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The Konkani World

As one of India`s smallest linguistic minorities (the language was included in the 8th schedule of the Indian Constitution only in 1992), the Konkani speaking community has been punching far above its weight in different areas of human endeavour over the years, particularly in the 19th and 20th centuries. Members of the community have excelled in industry and commerce, the fine arts, literature and the sciences, achieving a fine balance between tradition and modernity.

All this, and more, has been chronicled by Shri Narasimha Janardan Kamath (better known as N.J.Kamath) in his labour of love, “The Konkani World”. Shri Kamath had a long and distinguished career in administration and developmental work in a newly independent, young India. As a member of the first batch of the Indian Administrative Service, recruited in 1947, he served with signal distinction over the years, building up his expertise in many wings of the Government of India, ranging from Defence and Defence Production to Industries, International Trade, and the Energy sector. He served in many senior posts such as Secy, Ministry of Housing and Urban Development, Govt.of India, later as Adviser to the Governor of Himachal Pradesh, and still later as Addl. Chief Secy and Adviser to the Govt. of (then) Andhra Pradesh till his superannuation in 1979. (life sketch at pg. 121)

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Kamathmam`s deep interest in, and love for all aspects of Konkani culture and it`s evolution as evinced in language, history and heritage, literature (including proverbs, riddles and poetry), social practices and even cuisine is documented very competently in “The Konkani World”. The book has a very attractive get up, with plenty of graphics, maps and large photographs that would retain reader interest. Doubtless, his immediate and extended family has collaborated in this creation, based on extensive background research. For those interested in probing the subject in depth, there is a well annotated and extensive bibliography. Of course, for orchestrating all this, was Kamathmam`s guiding hand.

As the Editor’s Note and the Epilogue bring out, in a changed (and still changing) world, and one that is beset with uncertainties, there is much value to the ‘comfort factor’ not only between community members, but also, given the syncretic nature of Indian society, common bonds between different communities and faiths coexisting in this vast land of ours. Through this charming account, the author seeks to focus on such commonalities that bind us. Recognition of these commonalities is very important in passing knowledge through successive generations, so that our values are strengthened for the future.

Kamathmam, sadly, is not amongst us today (he passed on in 2017); considers it a privilege to bring out his eminently readable book in its digital version, to mark his birthday on 25 October 2022. He would have been a Centurion +1 this year ! And, through the book, we hope to spread his message to our readers, be they Konkani or non Konkani speaking, Indians or non Indians, across generations. There is something in it for everyone!

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