The Chicalim Bio-Crusaders organised 'Walk of the Pearl' to highlight the biodiversity of Sancoale Bay
The Chicalim Bio-Crusaders organised 'Walk of the Pearl' to highlight the biodiversity of Sancoale BayGomantak Times

Goa's ‘Parkonnem’ riddles and rhymes are more than entertainment. Here's why...

Chicalim Bio Crusaders are striving to preserve Goa’s unique ‘parkonnem’ style of documenting the land’s heritage

By Casey Monteiro

At the recent farewell of the twelfth standard students of the Dempo Higher Secondary School of Arts, Science and Commerce, Bambolim, the hosting the traditional riddle contest ‘Parkonnim, Kitem Sang’ met with an enthusiastic response from the students.

Parkonnem is a riddle, often in rhyme in Konkani. These riddles would have been relegated into oblivion had it not been for the efforts of the Chicalim Bio-Crusaders, an NGO, that works on documenting the intangible, oral heritage of their village, Chicalim, in South Goa as well as the natural and architectural assets of the village.

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HOW IT BEGAN

The efforts to gather all these riddles began sometime when Covid struck. An encounter with an elderly gentleman, who went on quizzing the convener and founder of the Chicalim Bio-Crusaders, Cyril A Fernandes, with these riddles left him amazed at the wealth inherent in his mother tongue Konkani.

These parkonnem or parkonnim (plural form) were once popular at a time when the only means of entertainment was actual interaction between people. Back then, there was no television or internet or mobile phones, says Cyril. It took a pandemic to transport people back to this time.

Principal of Dempo HSS, Surekha Kelkar (far left), along with a student of Std XII, Salvador Corte, who was awarded for giving the right answer to a ‘parkonnem’. Also seen are the organisers, Kaveena Fernandes (student) and Prajyokti Korjuvenkar (teacher)
Principal of Dempo HSS, Surekha Kelkar (far left), along with a student of Std XII, Salvador Corte, who was awarded for giving the right answer to a ‘parkonnem’. Also seen are the organisers, Kaveena Fernandes (student) and Prajyokti Korjuvenkar (teacher)Gomantak Times

The idea of holding a contest of these riddles grew after the organizers unearthed a collection of dozens of parkonnim as people from all over Goa started contributing.

“We have to realise that there is an entire generation that has lived with these riddles,” says Cyril. Documentation is the only way to preserve this wealth of oral tradition which Konkani is so rich in, he says. The George Varky rolling trophy was instituted for a three-edition contest.

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“We had the third edition last year. Looking at the overwhelming response it has drawn from Goans, the organizers have expressed interest in holding the contest this year, too. The only requirement is that Goans should send in parkonnim. We appeal to people to ask the elders around them for these riddles and send them to us. We do not want to refer to earlier publications of riddles as that would spoil the charm of a contest and as I said, the aim is to document riddles which haven’t been done yet and bring them into the public domain,” says Cyril.

If they have a fourth edition this year, the organizers inform that they will publish a book on the parkonnim that have made it to the contest.

DOCUMENTATION IS EVERYTHING

We can appreciate things when we know about them. That’s what the Bio Crusaders believe in. Cyril, whose efforts of eco-conservation have been acknowledged by the Goa State Biodiversity Board, underscores the need to document. He says it’s important to document so as to preserve, conserve and put forth a united front in order to get one’s heritage recognised.

Volunteers document Chicalim’s heritage by holding bio-diversity and heritage walks and other programs that have so far garnered a good response.

Ashley Afonso, from Porvorim, won the CG Varkey rolling trophy for the 'Parkonnem-Kitem Tem Sang' contest in 2022
Ashley Afonso, from Porvorim, won the CG Varkey rolling trophy for the 'Parkonnem-Kitem Tem Sang' contest in 2022Gomantak Times

THE FUTURE

“We have a lot of heritage. We have cave-like structures, too, which are ancient. All these needed to be protected along with our flora and fauna and oral heritage,” says Cyril adding, "We are impressing upon authorities to declare certain areas of our village as eco-heritage zones.”

Besides this, the group is working to publish a book on the wild flowers and resident birds of Chicalim.

If you have a parkonnem, you can whatsapp it to +91 9422446139 or +91 7758826139. Alternatively, you can e-mail it to chicalimbiocrusader@rediffmail.com

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