A VOICE OF KONKNNI NO MORE
By Valmiki Faleiro
No one who has read Konknni in the Roman script would not be familiar with the name
of Zito Almeida. In a passion for writing, spanning some five decades, Zito produced a huge mass of published work, most of it in his beloved mother tongue. But, sometimes – for a wider reach, as he would say – also in English. This was so particularly on the life of saints and village feasts.
Not without surprise: Zito hailed from a deeply religious family, as he himself also was. His elder brother, late Fr. Lactancio Almeida, of the Society of Pilar, was a long-time Editor of the ‘Vauraddeancho Ixtt.’
Zito was born March 2, 1938 at Banda, Assolna. So entwined was his life with his faith that when he decided to start a business for a living, he set it up at Margao’s “Holy Family House” dealing mainly with, what else, all forms of religious items – from Bibles and scapulars to rosaries, from Holy pictures and statues to ciboria. Side-by-side on the shelves of his showroom lay, of course, his second love: books in Konknni.
After completing primary studies in Portuguese and further studies in English, Zito
began writing at a young age. He initially contributed to ‘Aitarachem Vachop,’ a weekly published by the Salesian Society from Panjim. He continued his Konknni writing in ‘Vauraddeancho Ixtt,’ Pilar Society’s popular weekly.
Among the daily newspapers he wrote for were ‘Sot’, ‘Novem-Goem’, ‘Divtti’, ‘Goencho
Avaz’, and ‘A Vida.’ So also for weeklies like ‘Udentichem Nokhetr’, ‘The Goa Times’,
‘The Goa Mail’, ‘Avé Maria’, ‘Cine-Times’, ‘Loksad’, ‘Konkan Mail’, and monthlies like ‘Dor Mhoineachi Roti’, ‘Gulab’, ‘The Goan Review’ (a bi-monthly), and ‘Renovação,’ the fortnightly of the Archdiocese of Goa and Daman. Most in today’s younger generations would have only heard of these publications: almost all now extinct.
In addition to that voluminous work, Zito authored some books. Among them:
‘Bhurgeank Kannio-I’, ‘Bhurgeank Kannio-II’, ‘Vaitt Ieta Boreak’ (1967), ‘Fatima’ (on the apparitions, 1973), ‘Goy, Mhojea Sopnantlem Painnem’ (on Goa and Goans, 2006), all in Romi Konknni.
As General Secretary of the Konkani Bhasha Mandal, he edited ‘Konknni, Romi Lipint
Khas Natalam Ank-1979.’ He also edited Special Issues of ‘Natalanchim Nokhetram’
(in Konknni, English and Portuguese, at Christmas-1968) and ‘Goychi Ranni,’
For a lifetime of work in Konknni, Zito was a much-decorated man. Among the many
honours, awards and ‘puroskars’ he received: In ‘Konknni Pustokancho Spordho’
organised by the then ‘Konknni Katolk Boroinnarancho Ekvott,’ he was awarded the
first prize for his book ‘Bhurgeank Kannio-I’ (1970). He bagged the “Fr. Lactancio
Almeida Iadostik Puroskar” as the best writer of ‘Vavraddeancho Ixtt’ (1986.) The
‘Gulab Award’ came his way for being a “Boro Borovpi” (1988.) He was feted by
‘Vavraddeancho Ixtt’ (2003.) The Dalgado Konknni Academi awarded him their “Fr.
Freddy J. Da Costa Potrokar Puroskar-2006” for his writings in the past 52 years.
Among the many public felicitations was one in 2007, for his writings on Gulab from
the monthly’s inception in 1983. Of course, he was honoured by both the State-level
institutions of the language, the Konkani Bhasha Mandal and the Goa Konkani
Academy for his lifelong contribution to the language.
Besides his articles in Konknni, Zito also wrote rather profusely in the English
language. This work was published in Goa’s ‘Herald’, ‘The Navhind Times’, ‘Gomantak
Times’ and ‘Fr. Agnel’s Call.’
The great thud that shocked the Konknni world ironically came from a small fall at
home. Zito was bleeding a bit from the head. When brought to a Margao hospital, his
vital parameters necessitated admission to the ICU. Suddenly, several unrelated
problems surfaced and, in less than a week and before anyone could realise it, the
notable son of Konknni had passed into the pages of history.
Zito-bab breathed his last on April 4, 2008, at age 70. He leaves behind his wife, Maria
Emy Menezes of Cuncolim and children Rubina/Russel, Darlene Orfelinda, Savio and
Maria Lourdes (Lulush) and two grandchildren, Rusener and Rubayne. All the saints
he worshipped and propagated during his journey here must have surely been there at
the pearly gates, to welcome him to eternal home. (ENDS)
The above article appeared in the March 2, 2008 edition of the Herald, Goa