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What’s the word for...: An East Indian is using quizzes to preserve her language

Hindustan Times logo Hindustan Times 18-09-2021 Melissa D’Costa

Candida Remedios, 30, an archivist with a pharmaceutical company, spends her free time doing something her toli (tribe) would be proud of.

She posts a weekly quiz on Instagram (@can.dee.duh) that’s her own little effort to highlight and preserve the largely undocumented East Indian language. This is the language spoken by the original Catholic inhabitants of Mumbai (as opposed to the later arrivals from Goa, Mangalore etc).

East Indian is a sort of Creole that combines elements of Marathi, Portuguese, Konkani and Hindi. The culture, from language to cuisine, festivals and wedding rituals, is fading in the melting pot of Mumbai, especially as successive generations have migrated to other countries or married into other Catholic communities in Mumbai.

Concern over this fading of East Indian culture hit a high a few years ago, and the community got together and set up a museum within an old home in 2013 and, in 2019, brought out an East Indian-to-English dictionary.

Remedios volunteered as project coordinator on the dictionary effort. She now refers to her copy for help with her quizzes, and in those quizzes she combines her love for her heritage, the city of her birth, and her passion for the language.

graphical user interface: Each instalment of the quiz offers five to ten questions, a mix of easy and not-so-easy, Remedios says. © Provided by Hindustan Times Each instalment of the quiz offers five to ten questions, a mix of easy and not-so-easy, Remedios says.

Remedios posted her first quiz on February 21, 2020, International Mother Language Day, just for fun. “I thought that only cousins and relatives would participate. I was surprised at the number of my followers that attempted the quiz just for fun,” she says. “Some non-East Indian speakers were surprised at getting many answers right too.”

Encouraged, Remedios began a Word of the Week series, picking an East Indian word and explaining its meaning, pronunciation and Hindi equivalent. The response was enthusiastic. “I received DMs from people saying they hadn’t heard a certain word since their grandmother last used it. Some East Indian followers from other parts of the city would tell me that they pronounced the word differently, or even at times had a whole different word for something!”

People seemed eager to engage, so in June, Remedios turned her Word of the Week into an interactive weekly quiz. Each consists of five to ten questions, with answers shared 24 hours later. There’s a mix of easy and not-so-easy questions, largely focused on East Indian life and culture, from kitchen implements to festivals, rituals, elements of traditional architecture, and vocabulary. When posting the answers, Remedios includes a pronunciation guide for each word, in Devanagari and Roman script.

To keep things interesting, she plays with her quiz template. She has, for instance, translated major Hollywood and Bollywood titles into East Indian, and invited quiz-takers to guess the original movie name (scan the QR code alongside to take this quiz yourself)

“My quizzes are aimed at anyone with a love for history or East Indian culture or both,” Remedios says. “The winner each week would get an honorary mention or a shoutout. Now, if they are willing to share their address, I send them a Mumbai-themed postcard.”

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