A linguistic approach to un-Goans
New nomenclature to reflect modern migratory patterns
By Cecil Pinto
Dr. Oscar Rebello's bombastic statements during the NDTV, We The People, episode have drawn much flack. The TV feature examining the issues surrounding the ghastly Scarlett Keeling death, often veered of into the non-Goan v/s Goan debate that is an inevitable part of any conversation in or about Goa.
"Hello Sachin? Let's meet up in Panjim for an omlette panv."
"Sure Cecil. Near Cine National?"
"Why not walk along the promenade and enjoy the Mandovi river?"
"Are you crazy? The stink is unbearable. All these labourers crap at
the riverside. Bloody non-Goans!"
"And do you know that along the riverfront, right from Ribandar through Panjim and Miramar to Dona Paula there's not a single cart selling omlette-panv? You can get varieties of bhel puri, chaat, panv bhaji, gola, paani puris, ragda pattis and what have you - but not a single Goan omlette-panv. Bloody non-Goans!"
"But Sachin I'm not quite sure that omlette-panv is uniquely Goan."
"And Cecil how can you have a pleasant walk along the riverfront with those bloody tourist cruise boats blasting Bollywood music so loud?
"But Sachin the boat owners and operators are all Goans."
Anyway first let's clarify exactly what Oscar said on TV. I had watched the original episode but can't remember his exact words. So let me do what any sincere self-respecting investigative journalist would do under such circumstances - put words in other people's mouths. Just kidding. I read a recent article by Oscar, clarifying his
views on the non-Goan issue, and just worked from there backwards to deduce what he originally said on TV. For those of you in the Dark Ages, Dr. Oscar Rebello heads the Goa Bachao Abhiyan which generated a mass movement that exposed a dastardly Regional Plan that was poised
to totally destroy Goa. Or something like that. Let me clarify that, like most Goans, I have no reason to doubt Oscar's sincerity or integrity.
Barkha: "And the Oscar goes to Mike. Oops! The mike goes to Oscar!"
Oscar: "I will fight with the very last drop of my blood. We will save Goa with sweat, blood, tears and flamboyant sound bites. We will fight them on the roads and on the hills. And if they are widening the roads and cutting the hills for a project we will fight them in the new cement drains!"
Barkha: "Actually Oscar we were talking about the Scarlett death."
Oscar: "Exactly what I was saying. We are poised at the death of democracy which is etched in the deepest interval of my pulmonary aorta. There are no non-Goans. My aunt is not a Goan but..."
Barkha: "So there are Goan aunties and aunty-Goans?"
Oscar: "And the green eyed monster killed my great grandmother who came from blue blooded Portuguese stock without any…"
Barkha: "Without what? Bina kya?"
Oscar: "Without any Goan blood! As Goan as a lamani."
Barkha: "Bina Ramani!"
Oscar: "Whatever. Take Rajan Narayan…"
Barkha: "No sorry! You take Rajan, we don't want him!"
Oscar: "We are not like crabs in a basket."
Barkha: "More like fish in a tin?"
Oscar: "Sort of…"
Barkha: "So Sudeep Chakravarti is a Goan?"
Which raises many interesting questions. Who is a Goan? Whose aunty is a Goan? Who is anti-Goan? Is Oscar qualified to confer Goanity on anyone? What is Goanity? Is it transferable? Is it encashable? Does it get one discounts at supermarkets? Are we mixing ethnicity with residence and loyalty? Is Loyal-T a cool name for a chain of branded chai shops that also serve omlette-panv? Most importantly, did any of
these non ethnic Goans ask to be referred to as Goans?
This I think is the crucial question. I have a few non-Goan friends who have lived here for many years but have never asked to be labeled as Goans. Why should they? If I lived for thirty years in Maharashtra would I want to be called a Maharashtrian? No way! I will always be a proud Goan and detest being labeled anything else! So what makes us think that the Maharashtrians and the Bongs and the Sindhis are waiting to be labeled Goans? Aren't they proud of their own culture?
Of course they are. They stick to their language and culture and lifestyle and aren't in any hurry to imbibe ours. They are not Goans.
If you want to be polite call them 'un-Goan', but for Goa's sake don't ever call them Goan.
On the other hand I see Oscar's reason for being inclusive. There are so many non-Goans who have done so much for Goa that we need to recognize and appreciate it and Goanise them to some extent – if they so desire of course. Perhaps a new nomenclature to reflect changing times and migratory patterns?
My suggestion is that we use the prefix of the state of origin and stick on a 'goan-esque' suffix to get a new description of ethnicity-residence. That will give us Karnagoans, Tamigoans, Uttar Pragoans, Bihagoans, Maharagoans - and of course Bengalis resident here become Bongoans! There isn't much of a problem coining these new words.
The problem arises when native Goans living overseas have to coin words that reflect their ethnicity-residence. Gonadians (Canada), Gomericans (USA), Goatish/Goats (UK), Gortuguese (Portugal), Guwaitis (Kuwait), Gostralians (Down Under), Gongladeshis (Bangladesh), Gormans (Germany), Gosraelis (Holy Land), Gopalese (Nepal), Gokistanis
(Pakistan) and Goruvians (Peru) are pretty straightforward. But are there really Goans in Peru? Where is Peru anyway?
Respected historian and linguist Teotonio D'Souza has been approached to head the committee to decide the exact rules of how these new words are to be coined. For example a Goan in Sri Lanka should be known as a Goalankan or a Goleynese? Goans in China are Goanese or Goenchins? Or is that a restaurant in Panjim? Goans in Burma are Goarmese or Gonyanmarites? Are Goans in Denmark Gonish, and Goans in Saudi Arabia
Once all that is in place we can attack the next problem - people of other nationalities permanently resident in Goa. We have to put in place a nomenclature for the Brits, Germans, Israelis, Russians, Portuguese, Tibetans and others living here. We will do it using linguistics. The tongue can reach where the sword cannot.
The column above appeared in Gomantak Times dated 24th April 2008.
GULF-GOANS e-NEWSLETTER (Since 1994)