Over the years, many of us will have come across Teach Yourself books with appealing titles, like Learn German without Tears, Calculus simplified, etc. Last week I saw an interview by Mr Prabhakar Timble on a local channel. He was speaking about the new political party that he is going to lead, named Goa Forward. It reminded me of Portugal à Frente (Portugal Forward), a coalition of the centre-right parties in the most recent elections. Ironically, the Saxtikar Antonio Costa took away their victory from their mouth.
Among other ideas, Mr Timble shared his new party programme. I listened with delight to his definition of Goenkarponn. We were told that it was not simple, meaning possibly not linear or logical, but emotional reality. So far so good. One even prefers today to measure EQ or EI, rather than IQ.
But granted all that in favour of emotional intelligence, as I myself acknowledged at the beginning of a conference about Goan identity at the Goa University in 1999, organised in collaboration with the University of Sorbonne – Bordeaux, and which can be read online at http://www.lusotopie.sciencespobordeaux.fr/souzat.pdf, the academic component cannot be entirely ignored in defining identity, specially by someone known as educationist and wishes to enlist University students as agents of social and political change.
The scholastic wisdom in which I was trained emphasised two essential elements in a good definition, namely (1) it should be brief, and (2) it should be adequate. These imply that a definition should not be very long-winded, and should not need another or more definitions to define the definition. I felt that Mr Prabhakar Timble’s definition of Goenkarponn fell short of these requirements.
If I had to write today a book about “Goenkarponn simplified”, I would choose to entitle it “Timbleponn”. No ridicule is meant, only a serious critical homage, mixed with some humour, knowing well my Saxtikar relations and friends who are made of a better stuff than crest-fallen Good Friday faithful. The programme of Goa Forward needs many clarifications before elections to satisfy Goans of “diverse” wishes and thinking, as admitted by Mr Prabhakar Timble himself. He stated that Goenkarponn included multilinguism and multiculturalism among many other things. These are central concerns to Goans today.
Within the short time allotted to the interview Mr Timble touched upon MoI issue and referred to a committee appointed to study it against the new concept of primary education as defended by UNESCO. It was shocking to hear that the concept of mother tongue was no longer relevant, and that it could be replaced with the language of the ayahs among others. Curiously, the Portuguese did not protect Konkani at primary level because for them Konkani was the language of the servants (criados).
I believe that neither multilinguism nor multiculturalism can be left to the interpretation of an international body, such as UNESCO, which has shown no capacity or will to enforce its new concepts upon the European countries which continue imposing their national languages upon immigrants, and with hardly any question of concession of grants to them at any level.
Language and religion constitute the twin-soul of any culture. After the colonial meddling with the Hindu religion of the Goans, the Konkani language is all that is left of Goan culture. That too is negotiable and State governments cannot enforce laws to safeguard its survival?
One could investigate UNESCO criteria and grants for protecting world heritage. When did that policy start and what is the relative number of monuments left behind by ex-colonial powers and included in world heritage list vis-a-vis the monuments of pre-colonial times? What does that suggest? Obviously, a preference for colonial heritage, their past glories?
One could extend the analysis to other discriminatory bodies associated with the United Nations. How innocent or effective has been the running of ICC vis-a-vis the war-lords of the West as compared with the non-Western political leaders? Quite a few of the world powers in the West should have been “guests” of ICC for the genocidal wars under their regimes, but they seem to be beyond jus cogens, if non-signatories of the Rome statute of 1998. Who will bell the cats? Will Mr Timble follow their pedagogy to lead Goa Forward?
There is another serious risk for any political project born in Salcete, namely of being tainted by the traditional militancy of the Christian communalism. If any frocked politician or any churchman without frock appears in political meetings, it will not mean a political blessing but a political curse, delegitimising any accusations of Goa Forward against the BJP communalism, the main foe for anyone to replace it in power.
I may use other opportunities to sound more notes of caution, but for now, despite my few caveats I admire Mr Timble for his courage to lead a timely cause. Hopefully “forward” will not mean shifting the gears to “fast forward”, and will restrain the usually enthusiastic Saxtikar from head-diving after some extra shots of urrak which they may be stocking in large amount in the face of the ongoing threats to coconut tree plantations. If need be, they may share cashew feni with the Bardezkar and the Goenkar of New Conquests where no equivalent threats have been announced. But for that Goa Forward will need to weld all Goans, and shun any traditional intra-regional prejudices.
(Teotonio R. de Souza is the founder-director, Xavier Centre of Historical Research, Goa (1979-1994)