Decades back when entertainment and recreation were limited, physical games such as lobbio, mittamni and goindo bal and mind games like parkonnim (riddles) kept our ancestors busy. These cultural gems that kept our previous generations fit in body and alert in mind are fading.
But a few of the facets of our oral and cultural history are being revived, thanks to certain individuals who have set brains ticking pan Goa and among the diaspora across the world for answers to riddles in our own mother tongue.
A unique parkonnem contest – in its fourth edition now – that has generated tremendous interest in the fading oral tradition – will be launched on Liberation Day 2023 by Chicalim Bio-crusaders, a group of activists and enthusiasts documenting village biodiversity.
The contest, ‘Parkonnem Kitem Tem Sang’ for the C G Varkey (IRS) heritage silver rolling trophy had created quite a buzz on social media and elsewhere.
“This year we are expecting the response to increase significantly due to help in handholding of the event by media houses in Goa and abroad,” Cyril Fernandes, who initiated the movement and is spearheading its management, said.
The idea of the contest itself happened by default. “There was no plan. It happened when I was interviewing Inacio Gama, a septuagenarian (now 85) and an elder knowledgeable about all these oral traditions. Seeing how our precious culture was being buried and on verge of becoming history, the idea of a contest struck me,” Fernandes said.
A member of Chicalim Bio-crusaders group, George Varkey, immediately offered to sponsor the trophy in memory of his father, C G Varkey, who was a top customs and central excise official in Goa some years back.
The first prize will be Rs 15,000, second Rs 10,000 and the third Rs 5,000 while there will be five consolation prizes of Rs 1,000 each.
In the days of yore, when life was simple, elders, youth and children would gather and spend time sharing folk stories and setting riddles to fill the cultural void. But in recent years, due to change in lifestyles and the adverse impact of English on vernacular languages, folklore and oral traditions are fading.
But it was amazing that middle aged persons and some youth were among the prize winners of the contests. It showed that the parkonnem was still alive.
“It was my father who passed on this oral tradition to us,” says Aquila Rodrigues, a parkonnim enthusiast from Verna. “After dinner, we would sit in our garden, gazing at the starlit sky and dad would fox us with some tricky parkonnim. We were thrilled by the poetic language they were set in, but couldn’t find the answers or more of the riddles in books,” she said.
Rodrigues has been among the top winners in the second and third editions. In fact, the parkonnem contest has inspired the organizers to preserve the cultural heritage in print. “We are planning to come out with a book after this contest is over. We will have all 200 riddles in the four contests and more,” says Fernandes.
The contest has evoked much enthusiasm among villagers in various talukas and they have contributed in different ways.
The book will also have explanations for various things described in the riddles. For instance, the people may not know what addambo is. It is the wooden bar that blocked the door as a double safety measure,” Fernandes said.
Many things have faded away and disappeared. But there is hope for parkonnim. Those desirous of participating in the contest may visit the facebook page @chicalimbiocrusader.