No commentary on Shenoi Goembab would be complete without an elucidation of his unparalleled work thoughtfully aimed at awakening his slumbering brethren and enriching the depleted granaries of the once-prosperous Konkani language.The most interesting aspect of his indefatigable march towards this goal is the single-minded determination and the clarity of vision with which he strove to achieve the unequal task of converting – to the extent possible – his grand dream for Konkani into a reality.
It will always be remembered by the grateful posterity that this lone crusader laboured to his dying day to exhort, inspire and convince his contemporaries of the brilliant future awaiting them on the rightful rehabilitation of their language. Every word he wrote touches even today the very core of one’s being and sets the fire of Konkani pride and Goan identity ablaze in one’s heart.
His literary oeuvre is commendable considering the sheer range of his historical, polemical and creative writing. Goenkaaranchi Goianbhaili Vosnook is one of his most well – known works. This voluminous study was the result of a series of lectures given by Shenoi Goembab at the Saraswat Brahman Samaj, Mumbai, in 1927. It traces the past history of the Goans of nearly 2500 years and highlights the emigration of those Goans who ventured away from their soil in search of better prospects and greater glory. Comprising four of Shenoi Goembab’s lectures this volume was to be followed by another which did not see the light of the day. The first of these lectures focuses on Goa’s historical and geographic significance, dwells on Poorna, the first Goan Buddhist convert and missionary, to venture out of Goa at the Tathagat’s (the Buddha’s) behest and speaks of the extant mementos of Buddhism in Goa. It is also an intensely erudite elucidation of the genesis and the significance of the term Goan Chardo and of the repute of the Raashtrakutas.
The second lecture speaks of the emigration of the Goan Brahmins and the influential Vaishyas, the glory of Maaindev the Pandit of Bhatagram and the obstacles caused in Vedic studies due to the onslaught of the Muslims. The third lecture focuses on the Goan Kadambas, the religious fanaticism of Sultan Mohammad Shah, the appoinment and the achievement of Madhav Mantri towards the emancipation of Goa from the Muslim rulers and the conquest of Goa by Albuquerque in 1510. The fourth talk uncovers the conversion and the persecution of Goans by the Portuguese, the Goan exodus to North and South Kannara, Malabar and Kochi. It also talks about the Kochi Brahmins, their temples and of the Goans in the Travankore principality, in addition to the exploits of some outstanding Goans in Goa.
Ballipattanacho Sod is a significant example of the quality and the depth of Shenoi Goembab’s historical research and of his capacity for extremely tenable interpretations in the face of imposing findings by scholars of the ilk of Dr. Sir Ramakrishna Bhandarker and others. More than anything, its argument is the testimony of its author’s confidence in his own scholarship, his versatile reading, his minute scrutiny and his scrupulous scanning of available textual and other information. Another interesting clue to the nature of its author lies in the style and the tone of its argument which is notable considering the age when he wrote. His modesty as a scholar rubs shoulders with his boldness to counter well-established conclusions on the basis of new- found evidence. His fondness for historical scrutiny and preference for accuracy of data is also evident from his Albuquerquan Goen Koshem Jiklem.
Gomantopnishat, an anthology in two volumes, is a significant milestone in the onward march of Modern literay Konkani in the realm of miscellaneous fictional as well as non-fictional writing. The first volume of this significant anthology contains the monumental “Mhoji Baa Khuin Gelli?” celebrated as the first modern short story in Konkani written as early as the second decade of this century, though published later. Interestingly, it has thematic resembelence with Mohan Rakesh’s famous story “Naanhi” written almost a decade and a half later and considered a path-breaking short story in Modern Hindi. Shenoi Goembab’s story is an example of the author’s insight into child-psyche, just as Rakesh’s story happens to be. It should warm the hearts of Konkani-lovers that the story deemed to be the earliest in the advent of modern writing was born earlier in Konkani than in the other sister-languages in the region. “Vassushenoili Popai”, “Babumamalo Ponnos”, “Pitubabalo Taambyapotto” and “Kharrnvir” are the other pieces in this anthology. These are fictional works that display the author’s philosophical bent of mind and his world-view.
The second volume of Gomantopnishat contains the philosophical narrative, entitled “Sonvsar Budti” which is in the grab of felicitous fiction. It combines the well known myth of the deluge with ingenious discourse on matters metaphysical with an ease reminiscent of Dryden’s dialogues on literary criticism. Interestingly, this myth common to most ancient civilizations and interpreted by all major religions of the world is re-cast by Shenoi Goembab in an innovative manner. The philosophical discourse which forms the backbone of the fiction reveals his minute study of major religious and theological works including the holy Bible, Kuran, Talmud, the Vedas, the Upanishads and other related treatises. Woven around the imaginary plot of god’s decision to wipe out the life on earth about a millennium and a half after creation, the highlight of this work is the lucid and simplified theological discussion among the cross-section of twelve mundane souls, with the divine angel. Interestingly, the souls of a mouse and an infant in the cradle are also among the twelve. This work displays Shenoi Goembab’s deep assimilation of the religious thought of different faiths and his scholastic curiosity in spiritual matters.
However the most noteworthy work of Shenoi Goembab is undoubtedly “Konkani Bhashenche Zait” which speaks of the victorious march of the language. It includes articles related to Konkani previous published in magazines such as “Hindu”, “Bharat”, “Navyug”, and “Vividhvistardyan”. It tackles with tremendous skill and impeccable rationale issues like Goa’s mother tongue, chsracteristics of the language, the advent of printing in India, Konkani and Marathi. This work also includes the re-published version of the first ever Konkani article to be published in 1678. Konkani Naadshastr a work illustrating the salient features of Konkani phonology is another of his long-lasting gifts to Konkani and the Konkani scholars.
Shenoi Goembab set great store by the glory of Goanhood and so deemed it necessary to place before posterity the biography of the illustrious Goan son Abe Faria. This biography is as much an exposition of the life and the unique breakthrough made by this great Goan as it is an exhoration to Goans to recognize themselves and realize their potential. Shenoi Goembab devotes a sizeable discussion to the elucidation of the Abe’s pride in his native, ethnic identity as is evident from the title page of his magnum opus.
“Puunyatmo Ram Kamotim” is another historically researched biography of an outstanding Goan in the 18th century. The common aspect of these works is the focus on the persecution that these illustrious men went through at the hands of their detractors without giving in. Perhaps Shenoi Goembab hoped to inspire the future Goans in their travails by providing such larger than life role-models for them.
Shenoi Goembab was aware that the true strength of Konkani lay among her youth. As is evident from his compact, lucid essay, “Amrutacho Pavs”, he was convinced that Goa was awaiting a regenaration and Konkani, a renaissance at the able hands of her invincible youth whose rise was on the anvil. Hence he strove towards creating an aware youth-acquainted with its potential and inspired with a zeal. “Konkani Vidyarthiank” was a lecture that best illustrates the visionary’s appeal to Konkani youth. His efforts were also directed towards Konkani pedagogy. The result was “Bhurgianche Vyakran”, written in the form of questions and answers, which he actually used, to teach his son Konkani. He also dedicated his literary talent to creating Children’s literature. His”Bhurgianlo Ishtt”, an anthology of essays and short stories in lucid facile Konkani, was a step in that direction. “Jaducho Zunvo” is another example of his gift to the child reader.Another fictional tale in an appealing narrative for children was “Bakaulechem Phool”. It is a beautiful adaptation in Roman as well as Devnagri Konkani of a European tale for children written in simple but rich Konkani idiom. He had a great eye for observation of human foibles and the humorous bent of mind to expose the satirical observations he thus made. “Goenkaracho Mumbaikaar” is an extremely illustrative work in this regard.
Shenoi Goembab was probably aware of the constraints of time and efforts to forge a fully original literary adornment for Konkani. Perhaps, well-read in world literature himself, he felt the need to introduce the Konkani reader to the choicest jewels of world literature.At least, the several translations and adaptations of great literary maestros like Moliere and Shakespeare make such an observation tenable. Among his popularly known adaptions are Mogachen Logn based on Moliere’s Le Medicin Malagre Lui. This adaptation is such a perfect blend of the original theme, Goan ethos and Konkani idiom that it is difficult to be judged an adaptation. Povnanche Taplem is one more adaptation based on another of Moliere’s play L’avare. Significantly, the Konkani version of this play remained inconclusive until Shenoi Goembab’s death because he found its end unsuited to the indigenous ways of life. Abu Hasan’s tale from the Arabian Nights formed the source of another of his farcical plays Jilba Rano woven around the humourous theme of making a commoner the emperor for a day. This is not all. Shenoi Goembab’s transcreations include almost eleven of Shakespeare’s plays including Othello, Hamlet, King Lear and some of his popular comedies in perfect indigenous garb in Konkani. They are available for the readers in Konkani in Roman script too.
However, of all Shenoi Goembab’s works the one that will commemorate him to long-lasting literary fame is undoubtedly his beautiful rendering in simple, chaste, endearing Konkani prose of the Bhagvadgita as Bhagwantalem Geet. In the opinion of Shantaram Varde Walawalikar it is one of the finest attempted to date in Indian languages. In fact, this prose rendering was to inspire the great Goan poet Bakibab Borkar to follow suit with his own melodious, poetic rendering of the Gita, thereby creating another monumental work for mothertongue. What can be a greater reward than this for the visionary Shenoi Goembab?
Dr. Kiran Budkuley.
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