Basti Vaman Madhav Shenoy is a noted Konkani activist who has worked throughout his life for promoting Konkani language. He is popularly known as Vishwa Konkani Sardar, which means World Konkani Leader. He is the founder of World Konkani Centre in Shakthinagar, Mangalore.
Basti Vaman Shenoy was born on 6 November 1934 in the small trading town of Bantwal, situated on the banks of River Netravathi in Dakshina Kannada District of Karnataka. His father’s name was Basti Madhav Shenoy and his mother’s name was Gowri alias Bhagirathi. His father worked as the booking agent of then famous CPC Bus Service of Mangalore. His father was popularly known as Motra Madhav and was revered by people of all communities because of his leadership qualities.
Vaman Shenoy had his schooling at the SVS High School in Bantwal and passed SSLC (10th) examination in 1952. He wanted to pursue higher studies to become a teacher. However, due to his family’s financial conditions he had to leave school. He joined his father and helped him in his business. For some time, he also worked in Canara Bank. Shenoy’s father died in 1957, and the responsibility of caring for the family fell on his shoulders. He also got married in 1959 to Savithri.
Early Social Activities
Between 1954 and 1962, influenced by T. A. Pai, Basti Vaman Shenoy involved himself in political activities with Indian National Congress and its trade union wing INTUC. In 1958, he helped establish the Saraswathi Kala Prasarak Sangh and Saraswathi Sangeeth Shala Bantwal in 1958. He also became an active member of Yashvanth Vyayam Shala. He began taking part in Konkani Dramas and Theatrical activities during festivities in Bantwal.
In 1972, he joined Rotary International and organized Eye Camps and Dental Camps. He received awards for providing relief during 1974 Flood of Netravati River in Bantwal Taluk. In 1977 he helped build a new building block for School Library. In 1980, after becoming the President of Yashavanth Vyayam Shala in Bantwal, he helped revive the age old “Mall Khamb” and organised performance tours in Karnataka. He set up an Outreach Specialist Clinic in Vyayama Shala premises in 1988, with the help of Kasturba Medical College.
In 1962, due to his leadership qualities and enthusiasm, he was asked to join Syndicate Bank, and he joined Panemangalore Branch as Clerk. He was promoted as Officer shortly for his outstanding performance in rural banking and deposit mobilization. In 1968 he became the Manager of the Raibhag Branch in Belagaum District where he won Gold Medal for his exemplary performance in Agricultural Finance. In 1972 he returned to Panemangalore and took over as the Manager of the Branch.
In 1974, when villages on the banks of River Netravati in Bantwal Taluk were submerged due to flood, he set relief camps and supported the industry and trade providing easy finance. In 1992 he took voluntary retirement.
As Konkani Activist
Basti Vaman Shenoy was involved with the Konkani Bhasha Mandal since 1980, but he became very active only after his retirement from Bank. He was made the Organising Secretary of the Konkani Jatha movement for organising people to demand establishment of Konkani Academy. In 1993, he became the President of Konkani Bhasha Mandal Karnataka. Because of his efforts in 1994-95 the Karnataka Konkani Sahitya Academy came into existence.
In 1995 from 16 December to 22, Basti Vaman Shenoy organized First World Konkani Convention in Mangalore. The 7 Days convention had seminars, cultural presentations, exhibition and was a grand success. He was honored with the title of “Vishwa Konkani Sardar” (World Leader of Konkani). The convention gave a mandate to establish World Konkani Centre in Mangalore, for the preservation and promotion of Konkani language, art and culture.
In 1996, First North American Konkani Convention was held at New Jersey, USA. In 1997 Shenoy became the President of Karnataka Konkani Saithya Academy and served for two terms till 2001. He initiated efforts to introduce Konkani in the Schools of Karnataka as the optional third Language.
In 2002, he organised the 20th Adhiveshan of All India Konkani Parishad in Mangalore. In 2004 he became the President of All India Konkani Parishad. In 2008, under the banner of KLCF, Shenoy initiated Vishwa Konkani Abhiyan aimed at creating opportunity of interaction between Konkani Writers and Scholars with their counterparts in other languages of the country. Scholars from Panjabi, Hindi, Persian, Urdu, Kannada and Konkani Languages participated in the seminar “Integration Through Languages”.
In 2009, World Konkani Centre at Shakti Nagar, Mangalore was inaugurated. It consists of a Library, a Museum and convention facilities such as Board Room, Seminar Hall and Auditorium. In 2010, Vishwa Konkani Bhasha Samsthan (World Institute of Konkani Language) and World Konkani Hall of Fame were inaugurated at World Konkani Centre.
Inspirational Quotes by Basti Vaman Shenoy
“I can’t live in isolation. I love being surrounded by people, meeting them and interacting with him.”
“Its only because of non-usage of common script, the Konkani Literature has been unexposed to its own masses spread across four language areas. Konkani needs to be taught to revitalize itself. It needs to be taught in one common script which has the cross platform compatibility and a robust familial match. As Konkani is of Indo-Aryan Language family, Devnagari is its natural script.”
Despite age, Vaman Shenoy’s enthusiasm in promoting Konkani has not lessened a bit. He continues to travel a lot, and suffers no major ailments. During his youth, he used to religiously visit the gym and perform the traditional Indian exercises; and he give credit to these, for his good health and fitness. He lives with his eldest son in Bantwal, after his wife’s death. His three children are well-settled and have relieved him of household and domestic worries. He devotes his full time for the cause of Konkani. He is an inspiration to people who work relentlessly for the development and progress of their language and culture.
Written By: Raj Kumar Hansdah