21st February is International Mother Language Day and our blog is hosting a 2 day celebration of languages. A series of blog posts by people from different walks of life - sharing their thoughts on languages, memories and more. International Mother Language Day is an observance held annually on 21 February worldwide to promote awareness of linguistic and cultural diversity and multilingualism.
(This post was sent by Tanvi Bambolkar. Tanvi works as an Assistant Professor of English at V.M.Salgaokar College of Law. Also, a casual newsreader and translator at All India Radio Panaji. Member and Secretary of social and cultural youth organization Antruz Ghudyo. Currently pursuing her Ph.d at the English Department of Goa University.)
21st February is Mother Language day they told me and asked to write anything about my mother tongue. For many it may be an issue of mode of expression but for me it is little more than that. It is that sensitive issue that makes me sentimental, emotional and at the same time concerned! Concerned because I belong to a sweet language that has been struggling to assert its identity as a rich language from a very long time and it is none other than Konkani - the state language of Goa.
I grew up in a family that was a staunch supporter of this language. Father being an active theatre activist who has contributed immensely in Konkani theatre made me a natural addict of this language. Even when I did my primary education in neighbouring language Marathi, I would write poems in Konkani without anybody asking me to write in it.
Further I acted in one act plays in the same language and being the mother tongue it was so easy to pull off those roles easily. But...as I began to expand my horizons and left my rural school to study higher secondary, I realised this is not the language that is going to make me get noticed. But that love for my language was getting stronger! I remember having fights with one of my classmates who would call my mother tongue, a fully independent language, just a dialect of another language. I have even had such fights on social media as a young angry teen to assert that my Konkani is not a dialect but a strong and rich language.
Since I was a staunch supporter of language, everyone thought I would do my graduation in Konkani itself . But something made me take up English literature as my B.A. specialisation and people rose their eyebrows! "I thought you were totally into Konkani", they would say and mock my decision but finally I came up with an answer, "English is a rich language and my Konkani is still a young language in comparison with English. I want to learn that language and literature to learn what needs to be done for my Konkani". I still have to use this answer when people are surprised that I teach English!
Inspite of being an English student, my love for my mother tongue never disappeared. Rather it made me realise how much we still need to do for my language. I happened to get into translation because of a part time job that I am doing at All India Radio as Casual Newsreader and Translator and did not lose touch from writing Konkani. Because I believe as much as speaking in the mother tongue is important, it is also important to retain its written form. The same reason made me also learn to type in Devanagari.
I pen down poems, articles in my language...rather I can express in it better than any other. I have published some of them in newspapers. One of the local dailies, Sunaparant (which unfortunately shut down a few months ago), provided me a platform to publish my write-ups in Konkani since a very young age. It actually made me get noticed in the Konkani circle. I am not recognised only as the daughter of an eminent personality but now also as someone who writes in Konkani, and that is a good feeling.
My language has many challenges in its basket right now. From no newspaper in it to the internal politics in the language movement. But, at the same time my optimist heart looks at it this way. It was Konkani that gave me a chance to translate Pratham Books' stories for children. Konkani is slowly making its way on digital world. And I am sure it will spread its wings more and more. I would like to be a little feather from those wings. More power to my language! More power to all the mother tongues around the world! :)