25 Sep 2021  |   04:27am IST

Riddle me this riddle me that

A competition on the traditional pastime of Parkonnem has caught the fancy of Goans here and around the world. This is an attempt on the part of the organisers to revive a tradition that was very popular once upon a time when entertainment was not so pervasive
Riddle me this riddle me that

Ajit John

The passage of time can

be cruel to people, things and social customs and traditions. One always hears of people bemoaning the fact that customs and traditions they followed when they were kids were now not being followed. Could be a food item that may no longer be popular or a tradition of doing something in a particular fashion on a certain occasion may have died out. However there are some people who try to ensure that certain positive aspects of the past do not die out. One such group can be found in Chicalim. Calling themselves the Bio- Crusaders they have been trying to keep alive the tradition of Parkonnem.

Cyril Fernandes the man behind Chicalim Bio –Crusaders said there was no particular intention in organising this event. It was all by accident. Cyril said he was documenting the past history of Chicalim and the local areas. During the course of this documentation, he interviewed a very senior resident Mr. Joaquim Inacio Gama from that area near St. Jacintoisland. Cyril said “As he was narrating and recollecting his olden days, he suddenly questioned me if I knew any Parkonnim? Parkonnem (singular) and Parkonnim (plural) in Konkani means riddles in english language. Though I did know some Parkonnim, my aim was to extract more information and therefore pretended to know not and prodded him to tell me about them. And then followed a series of Parkonnim that he unveiled from his memory. I started documenting them by video recording on my mobile.”

The next day Cyril posted one that was posted on the Chicalim Bio-crusader Whatsapp group which was welcomed by the members. Many attempted to answer too. He posted more the next day and received an even greater response. Then some members offered their own. As they continued this quiz game, a school classmate of his, George Varghese now based in Trivandrum suggested, continuing the posting and converting it into a competition. George Varghese offered Rs 10,000/ winner’s trophy and a cash prize of Rs 5000/ in memory of his father late Mr. C. K. Varkey, who had served as the first Assistant Commissioner of Excise and Customs immediately on Goa’s liberation. And that’s how this unique competition called PARKONNEM-KITEM TEM SANG was born which today it seems has caught the fancy of the entire Goan diaspora.

PARKONNIM or PARKONNEM in its singular form are Konkani riddles popular in Goa of the past. Before the advent of radio and television as a means of entertainment, ‘PARKONNIM’ was one of the pass-time entertainment at the village ‘Maand’ or the ‘Balcao’. The elderly would challenge the youngsters in unravelling and solving easy as well as some tough riddles through these ‘Parkonnim’ testing the analytical ability, observational skills and their overall general knowledge of life from amongst the family member, neighbours or community members.

Cyril said all the Parkonnim are related to various issues that touch people in day to day life. Things that people think are irrelevant but when they are twisted in such a manner that one break ones head the whole day to find answers to them and then realise the answer was so close yet beyond ones imagination. He said “Once the answer is known or you get it uncovered, you feel that you have achieved something intellectually fulfilling. And if you fail, you tend to appear foolish to be flummoxed in such manner”.

The response he said was overwhelming. Every nook and corner of Goa he said was involved in responding to them and providing answers. He said “It is amazing to observe the volume of responses we receive. Whole of the South from Canacona, Sanguem, Quepem and closer home to Cortalim Nuvem, you name it and that village is responding. Similar is the case with the north beginning from Panjim and including from far of places like Diwar and St. Estevam. But the biggest response is coming from abroad including from places such as Australia, USA, UK and of course from Canada this time. It is very heart-warming to receive these responses”.

Another man involved in this competition as an organiser is Fr Bolmax Pereira who is devoted to protecting and ensuring Goa does not lose its unique culture. He said “This time we have a larger array of Parkonnim contributed by local Goans as well as from abroad. We have posted Parkonnim posed by very senior citizens and very young Goans and school students too. Thus we have through this competition managed to trigger this enthusiasm of Parkonnim among the Goans for the first time ever in such large scale. It is very encouraging to see this response”. He said they were releasing a Parkonnim everyday and this was keeping the interest at a feverish pitch.

This unique Goan heritage contest closes on 5th November. The winners would be announced on 3rd December on the occasion of the Feast of St. Francis Xavier, the patron saint of the Chicalim Parish.

Whoever answer the maximum number of these riddles walks off with the C.G. Varkey Heritage Silver Rolling Trophy and a cash prize of Rs 5000/-. The rolling trophy is uniquely designed in silver and super embossed with the heritage Oyster Shells around it. The trophy and the cash prize have been offered by Mr. George Varkey as a tribute to his father. Besides, five runners-up will be awarded unique heritage trophies each. These heritage trophies are designed and created by the Chicalim Bio-Crusader members themselves in order to promote their village heritage and biodiversity features.

One wishes the organisers all the very best and hopes this endeavour gains even more interest.