Language agitation divided Goan writers: Ramdas Kelkar
Whether expressing opinions on topics that are making the news, talking about social issues or dealing with students’ career guidance, principal of Sapteshwar Higher Secondary School, Mandrem, Ramdas Kelkar writes with purpose. Aksharnama, his latest book is a collection of his educational essay. Agusto Pinto on the man of words
Goan readers are a varied lot. They are divided by language, religion, education, class and so on. One marker of division is the language script they use: Roman and Devanagari most obviously, but there are other scripts like Kannada, Malayalam, Telugu, Tamil and Perso-Arabic as well.
Those who use just one script often don’t know what others are doing. Things become more complicated because those who use Devanagari either in Marathi or Konkani are also mainly Hindu; and Christians mainly use the Roman script. Such divisions generate mutual suspicion among readers.
Such ruminations came up when I spoke with teacher and freelancer, who currently has a weekly column about book lovers, principal, Ramdas Kelkar.
Kelkar is of the opinion that the language agitation created a big divide among Goan writers - they became either Marathiwadis or Konkaniwadis. This he feels was an unhealthy turn of events.
51-year-old Kelkar had after graduation done a stint of journalism among other jobs before finding his calling as a teacher. He is now principal, Sapteshwar Higher Secondary School in Mandrem. However, he retained a love for books and writing and in his spare time wrote for Marathi papers and journals. He recalls that he owes much to the encouragement to controversial editor Narayan Athawale, who opened up his newspaper for his talent. He wrote a weekly satirical essay, which would take off on a news item that was prominent at the time. He collected 32 of these essays in his first book Mantarang (2000) and dedicated the book to Gomantak after which came Spandan in 2003.
A sample of his essays is ‘Dukhyaat Haravli Vaat’ (The Path Lost in the Fog) where he commented on farmer suicides taking place in Andhra Pradesh. He showed how ‘body parts’ agents were taking advantage of crop failures to induce impoverished farmers to sell their kidneys to survive.
The essay sardonically comments on the nature of human greed and opportunism, greed that will even profit from a fellow human being’s misfortune.
Another of his essays ‘Khelne’ (Toys) ponders on how the toys of his childhood have changed from things like dolls houses and beach sets and tops and catapults and balls, which one had to use one’s own energy to play with, to flimsy remote-controlled battery-operated plastic pieces, which soon break down and are junked.
He wonders whether these new toys are a metaphor for modern life, and people, like machines, are moved by remote control, only to be cast aside once their energy is exhausted.
Kelkar has a special interest in theatre and has interviewed and written about almost all the important Marathi actors who have visited Goa over the last few decades.
As principal he realised students needed a lot of career guidance and counselling. His first effort in this direction was to create a careers exhibition, which he took to different schools in Goa and even to several parts of Konkan Maharashtra.
Then he began writing about careers, but not by just rehashing information that is provided in prospectuses and websites. Instead, he began to interview people involved in different occupations and as he conversed with them he found out how they had established themselves.
Collected in Careernama (2007) these articles help the reader to identify career opportunities to grab, and pitfalls to avoid, particularly in Goa. The contact details of his interviewees are given so that the reader can get practical advice from them.
He also dwells upon careers within the same profession: on music he wrote four different articles featuring Bondo the percussionist, Ronnie D’Souza the guitarist, Videsh Banaulikar the tabla player, and Ashley Afonso the one-man band, as each of these callings have their own specialities.
His career books do not merely focus on money making openings, but also on occupations that society needs. Thus Sandhi Govyatlyaa (2011) his second book on careers mentions vocations like the sacristan of a church, a chess coach, a translator, a pygmy bank collector and so on.
The latest of Kelkar’s books is Aksharnama, which has been sponsored by Gomantak Marathi Akademi. This is a collection of his educational essays, which has a preface from one of his own teachers, Surendra Sirsat.
Kelkar says that book publishing in Marathi is a no profit no loss proposition and all his books have sold out. His motivation is to educate, inform and please others and if this is achieved, his purpose is served.