The dwindling numbers of Kristi, mother tongue to natives of the little seaside village of Korlai, speakers has left Leedan Martis, 28, a little worried. Martis, whose parents and wife are farmers in Korlai, feels that even though his grandparents spoke a purer form of the language, his children are bound to learn a more diluted form. When Martis, who works as a church peon in Bandra, completed his Class 10 state board exams at the local Marathi school in Korlai, only a handful of children chose to trudge to the area’s only junior college, 3 km away.
Today, graduating from the city is in growing phenomenon for Korlai’s youth. Most of them then settle in Mumbai or migrate to Gulf and teach their children English.
“The language is dying out and not developing in any way because the village does not sustain young people,” said Fleur D’Souza, professor of history at St Xavier’s College, who claims that the local youth recently transformed a museum, set up by a researcher for preserving Korlai culture, into a local computer centre.
Given the low literacy levels in the village till recently, Kristi does not have a vast corpus of written literature. Some families in Korlai possess old copies of a Creole Portuguese Bible written in Marathi script, and Martis recalls a short story book from his childhood, Nau Ling Su Istor (Stories of our Language), but can no longer locate printed copies of the book in the village.
“I am comfortable in Kristi and even think in the language,” said Martis, who feels in the past 10 or 12 years, the language has suffered the most.