A Report by Jyotsna Kamat
First Created: February 13, 1999
Being the border city between Karnataka and Maharashtra, Belgaum has attracted best talent in Business, Industry and Education from both the states. Distinguished Marathi writers like Ranjit Desai, Indira Sant and Madhav Desai are from Belgaum. It was hub of political activity since the historical Belgaum convention of the Indian National Congress (1924- the only time when Gandhiji presided over the session). Belgaum is quite cosmopolitan - most people know Hindi in addition to Kannada and Marathi. A sizeable population of Konkanis, originally from Goa and west coast of Karnataka, now prosperous and settled in Belgaum hosted the convention. The Gowd Saraswat Bramhan (GSB) Samaj in Belgaum is well organized and the arrangements for stay, food etc were excellent.
Konkanis are struggling hard to establish their identity. Over centuries they have struggled to retain their culture and language. Now that Goa has been implementing Konkani as 'RajBhas' (official state language), the expectations are very high. But the diversity of the language is too much, accents different, pronunciation illegible and one script, yet unacceptable to many.
Goans have accepted Devanagari as the script. Konkanis of Karnataka write in Kannada and those in Kerala write in Malayalee. With some effort, I was able to follow every speaker. It was great to feel Konkani and share a few experiences with like minded kin, separated over centuries, yet feeling one on such occasion.
Konkanis of Karnataka out number (about 2,500,000) those from Kerala , Maharashtra (about 1,000,000 each) and Goans (750,000). Goans think that they are the real Konkanis, as they speak, think and correspond in Konkani. However, many felt that making it the official language in Goa has not helped. Degrees awarded in Konkani studies etc., have not translated into jobs or opportunities. There were discussions on how to stop the destruction of Konkani by the love of English.
Pundalik Naik, a Central Literary Academy prize winner, presided over the convention. The Holy Bishop of Belgaum Bernard Moraes inaugurated the book exhibition. It was a joy to hear him speak in pure Konkani. Uday Bhembre, editor of Sunaparant, presided over the session of origin and roots of Konkani (do not forget to read Krishna's article - ed). There was a Kavi Sammelan, when poets from all regions recited their poems. The session on media (when I presented my paper) was presided over by Chandrakant Kini, a well known writer. There were forums on cinema, oral tradition and language development.
Konkani, Christianity, Whatever...
No consensus was derived on any matter. Like all Indian conferences, it ended without achieving anything. The delegation from Goa was dominant in raising issues and no separation of issues was monitored. Topics ranging from atrocities on Christians in Gujarat to the environmental damage caused by Mandovi river dam were discussed. (Discussed? Fought over!) There was a lot of shouting and countering, just short of exchange of blows. Anyway, it was a nice outing for me. I bought many Konkani books, including a Konkani to Konkani dictionary.
More of Belgaum
In 1956, I had attended an intercollegiate sports event in Belgaum, representing the Canara College (Kumta). I went in search of the huge ground where the track and field events were then held. Now the ground is stunted, due to the several buildings around it. As I walked, a flood of memories returned to me. How sweet it was to be young!
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