Every language has its own ‘aura’. While it is in some ways like another, in many ways it's different. It must be because it reflects the heritage and customs of a community and provides it with an identity all its own!
Once upon a time there must have been only one language, one dialect one people and maybe even just one part of the world that was inhabited. That was once upon a time and too far back in time for it to have been documented. Since then, Human beings expanded their horizons and diversified their existence temporally, spiritually, and geographically. This gave rise to distinct identities which included community, religious and linguistic identities.
Of all of them, linguistic identity is what makes each community unique. And the cognitive and linguistic ability is what makes Human beings unique. The combination created the culture that we are born into and thrive in.
India has, according to the Census of India of 2001, India has 122 major languages and 1599 other languages. However, figures from other sources vary, primarily due to differences in definition of the term’s "language" and "dialect".
Konkani a language that languishes without its own script!
This brings us to the Konkani Language. Konkani is an Indo-Aryan language that dates to 1187 AD. The Konkani language originated and is spoken widely in the western coastal region of India known as the Konkan.
The native lands historically inhabited by Konkani people include the Konkan division of Maharashtra, the state of Goa and the territory of Damaon, the Uttara Kannada (North Canara), Udupi & Dakshina Kannada (South Canara) districts of Karnataka, along with many districts in Kerala such as Kasaragod (formerly part of South Canara), Kochi (Cochin), Alappuzha (Allepey), Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum), and Kottayam. Each the region has developed distinct dialects, pronunciation and prose styles, vocabulary, tone and sometimes, significant differences in grammar that makes it diverse. The Census Department of India, 2011 figures put the number of Konkani speakers in India as 2,256,502 making up 0.19% of India's population.
And yet it does not have its own script. A journal reports, “ It is probably the only language in India which is written in five scripts â Roman, Devanagari, Kannada, Persian-Arabic and Malayalam – with credible oral and written literature in each of them.”
“How does a language that is so widely spoken among various communities not have a script of its own?”, wondered Ronan an 8th grader in St. Mary’s English Medium School, Udupi when he saw his mother writing a letter in the Konkani language but using Kannada script to write it.
Not one to take things lying downs, he decided to do something about it. He devised his own unique script for the language. Ronan has created the script using alphabets from different languages - Arabic, African, French, Hebrew.
Its all in the letter!
Ronan’s father, Roshan Lewis, resided in Israel for a decade as an interpreter in the Holland embassy. Being well-versed with Hebrew, a North-western Semitic language native to Israel, Roshan helped his son to source the alphabets for his new script. With his father’s support, Ronan mastered the semiotics of the language. His project to devise a new script for Konkani is a labour of love. It began in February 2019 and ended successfully with a fully developed script in July 2020.
It is difficult to comprehend the work that went into devising the new script but in a nutshell it involved studying the essence of more than 20 languages including Portuguese, Hebrew, Thai, Afrikaans, Arabic, Bengali, Telugu, Tamil, Malayalam, English, Hindi, Kannada, Tulu, combining 600 alphabets from them into the final 49 letters (Swara, Vyangana, and Anunasica) for the new Konkani script. He is expecting help and guidance from the Konkani Sahitya Academy to take his innovation to its logical conclusion.
A fish in the water!
But Ronan dives into more than language and the internet. He loves diving into water. He also skates, cycles, plays chess, and carroms, excelling at everything he does.
But he is truly an amphibian. He loves water as much as the land he stands on. When he was all of 8, (he is 13 now), he aspired to break his trainer’s Guinness World Record. Gopal Kharvi, his trainer set the Guinness World Record in 2013 by swimming 3 km with his hands and legs bound in shackles.
Ronan is the youngest among his batch of swimmers and yet he does 40 rounds of the swimming pool with ease. Again, it is his father who is his support helping him to focus. Today he swims freestyle, one and half kilometres in under 40 minutes.
Having created a script for language that must have felt like an orphan as it had none it could call its own, he wants to script history in his other endeavours, and we pray that he does. He is a boon to society, that we must accept as a gift, and encourage in every way we can.
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