The Return of the Ghost of Official Language

Image Source: The Open University

Can we avoid an oedipal relation to the issue of official language that has come to haunt us again? An oedipal response is always triggered by anxiety and fear. Perhaps, we will have to be watchful lest we become captive to the Oedipus complex. We Goans seem to be living with a fractured self. The mother tongue controversy is also one ground that fragments us. Konkani, in spoken as well as written form is determinable. The mode of speaking and writing of Konkani has religious, regional as well as caste lines that draws lines of division among the people both in Goa and beyond it. If it was possible to remove all these lines of division and reach an ideal Konkani, will we have any Konkani left at all? Will not such an abstraction of Konkani only blow away our mother tongue? Konkani lives and breathes in its speakers and writers and hence, always remains in its pilgrim condition. Hence, like all other classical languages that died on the altar of standardization, Konkani might die if we snuff out its plural nature. In fact, the return of the ghost of official language seems to draw its teeth from a reductive nagrization of Konkani. Most Goans appear to agree that, nagrized Konkani does not represent all speakers and writers of Konkani. This sense of being left out by the official language may be the under current that fires a sense of dissatisfaction which irrupts often in different ways in our society. Hence, there is a profound resistance to a singularized representation of Konkani.

The question that we may need to ask: Can we really represent the profound vibrancy, creative fertility and dynamic plurality of Konkani? Can the legal aspect represent the social, psychological, linguistic and anthropological dimensions of Konkani? Language like music, resists our tendency to capture it into reductive and static categories. Hence, we need to understand that the dynamism of Konkani requires us to accept a kind of non-unitary approach that is open to the excess or surplus that is both enmeshed and springs forth from our mother tongue. This means we are challenged to interrogate the uncritical acceptance of Konkani as self same through the binary of identity (same) and difference. By this logic, every other form of Konkani is de-konkanized and set aside. But can the fertility and dynamism of Konkani be de-konkanized in the power of law? It appears that the oedipal hand of law is inadequate. Hence, we are challenged to recognise that Konkani cannot be fully represented in caged legal, religious, national and even caste categories, though all of them cross lines within it. There is always the other Konkani that resists such reductive thinking. Hence, Konkani resists its devaluation and degradation that is imposed with the arm of law in Goa. That is why a non-unitary mode of thinking of Konkani might assist us understand why the ghost of the official language has come back to haunt us after thirty peaceful years.

It might assist us to understand the dynamic plurality of Konkani if we continue this detour into musicology. Music is enjoyed and appreciated by humans because it lends itself to recognition of a sense of repetition of an experience. It is this sense of repetition that draws humans and leads them to identify some sameness which produces pleasant, enjoyable and meaningful effects. Like the musical experience, Konkani, both in its spoken as well as written forms works within the logic of sameness that is recognised and construed. But every repeated experience of music is never the same. Indeed, a repeated musical experience leads us to actualize the experience of joy and content in different degrees the virtual potentials that are embedded in it. This means every repeated experience is somewhat new. The same is true about Konkani. It is through the recognition of repetition that bestows on its speakers a sense of joy and meaningfulness of life as Goans, that Konkani lives and flowers. It is in this recognition of the relation of repetition and difference that we can see how every repeated speaking or writing of Konkani is creating difference. This construction of difference in the very act of speaking, writing and even thinking becomes the springboard for the irruption of the other Konkanis. Unfortunately, these other konkanis are viewed as corrupted and are deemed as causes of disruption. The truth is Konkani can only be Konkani by inscribing difference into it. If we fail to recognize this difference speaking in and through Konkani and view it in positive terms, Konkani is certain to die.

The de-recognition of difference that is pouring out of Konkani is the cause of the return of the ghost of the official language. The rejection of the Romi version of Konkani has led a sizable number of Catholics in Goa to seek substitutes in English. The perception of caste difference that is gushing forth from the nagrized version of Konkani has already pushed the bahujan Hindus towards Marathi. In some way we may have to grant that it is the felt absence of the mother tongue that produces a sense of loss that seems to be pushing some Catholics and the Hindu bahujans towards English and Marathi respectively. Everyone is inscribing differences in taking these positions. But unfortunately this difference is put on a ladder of hierarchy of purity and pollution and thus converted into a cultural capital that feeds into narcissism and its surrogates across all lines of the above divide. Thus, the outpouring of difference in Konkani not just constructs other konkanis in Goa but also degrades some of them. The degradation mainly happens because a certain difference that springs forth from a nagrized Konkani is put into a static mould and is regarded as a measure or standard scale for every other Konkani. That is why we are challenged to hear the inter-voices springing forth from Konkani. There may not be a final solution to the language issue in the days to come. The law that grated official language status to Konkani seems to have failed our society. The wounds have not yet been healed and slight provocation might put us into a conflict mode. This law has oedipalized in as much as it silenced and pushed the other speakers of Konkani into latency. The latent other speakers of Konkani have become anti-oedipus and are resisting their infantilization loudly. Therefore, we might understand that it is in recognition of the reducible plurality of speaking and writing of Konkani by everyone across the lines of divide that we might bring healing and closure to this complex discomforting issue that has returned to haunt us.

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Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao