Wednesday , 24 April 2019

Like mother, like daughter

Konkani writer and linguist, the late Madhavi Sardesai, was in many ways the face of Goa’s Konkani literary scene. Her contribution to the Konkani language is immense in terms of research. In conversation with NT BUZZ

Asawari Nayak, her daughter, speaks about her mother’s book due to be released on July 7, Konkani and taking her mother’s legacy ahead


Q: Can you elaborate on the Konkani book written by the late Madhavi Sardesai titled ‘Tanche Vishi….Mhaje Vishi?’ When did she write the book?

As the name suggests this book is a compilation of essays about some of the people that made a difference in her life. She began compiling it last year when she was ailing, in Mumbai. It is a memoir as it is based on her early life experiences. Although she speaks of the aforementioned people in this book and her interactions with them, I feel it is also a reflective work. It becomes impossible to separate her from these essays, where, along with the eponymous characters, her personality is revealed as well, which makes it almost autobiographical. She has written about her parents and her mentor Ravindrabab Kelekar, Sumant Kelekar, etc.

I would like to mention here that my mother always maintained that she had two sets of parents, Ravindrabab and Godubai Kelekar. They were as close to her heart as Jaivant and Mogabai Sardesai, and in this book she has written about them all. My mother was also known for her infectious laughter. Those who knew her remember her for it. This mirthful laughter also finds its place in the book.

My mother was a linguist and known for her thoroughly researched essays so that makes this book very different from the other two books that she had written – ‘Manthan’ and ‘Bhasabhas’. However, this form of personal writing is also important and must reach her readers because a cultural figure like my mother must be seen in the light of how she came to be and what she was – a Gandhian, a feminist and an activist for the Konkani movement.

In the appendix of the book we have also included some of my mother’s poems. People know her for her poem ‘Mithachi Kanni’ (a grain of salt) and many say that although she had the mind of a researcher she had the heart of a poet and that was the reason why even her serious essays never felt dry. She used to say to me that her writing has the moistness of poetry because of which it reached the masses.

She could have been a wonderful poet and her poetry has been appreciated by great poets of Konkani like Charles Francis Da Costa and Manohar-rai Sardesai. However, she used to say that if Konkani as a language has to flourish research in the language needs to take place and for this reason she consciously did not write many poems and chose ‘socio-linguistics’ as her field to contribute to the Konkani language.


Q: Madhavi Sardesai was a renowned Konkani scholar, writer and linguist, who in many ways promoted the growth of the Konkani language. You belong to today’s generation. What is your perception about Konkani? Do you think there is a sudden realisation that Konkani has to be promoted?

I strongly believe that Konkani is the language of Goa. It is the language of the environment here – the language that you hear in the markets, in schools during recess, the language that we hear people conversing in the bus, etc. Although Goa, like the rest of the world, is moving towards globalisation, and knowledge of English is becoming more important, I feel this should never be at the cost of the local languages.

My mother used to always say that we must understand the social spheres where we need to use English. Today, in Goa – where the official language is Konkani- the language of administration is any other but Konkani. Whenever my mother would question the government about implementing the Official Language Act she would always get the reply, “Whenever the Government receives letters in Konkani, they reply in Konkani”, which was not true. My mother always made it a point to send official letters in Konkani and the reply that she has gotten has always been in English.

I feel that although Konkani is the official state language of Goa on paper, it has still been deprived of its basic rights – the unwritten language of prestige till date remains English. Ravindra-bab Kelekar always used to say that Konkani has got its crown but the sceptre is still in someone else’s hand.

I agree that in the past few years recognition for Konkani has been increasing – being made the state language, being included in the Sahitya Akademi and the 8th schedule of the constitution, Kelekar-bab receiving the Gyanpeeth in Konkani, etc, and because of this slowly the pride Konkani people felt about the language is increasing. However, politically and historically Konkani has always been in an inferior position. No matter which political party has ruled Goa, no one has taken a stand that has been pro- Konkani. An official take on Language planning (status planning) in Goa is lacking. And unless a policy level decision about Konkani is taken Konkani will always remain ‘marginalised’.


Q: Do you want to carry forward the legacy of the Konkani language much like your mother?

Yes! My mother was the editor of ‘Jaag’ a monthly magazine established by Sumant Kelekar and carried forward by Ravindra-bab. I plan on being the legacy of this rich tradition. ‘Jaag’ is known for its quality of articles and is recognised as one of the few intellectual magazines published in a vernacular language in India. When my mother started her treatment in Mumbai last year, with her, ‘Jaag’ also had to take rest. We have brought out the July 2015 issue and we plan on bringing it out regularly. On my mother’s 53rd birthday we are bringing out this book and we plan on bringing out many more of her books in the future. I will also do some independent writing of my own in Konkani. I am very new to editing and am still in the learning phase, but as the very well known phrase goes, practice makes one perfect. My mother is my role model and I hope to get to her calibre someday.


(Jaag Prakashan, Margao is releasing Madhavi Sardesai’s book ‘Tanche Vishi….Mhaje Vishi’ on July 7 at 4.30 p.m. at Conference hall, Ravindra Bhavan, Margao. It is open to all.)

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