Sab Theek Ho Jayega !

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Kochi / Ernakulam, Kerala, India
A Doctor who loves to Live, Love and Laugh with the World! Absolutely crazy about Cricket ! Other Qualifications: A Tired Bathroom Singer, Retired Gully Cricketer and Satire Writer !

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Jevan and Konkanis: A Community that Worships Food !

I was quite impressed by a recent Facebook note by a Malayalee who claimed "I am not a Mallu". I am a naturalized citizen of God's own Country and have learned my Malayalam the hard way. There isn't an easy way to do so. So I wanted to vent my views on this issue. Time and proper words eluded me at that time.

Like all communities, ethnicities and linguistic groups, Malayalees too have their positives and negative traits. I have had the good fortune of interacting with a fairly good number of people and hence I have formed my own views of how people from different linguistic groups behave.

There can be some generalization in all opinions. But I have tried to be impartial in my views if not completely politically correct. As a gesture of playing neutral, I am starting with my own language, Konkani. My friend Jagan Mohan Rao once said, "Govind Raj speaks many languages in his mother tongue Konkani". That is true. Not only me, but almost all Konkani people do that.

In fact almost all the people of the world talk all other languages in their own mother tongue. That is a rule, not exception. People have a tendency to believe what they do is the right thing and all others is weird !

Now let me move to Konkanis without any more elaboration. Please check the links to know about the language and the people. I am not going to reproduce anything here. This is my blog and only my views are expressed here.

Konkanis are spread all over the world. They have a significant presence in Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka and Kerala. They are also scattered all over. A stretch of geographical area along the west coast is called 'Konkan'.

The language didn't get the name from the place. The place got it because of language. Brahmans, Christians of different denominations, fisher folk, Muslims and many more different communities talk this language. And everyone believes theirs alone is the correct Konkani !

Maharashtra Konkani is influenced by Marathi. So much so, the people from other regions think it is Marathi. Goan Konkani too has become quite Marathified. In Karnataka, they have different ways with the same language in Mangalore, Karkala, Udupi, Kundapur and Karvar.

Invariably people believe theirs is the correct version. Overall, Konkani language has borrowed from Kannada, Tulu, Marathi, Hindi and many more languages in Karnataka. The level of adulteration could be anything between 15 - 20%.

In Kerala, it is a unique situation. Over the years, people have adopted Malayalam words with gay abandon and abandoned original and simpler Konkani words to adulterate the language to that extent, it sounds like Malayalam to people from other places. In fact it is now called "Mankani" !

From here onwards, when I use the word Konkanis, it means people who speak Konkani and belong to my own community, that is Gouda Saraswat Brahman abbreviated as GSB. Covering all communities is a tough job. In fact I don't know many of them.

Konkanis are born traders. Anything else they do, they do it with a trader's mentality. They prefer to build a temple, preferably Venkatachalapathy Temple and stay around the place. It has to be near an enduring water body.

Only in Goa and some small places elsewhere can we see temples dedicated to deities other than the Tirupathy God. As a rule, the temples are administered by community elders and are mostly ultra-conservative in approach to modernization. Again, the temples of Goa and some parts of Karnataka are exceptions. 

A look at the history shows that Konkanis are a peace-loving community. So peace loving, that the are remarkably incapable of fighting. Fighting others I mean. They are quite adept at in-fighting.

They left the Saraswati river basin because they couldn't fight the famine. They ran away from Northern parts of India because they couldn't fight the Islamic invaders. They ran away from prime-land Goa because they couldn't fight the Portuguese. They avoided the Malabar and preferred Kochi because they were scared of settling down in Muslim dominated regions.

You will see thousands of Konkani businessmen, Doctors and Engineers. There are Bankers, Lawyers, Intellectuals, Writers, Journalists, Poets and all kind of service sector people. There are Politicians and even a Chief Minister. But you do a combing operation and you'll find approximately about 4 Konkani soldiers. Their dislike for fight has also kept them away from Police force and security agency jobs to a large extent.

In fact, Konkanis made Banking their greatest trait. Canara Bank, Syndicate Bank and Corporation Bank are some of those nationalized banks founded by Konkanis. They were the early birds in the private sector education field too. Manipal empire was built by Konkanis. Today, it has gained popularity as Money-Pal !

There might be exceptions, but Konkanis are generally cowards by nature. Recent trends have shown they too can fight. But that unfortunately is among themselves and they do it damn too well. Issues that should have united them have actually divided them almost vertically and lead to a lot of ill-will and fights.

Leaving aside the fights, let me compile a random list of characters unique to Konkanis. In fact, some of these unique characters are possibly shared by other communities too. But mostly these are 'Konkani traits'.

Konkanis are good at learning languages. Perhaps the best in this business. They win over customers thanks to this ability. Even with clumsy attempts and broken language, they still manage to win over people in business.

If anyone doubts the above statement, kindly go to Mangalore and watch a Konkani trader doing business. He will speak Konkani, Kannada, Tulu, Hindi, Malayalam, some Tamil, some Telugu [picked up from those numerous visits to Tirupathi] and pretty decent English.

But they speak all these languages strictly in their own language, including the accent. When the appropriate word eludes them, they will use a Konkani word and expect the customer to understand !

I really don't know if it is a positive quality or a negative one. But a Konkani will be the first one to learn another language if he were to live in an alien place. Even on home ground, they prefer to deal with other peoples' language. One reason might be they want to keep the language exclusive and use it to guard business and trade secrets !

In spite of best efforts, learning Konkani is tough for Non-Konkanis; especially in adulthood. The accent is the major hurdle. Even people who know the sister language Marathi can't manage the accent part.

Most of the Non-Konkanis believe Konkanis are stingy by nature. Something like West Coast's answer to Marwadis. But Konkanis believe they are just careful and conservative.

In Karnataka, Konkanis are called '7' because they are believed to be like a hook that wants to catch everything.

An old story goes thus. A Konkani was being washed away by flash floods. He caught hold of a bear in that desperate situation. Once he realized it was a bear, he started yelling at people for help. But people on the shores thought he had jumped into water to retrieve a 'Kambal' [A blanket made from coarse wool]. They dismissed him saying, "A Konkani will never jump into water unless he sees some profit in it". 

But Konkanis believe they have been subjugated by others to become 'bent' like '7'.

Konkanis of all regions speak in different accents and styles. And everyone thinks others speak 'crap'.

You will never see a Konkani begging for alms on the roads. They have temples which feed jobless people and lazy bumpkins.

One most remarkable character of a Konkani is the ability to be extremely neutral when two people are fighting. He will never take sides for fear of fighting.

Konkanis of Kerala were reluctant to give girls in marriage to Konkani boys from Mangalore in the past. That was because Konkanis of Mangalore and Goa used to eat fish. Over the past 20 years, the Kerala Konkanis have progressed rapidly and left their Mangalore counterparts way behind. Today they are carnivorous and relish beef  like their Malayalee brethren.

Another trend noted from Kerala is the reluctance of a lot of Konkanis to speak their mother tongue. Many adults, a large number of youth and even larger number of kids prefer not to speak Konkani. This betrays a feeling of inferiority complex. They fear ridicule from Malayalees. Little do they realize that they are ridiculed even when they speak Malayalam because they are pretty awful with that.

Unfortunately we might see complete extinction of Konkani language from Kerala over a period of 50 - 100 years. Many other communities who had Konkani as their language have already forsaken the language. This is really sad because the trend appears to be irreversible.

Those Konkanis of Kerala who still use the language have adulterated the language with up to 80%  Malayalam words. And the present generation doesn't even know this. Those who know, don't care.

Konkanis of South Karnataka have adapted well with the local culture and have adopted almost 20% words from local languages. But they have declared those words to be of Konkani origin adopted by other languages. Issue closed !

One thing common to Konkanis of all regions is their love for 'Dal Chawal', 'Pathra Vada' and  and 'Jevan'. Haven't seen another community that loves food as much as Konkanis do. Well, they in fact 'Worship' food. Nothing else matters to a Konkani when there is food in site ! THIS is first hand information.

Jevan - The Konkani Meal
'Daali Toy' or a Dal preparation is considered the de-facto 'Kula Devu' or the 'Deity of the Family".

Konkanis must be the species that eats maximum amount of leaves and grass after the cows. This could explain why they appear to be so cowardly in nature. An eternal favorite dish is the 'Pathra Vada' or 'Pathrodo' or 'Leaf Cutlet' prepared from Colacacia leaves. Anyone else trying this recipe must be ready to scratch their throats with a comb ! Not an iota of exaggeration here.

Pathrodo !
When a child is born, that has to be celebrated with 'Jevan'. 'Jevan' has to be there if it is a birthday or festival. Even a festival like 'Shiv Ratri' that calls for fasting will have to end with an elaborate 'Jevan'. Even in death, the thirteenth day has to be celebrated with a 'Jevan' to bid farewell to the departed.

One might find a Marwadi who doesn't put business before everything else. But it is almost impossible to find a Konkani who doesn't put 'Jevan' before everything. This could be the reason why not many Konkanis were too impressed with Gandhi. The concept of fasting and eating for the sake of living are beyond the realms of imagination for most of us. I am a living embodiment of this principle. We Live to Eat !

Well, I think I have written quite a lot about Konkanis. Anything more might get me banned from our functions if not excommunication. I can't afford that. I am not religious. But I believe food is good and good is food !

So let me conclude this piece on Konkanis, their language and their love for Jevan. I have to catch up with my 'Jevan' at a function now !

Dr. Pundit


  1. Can you cook some pathrodo for me?

  2. May be because the Konkanis who moved away from all the above places didnt want to get converted to other religions. They preferred being GSB Konkanis rather than getting converted.

  3. doctor Saab..a well written post, and it was very prudent of you to end where u ended it.....:P

  4. my friend (A GSB), always speaks in his mother tongue to his family and relatives in front of us irrespective of what we say.....and frankly we cant make out a head or tail about it, and i have spoken with his mom, dad, siblings and all of them speak good Malayalam to us....(but then i may not be a good candidate for judging other people's Malayalam, as i have been chastised for not speaking it properly)...from whatever little interactions i have with people from other linguistic communities, Malayalees are the only 1 who i think are proud of the fact that they dont know their mother tongue....

  5. Deekay, It is difficult to talk in any other language with your family members even when you are in a crowd. We are conditioned to talk in our language, just like all the people are. It is like asking a Malayalee not to speak in Malayalam to his own family in front of others.

    I have known hundreds of Malayalees who always converse in Malayalam when they are in a crowd which doesn't understand Malayalam. That is why you call it Mother tongue !

    This isn't unique to GSBs. It is there everywhere. In fact, having lived in Karnataka, Kerala, TN, Andhra border and in some parts of North India, I can say it is most strident among Tamil and Malayalam people !


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