Konkani in Roman Script

Since 1889, almost a hundred Romi Konkani papers or periodicals
have been published. Why did not a single one survive?

Romi dailies — a lost cause?
By Peter Raposo, sfx

So far, almost a hundred Romi Konkani papers or periodicals have
been published at different point of time since the year 1889.
Undentechem Sallok by Eduardo Bruno de Souza was the first Romi
Konkani periodical that started in 1889. Initially this paper
started as a monthly but later came out as a fortnightly and
lasted till 1894. Most of these periodicals were weekly,
fortnightly or monthly with an exception of few dailies.

In all there, there were a total of around nine dailies that
thrived — at different points of time — in Romi Konkani
journalism. Started in 1907 in Mumbai, by Bernard Francisco
Cabral, Sanjechem Noketr is the first daily in Romi Konkani.

Later, in 1932, Antonio Vicente da Cruz started Concani Bulletin,
another daily paper in Mumbai. These two dailies were followed by
Goan Observer (a Konkani-English daily) started in 1933 by Joao
Lazarus de Souza and Emigrant by Inacio Caitano, which was
started in 1934 as a weekly but later was published as a daily.

These dailies were all flagged off on a high note, but there
apparently wasn’t enough steam to keep going. Besides, these
being mostly a one-man show business, after a short span of time
they all closed. This was the first phase of the daily papers.
Most of these papers did not follow any rules of grammar or
syntax. Portuguese words crept in extensively.

The second phase of the daily papers began in 1963 soon after
Goa’s Liberation. Felicio Cardozo started Sot in Margao. This was
followed by Divtti, which started in 1967 of which Felicio
Cardozo, again, was the first editor. (Incidentally, Sot and A
Vida, a Portuguese daily, joined forces and combined to form
Divtti).

In 1970, Gomantak Private Limited started Uzvadd in Panjim. This
was edited by Evagrio Jorge. In 1982, Novem Goem was started and
Gurunath Kelekar became its first editor. Goencho Avaz is the
last Romi Konkani daily on our list, which was started by Fr.
Freddy D’Costa in 1989.

This second phase saw changes come in by way of language used,
grammar and syntax. Many writers emerged during this period.
However none of these papers outlived more than five years,
except the Concani Bulletin, publishing for 13 years.

Sot: Sot started by Felicio Cardozo evolved from Goencho Saad, a
weekly periodical, also started by him. It was printed on all the
days except on Mondays.

It carried news, columns, editorials, cartoons. A tabloid, it
published in four to six pages. It covered prevalent corruption.
Rules of grammar and syntax were followed and spellings tended to
be more consistent. Portuguese words were avoided. Readers slowly
got used to it.

During the first seven months a thousand copies were printed from
which only 400 copies were sold. Sales later grew to 5000. During
the course of time, Sot made enemies due to its exposures on
corruption. It also lost advertisers, this being one of the
factors for it becoming financially unviable. This led to its
merger with A Vida, a Portuguese-language daily run by Veritas
Publishers in Margao and Divtti was formed.

Divtti: Felicio Cardozo took over as its editor. It closed down
after a few months due to differences between the editor and
publishers, and financial difficulties. A tabloid, it had four
pages (weekday editions) to six on Sundays.

Uzvadd: Started by Gomantak Private Limited in 1970, with
Evagrio Jorge as editor. Readership touched 4000, but slowly
dwindled, in part for seeking to promote causes like merger with
Maharashtra and Marathi.

Jorge finally left the paper due to differences with the
publishers. The paper ran for almost six years. Prior to ceasing,
it turned weekly. Lack of funds and advertisements also
aggravated its demise.

Novem Goem: This publication was started with help of public
funds at the initiative of Dr. F.M. Rebello. Gurunath Kelekar was
its first editor. It ran a loss due to mismanagement and had to
be closed after three months.

However it was restarted and Felicio Cardozo appointed as its
editor. In its new avatar it carried six pages on weekdays and
eight pages on Sundays. Again, it too had to be closed down due
to mis-management and lack of funds.

Goencho Avaz: Fr. Freddy D’Costa, the founder and editor of Gulab
started Goencho Avaz, the last Romi Konkani Daily. A significant
section of the Konkani readership in Goa had been asking for a
Konkani daily paper, says Fr. D’ Costa, who also considers this
as the main reason to have started the paper.

There was also a need among a vast section of the people who
neither read English nor could follow other languages and who
wanted to be informed about daily affairs.

Within a year’s times, the readership of Goencho Avaz had reached
over 5000. Goencho Avaz carried four pages on weekdays and eight
pages on Sundays.

Fr. Freddy accepts that this venture being a one-man show, it had
to close down. He gives two main causes as reasons for its
closure: it was not managed professionally and the lack of
adequate income meant it could not continue paying the employees.
Today Goencho Avaz still continues, but comes out only
occasionally.

Why is it that not a single Romi Konkani daily survived is one
question that will haunt its readers and those behind the
launching of these papers. Most of these papers had common
pitfalls. They were either a one-man show or were not managed
professionally.

It could be argued that the ‘lack of funds’ followed from these
reasons and vice versa (this being a vicious circle). As a result
not a single daily or even the numerous periodicals that existed
were consistently able to deliver to the Romi Konkani reader what
it should have and what it could have.

To argue that there were insufficient readers to support a daily
would be inaccurate. No doubt the onslaught on Konkani during the
Portuguese regimes, the merger-with-Maharashtra and pro-Marathi
controversies and the division on the basis of script certainly
affected the growth of Konkani and Romi Konkani journalism. But
that no one actually capitalised or exploited the opportunity
that existed is a fact that will always continue to haunt.

After Goencho Avaz, no one else has come forward to start another
Romi Konkani daily. Is there a scope for a Romi Konkani daily,
the question is still being asked. If a person like Dattaraj
Salgoancar (publisher of the Sunaprant) supports such a daily,
would it work?

People working in Romi Konkani journalism feel that the scope for
such a daily is still there. At Vavraddeancho Ixtt our readers
frequently ask us: “Can’t you give us a daily V. Ixtt?” The same
is true at the Gulab.

This demand comes from a large section of people in Goa who needs
to be informed and who can follow only Romi Konkani. It also
comes from a lot of people of Goa, more precisely the Christians,
who follow Romi Konkani and want to read the daily paper in their
own mother tongue besides an English-language paper.

There are those who may find it difficult to understand any other
language, say English, as well.

Looking at the past, it would appear that the Romi Konkani
dailies failed on two accounts: They were more often than not a
one-man show (no corporate backing) and none of them was managed
professionally.

Once the running of the content and the personnel is managed
professionally, a Romi Konkani daily could surely run
successfully, lasting for another 30 to 50 years and may be even
more.

But the million-dollar question here is, who will bell the cat?
Enthusiasm and ideas alone are not enough. Someone with the
managerial skills and abilities to sustain such a venture needs
to take the lead. In fact, time is ripe for the third and the
final phase to start another Romi Konkani daily paper. It is now,
or probably destined to never be.

Besides a person with corporate backing, the Church in Goa is
also in a good position to run a daily paper for several and good
reasons. The Church is the only institution that extensively uses
Romi Konkani; a dialect mostly used among the Catholic segment.
It has enough qualified persons to run such a venture or has the
potency to prepare such persons, if needed.

The Church in Goa has a network of about 160 parishes, including
ten major parishes able to subscribe to a thousand copies each.
For the remaining 150 parishes to buy even 100 to 500 copies is
not far-fetched.

A paper run by the Church could easily fetch over 25,000
subscribers without much effort, a figure that could grow given
the proper strategy and promotion. Such figures can help attract
advertisers. Besides, the huge market relating to death
announcements, anniversaries, weddings, and the like will be
another regular and guaranteed source of income that could ensure
such a publication’s longevity and standards.

Finally let not this suggestion be understood as an attempt at
creating a communal divide (as we’ve seen happening in the case
of Konkani and Marathi). On the contrary it will bring Goa’s two
major communities together, as it will keep a large section of
people (in this case the Christians) who are alienating
themselves totally from the Konkani fold.

Further, it should be seen as exploiting the existing scenario
for the enhancement of Konkani journalism and Konkani as such
irrespective of its scripts. No one should see it as a threat to
Devnagri Konkani, the official script of Konkani. Devnagri
Konkani will develop in its own time and the support of the
Church is evident from the 125 Konkani (nagri) primary schools it
runs and promotes. In fact, in the course of time, the new Romi
daily can slowly start introducing Devnagri and, when and if Romi
Konkani becomes irrelevant, it can be changed to Devnagri itself.
Otherwise the story of Konkani journalism may end up in the words
of the wise Konkani saying: ‘Dada-i na puddvem-i na’. Simply, a
tale of lost opportunity.

The writer is a young priest, and editor of the Vavraddeancho
Ixtt, a Konkani weekly published from Pilar.

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