Sunday 27 February 2011

Jason Keith Fernandes' "Language and Bigotry"

Jason Keith Fernandes' "Language and Bigotry: Raising a Toast to the Goan's Tambdi-Ingliss" (Gomantak Times, Panjim, Wednesday, 23 February 2011, p. 8) is an impressive article - simply because it is the first piece I have come across that dares to face up to the ever-present caste-consciousness in Goa, something that cuts across religious boundaries.

A common tendency has been to exalt Goa - the beauty of Goa, the wonders of Goan culture, cuisine, history, and so on. Since such pieces are usually written by upper-caste origin people, they tend to gloss over the very real caste-consciousness that persists even among Catholics. Jason Keith Fernandes is refreshing in that he does not gloss over, and because he takes what might be called a subaltern perspective.

The article revolves around a debate in an email group, where one particular participant - who belongs to the species that Fernandes calls CB (Catholic Bigot) - asks to be taken off the mail list because he did not want to 'ruin his English.' Fernandes points out that this is not simply a laughable matter; rather, this particular CB was trying to humiliate the other participant in the conversation. "This humiliation unfortunately is a daily part of Goan interaction. / It calls on older traditions of caste and class difference and conflict, and is often an attempt by the humiliator to remind the other of her (or his) lower social origins."

Would it be a solution to have all future discussions in Konkani as well as in English, with each participant choosing whichever language she is comfortable with? No, because "Konkani is too tied to caste locations to allow it to operate as a language in which one can realize self-respect and social mobility. / Our speech in Konkani marks our caste and class location, and there has been no serious action within the Konkani language movement to address this issue." In fact, one particular caste and regional form of Konkani - the Antruzi - has been privileged over all others.

English thus offers itself as the preferred route to social mobility.

How then to deal with what is condescendingly called tambdi-Ingliss? (I am hearing this for the first time. It does catch the imagination, I confess.)

The tambdi-Ingliss of the Goan youth "shares a similar fragrance that is often attributed to Konkani. It is often structured by Konkani grammar, it is powered by the life experiences of those who stem from Goan soil, it is a uniquely Goan English." I was thrilled to see Fernandes comparing this to Amitav Ghosh's use of the gibberish-English of the sailors and person of early British India in A Sea of Poppies. I am thinking of powerful novels in the offing making use of tambdi-Ingliss.

Fernandes goes on: "[Tambdi-Ingliss] can emerge in no other place in the world, from no other experience. If we [are] committed not to fetishize Konkani but to respect the 'common' Goan people who speak the language, then we would also respect their English."

This Goan English may present its challenges to those comfortable with standard English. "But the point to social communication is the effort we put into understanding the Other. The object is to understand the point they are trying to put across, rather than merely the form in which they put it across. / An obsession with form is a commitment to the social snobbery that maintains the hierarchies of society."

Fernandes ends with an experience at a conference in Pondicherry on urban planning. When RaviKumar, an MLA from the Dalit Panther Party, began speaking in Tamil, there was much rolling of eyes. "It was when we heard the magic words 'Utopia' and 'Foucault' that we sat up and realized that there was more to the man than his apparently [sic] inability to speak in English. / It turned out that RaviKumar was one sharp mind, versed in a host of thinkers from Marx, Gramsci, and Althusser, Foucault and Derrida; and Periyar, Ambedkar and Tiruvalluvar; and an articulate ideologue of the Dalit movement in the South. / It exposed in one fell and nasty sweep, the superficiality of our democratic commitment and the depth of our social snobbery."

Jason Keith Fernandes deserves our congratulations for one of the finest and most thought-provoking pieces I have read in recent years in our newspapers.

See his extremely interesting blog, Notes of an Itinerant Mendicant (why mendicant, I wonder), at www.dervishnotes.blogspot.com. (Fernandes is sharper than I expected: he notes, for example, that CB is not confined to Goan Bamons, and that Brahminism is a state of mind that even non-Brahmins share. Just like, I suppose, women also can be patriarchal.)

Friday 25 February 2011

Lonergan's Economics

The second issue of Divyadaan: Journal of Philosophy and Communication (21/2 [2010]) was dedicated to economics, with Philip McShane as guest editor.

We have a huge number of copies available at reduced rates. Anyone interested may please contact me. 

Girard on Jesus and violence

Jesus alone, according to Rene Girard, has fulfilled the task assigned by God to all humanity: to have nothing to do with violence. (Girard, Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World [Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1987] 213, cited in William D'Souza, 'Rene Girard's Mimetic Theory of Violence,' MPh dissertation, Nashik: Divyadaan, 2011, 51.)

The task assigned by God to all humanity: to have nothing to do with violence.

The task, therefore, of forgiving deeply, and overcoming all overt and hidden or lingering violence. 

Amish Coelho's calendar

Amish Coelho has produced a calendar (2011) displaying his own photographs. Impressive. The boy is quite productive. (He also has begun writing a Tolkien-spinoff fantasy on his blog, see http://xiiidies.blogspot.com/.)

This is what he writes about his calendar:


I have designed a calendar and I would love it if you checked it out and tell me how you like it. The weird looking symbol on the first page are my initials, A and C. I've divided the months into four categories, Spring, Summer, Monsoon and Winter. The first three months, i.e. Spring all have a blueish color theme, Summer is yellow, the Monsoon is green and Winter has a pale colorless scheme. Okay, I'll stop my babbling and hope that you enjoy it. :)

-Amish
If you are having problems viewing this email, copy and paste the following into your browser:
http://picasaweb.google.com/lh/photo/WUTUtCgMeB3pIqlLc1RoHtQ6RjVQpDJsuZw8k6N_-YE?feat=email

Sunday 13 February 2011

A youthful folly

"Artaxerxes was torn between continuing to pretend ignorance of this unimportant African city and the usual passion of a very young man to win a point and be thought clever." Gore Vidal, Creation (London: Granada, 1981) 679. 

Thursday 10 February 2011

Kailaspati (Cannonball tree) at Nashik Road

Nashik Today, the supplement of the Marathi daily Sakal (Thursday, 10 February 2011) 1, reported the flowering of the Kailaspati or Tophgola (which is, I suppose, a Marathi translation of Cannonball tree) at Datta Mandir, Nashik Road. Origin: South America and Caribbean Islands. Also known as Shivkamal, often grown in front of Shankar / Siva mandirs. Nagalinga in Tamil. Nagalinga pushpa in Karnataka. Nagmalli in Telugu, because the flowers look like the hood of the Nag or Cobra.

The large, brown, cannon ball like fruits emerge from stems growing directly out of the trunk.

Seems to have arrived in India about two to three thousand years ago, if the Sakal report is to be believed.

Medicinal uses: cough and cold, stomach ache.

Not to be confused with the Sausage tree, which Pradip Krishen lists also as balam kheera and jhad fanoos (bot. Kigelia africana or Kigelia pinnata) belonging to the jacaranda family, of all things. Long brown sausage like fruits, but not growing directly from the trunk. Large meat-reddish flowers. Plenty of specimens in and around us here at Don Bosco Marg, Nashik: it seems to have become a popular decorative tree. 

Wednesday 2 February 2011

MM in Nashik

Michael Mascarenhas left for Mumbai by the morning bus. He was here for the Feast of Don Bosco. His homily was half on Jose Vaz and half on the providence of God and the intercession of Don Bosco in the acquisition and safeguarding of our land here in Nashik. Amazingly, he kept the attention of the whole congregation for the half hour or so that he spoke. Many said the whole thing was extremely interesting. A young boy even told his mother that it was the most fun mass that he had attended.

Fr Michael mentioned a 'Jacobite Christian' of Nashik who had alerted him to the fact that the neighbouring College was making moves to acquire a portion of our land. That turned out to be the late Mr George Kuruvilla, who actually belongs to the CNI.

He also spoke of various people who had been very helpful: a lady MLA of Antop Hill, Wadala; a BJP minister in the Maharashtra Government; and so on.

The land was bought in 1964 by Frs Hubert D'Rosario and Bianchi for the Don Bosco Matunga house. Later, during the provincialship of Fr Dennis Duarte, the decision had been made to sell it, Fr Maschio being the first provincial economer. When Fr Michael became the economer, one of the first things he did was to rescue the file from Thomas More, Fr Maschio's right hand man. The provincial council seems to have reversed its decision, and Fr Michael set about 'rescuing' the land. Eventually the decision, if there was any, to award the land to the College was reversed.

The single gate was on the Gangapur Road; just inside the gate there used to be a little house where the caretakers stayed (one Barde); they were from the previous owner's time (the owner was a Gujarati or Sindhi). Later, Mr Lawrence was assigned to the place, and a little house built - it stood till the present shopping complex work began, I guess. (It used to house the scout tents, etc.) A well was dug, or perhaps deepened, with some objections from the neighbours; a bore well was sunk; some agriculture was begun.

The UMI sisters had a bungalow (Tomasina Cottage) on the West side of the property; since no Salesian had appeared for several years, they had made an access through our property. I believe the sisters were Tomasina, an Italian, and Letitia, who eventually began the Kilbil School in that bungalow.

The parish priest of Holy Cross was Aloysius Fonseca. The one in charge of the Shrine was Peter Lewis. The Salesians would come and stay in the Shrine guest house, and take the help of a Jesuit brother to identify the property. ("Go to Ashok Stambh and turn left," was the instruction Fr Fonseca gave to MM.)

The two roads had already been demarcated and 'given' by the previous owners, according to MM, but they had not been laid. When MM began the work, the Municipality wanted to know whether the roads had been laid. With the help of Mr Kuruvilla, MM got the roads laid in a record one month's time.

I have heard also, from elsewhere, that at one time Fr P.I. Jacob was sent to give an opinion about the Nashik land and the feasibility of Salesians going there to start something. He walked around the place, found it utterly deserted, and gave his opinion: this place will never develop in the next 25 years. 

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