the first place. Turns out that Godfrey is an ex-SUNDAY magazine (Kolkata) and INDIA TODAY journalist. And his argument is basically that Goans are doing nothing while their State's coast is turning into another Chowpatty, beach after beach is being decimated, and mining is greedily and unstoppably eating away at the interiors.

In contrast, Godfrey praises the East Indians: "In Mumbai thousands of people from the ten villages of the Gorai-Uttan belt have been fighting Essel World [India's "largest amusement park" that's coming up near Borivali]. They are protesting against the proposed Special Entertainment Zone (SEZ) spread over 14,183 acres in the area. They know they stand to lose the core of their culture if this happens and so they are fighting this encroachment disguised as tourism. At least The East Indians there are trying."

The reaction was swift and divided. Many agreed with him, even though Godfrey uses sharp language to castigate the Goan, while putting out his angrily-worded missive. Goan men are useless, while "the Goan women don't seem to care. Their sons are in The Gulf or Canada, sending money back home."

Let's not dwell too much on the responses that emerged though. As could be anticipated, there was another kind of response though. Not all was supportive of Godfrey. The angry tone of his what-are-you-Goans-doing letter apart, he drew praise from some for his wake-up call. But others seemed defensive. What has happened to the East Indians in Mumbai anyway, was the tone of their reply. Or: who the hell are you to tell us what's to be done here? Further: you don't even know what's being attempted here.

At least one latter from Seby Rodrigues, the campaigner on mining and other issues dubbed a Naxalite ironically by none other than Opposition leader Manohar Parrikar, make an articulate case.

Seby pointed out to the struggles actually being taken up by people in interior Goa. The simple folk who were themselves affected by mining every day of their lives. Seby's documentation of the issue is also visible at http://mandgoa.blogspot.com  and through other posts made in cyberspace.

But then, these stories hardly ever emerge. The meek of the earth shalt not inherit the headlines, as Indira Gandhi once famously said. Their campaigns lack the immediacy, is bereft of the drama, and above all, these are simple people!

Godfrey did make us pause and think. Taken to its extreme, his logic -- and one that often makes sense -- is that we all are all to blame for things going wrong. We can't just blame
Mr. Politician, The Faceless Bureaucrat, or even The Mining Lobby, and absolve ourselves of any responsibility. Five decades after the colonial sun set on Goa, the unanswered mystery is how we allow our minds to be colonised, how we can turn a blind eye to issues so close to us, and tolerate injustice even when we encounter it.

That is one part of the reality. But things are more complex here. Goa's mess is also because of our own internal problems and divisions, our inability to build common perspectives on any issue, and our difficulty in sharing a common vision.

One Goan will not trust another, and Catholic will distrust Hindu and vice versa (and, more recently, both have been ganging up to distrust the Muslim, specially the "migrant Muslim"). It's as if we have very different senses of history, geography and an even understanding of what's in our long-term interest -- depending on our religion, even our caste, our experience of colonialism and religion, which part of Goa we live in, and how we earn our livelihood today.

The expat Goan, who has already collated more than enough to live in comfort -- and maybe take care of a future generation or two too -- is quick to propose that Goa remains in its picture-postcard state. Skyline is important. Nature has tobe preserved. The possibility of Goa shaping into anotherMumbai is the worst doomsday scenario that this section can envisage.

This is true, in a sense. But it's not the whole picture. Residents need sustainable jobs, and the chance of earning a fair living. Today, earning a decent living in Goa itself is a rather tough task. This is partly because of scale ? we don't have the economics of a big, ugly and productive city. At the same time, it's also got to do with corruption. Efficiency is shown the door. Likewise, our ability to block each other, and trip one another up, is legendary.

But, this reality -- of the need for sustainable and eco-friendly opportunities in Goa -- is being used as an alibi by those very forces who would like to squeeze out every paisa from Goa, no matter at what cost.

In the past, we saw the strange phenomenon of Congress ministers "boasting" about how high the figure of unemployment in Goa had reached. They did so by citing the figures of job-seekers in the live register of the Employment Exchange. Nobody seems sure now as to how accurate these figures were.

Today, we don't hear about the same any more. But, in the 1990s, this was an excuse to get in more controversial units, from metallurgical power guzzlers to what not!

But our complications don't stop there. Despite our attempts to romanticise the reality, Goa has long been a highly stratified society. Subalterns Goenkars -- regardless of religious differences, but not quite independent of the reality of caste -- have felt a resentment, definitely understandable, that they and their families for generations together have been excluded from the benefits of whatever prosperity passed by here.

Post-1961, the populism of the times encashed on this. Such aspirations were stoked. Everyone would like to live like a bhadkar (Goan-style landlord); so what if this is the ultimate impossible dream? Everyone would also like to aspire to flaunt the neo-riches of the returned expat Goan, for whom the State is little more than a holiday destination. But is this possible, leave alone be sustainable?

Goa is caught between these two clashing visions. One which would like it to retain its picture-postcard charm at any cost -- never mind that people need to survive and take care of their reasonable aspirations. The other vision is to promise the moon but deliver not even the coconut tree. The latter vision pushes arguments of GDP, promises redemption from generations from caste strangleholds, and talks the language of jobs and development. But, at the end of the day, it all boils down to money and profits for a few.

In this rigged and meaningless tug of war, the real issues are forgotten. Godfrey's language may seem provocative, if not almost-insulting, but it plays its role of alerting us to the situation. My only concern is that the Godfreys of our world would sound more convincing if they factored in what makes the Goan reality so complex. Also, why people -- or large sections of them -- can be taken for a collective ride for such long periods of time.


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