Konkani gets its own thesaurus

Updated: Mar 10, 2019, 09:01 IST | Anju Maskeri

A former bakery chef, Michael Fernandes, is out with the first book on Konkani synonyms. A dictionary is next, he says

Konkani gets its own thesaurus
Pic/Satej Shinde

In 2006, when Mira Road resident Michael Fernandes dropped by at Jack of All Stalls, a Byculla bookstore, to pick up a Konkani dictionary, he was surprised to learn that none existed.

"That a language, which has survived a crippling ban by the Portuguese in the 17th century, and even managed to make it to the Eight Schedule of the Indian Constitution in 1992, did not have a dictionary baffled me," he recalls. At that moment, he decided he would take on the job. It did not matter that he was neither a grammarian nor an academician, but a bakery chef at a Juhu hotel. He then went about picking up whatever Konkani periodicals and books he could lay his hands on. "I went home and began the process of digitising it," he says.

After 13 years, Fernandes, now 63, has released the first ever book on Konkani synonyms titled Utrak Utram (one word for another). It's a prequel to his magnum opus, that he will release by next year. "I felt the dictionary was turning out to be too clunky and exhaustive.

I had to simplify it in order to make it accessible to a wider audience," he says. The book, published by Goa-based Dalgado Konkani Akademi, was released last week at Multipurpose Hall, Art and Culture Department, Panaji, and contains a total of 97,397 Konkani words. Incidentally, the idea to carve out a separate book on synonyms was mooted by his relative, Fr Anthony Fernandes, who teaches Konkani at a Goregaon seminary. But the process was anything but easy.

"The problem was I had written it in the old form of Konkani, rooted in Portuguese, while the modern version had more of a Marathi influence. So, in the antiquated form, the sound of 'ka' was written with a C. Now it's written with a K. By then, many new words were also added and spellings had changed." The publishing house suggested he rework the book.

Managing the hotel's bakery alongside this venture meant squeezing out whatever little time he could manage. Being the president of the hotel's workers' association, Bharatiya Kamgar Sena, he enjoyed certain privileges, including reporting to work slightly late. "I would use that time to work on the book," he says. After presenting the publishing house with the edited version, it took another six years for the final version to be finally put together.

The journey, although long, has been thoroughly enjoyable, he adds. Now retired, Fernandes has plunged into this venture full time. Next up, he plans to release the book on antonyms followed by the dictionary. "My only aim is to do my bit for a language that is so rich," he smiles.

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