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Dekhlem moddem, aylem roddnnem

Posted by on March 28, 2019

Right before me the dead body lies, A flood of tears welling in my eyes

Dekhlem moddem, aylem roddnnem literally means “Saw the dead body, couldn’t help crying”. Note that the sentence has no subject, that is, it almost doesn’t matter who that person might be, suggesting that the phenomenon is a part of human nature.

Dekhlem is the past definite of dekhonk which is a transtive verb meaning to see. Most verbs ending in onk are intransitive, like bosonk,(to sit), cholonk (to walk), and khellonk (to play), but dekhonk is one rare exception of a transitive verb ending in onk. As such, were the sentence to have a subject, that subject would have taken the instrumental case like hanvem (dekhlem) as do the subjects of other transtive verbs in the past definite tense.

Notice, too, that, even though the subject of the sentence may have gone awandering, the instrumentality of the missing subject nevertheless pervades the scene, with the result that the verb now agrees in gender and number with its object instead: As moddem is neuter in gender, the verb too takes the neuter form: dekhlem. Finally, to complete the parallelity between the two arms of the proverb, since moddem, in the first part, is a noun, the second part of the sentence also goes for the noun form of the verb cry, i.e. roddnnem, much like the word crying used in a popular Christmas carol: “No crying he makes.”

Another peculiarity to be noticed here is that the both the arms of the proverb begin with the verb. Now, that isn’t the way Konkani sentences are usually structured, since the common practice is to place the verb at the tail-end of a sentence. When you, for a change, start a sentence with the verb, instead of ending with it, you in effect give the sentence a special flavour, rendering it poetic or oratorical.

So much for the language aspect of the proverb. Now a word on its message.

Living in a complex world that we do, our minds are preoccupied with myriad things, so that certain (desirable) behaviours are generally evoked, often automatically, only by direct stimuli. One such situation has been captured by our proverb.

It is interesting that the English proverb, Out of sight, out of mind, purports to convey a very similar message, but by portraying exactly a contrary situation. It is tantamount (though not logically equivalent) to giving our proverb a new makeover: “If one doesn’t see a dead body, one doesn’t cry.”

I am reminded of a researcher on a mission to prove that all crows are black. To achieve that, he was required to go out and observe all the crows he could find and note their colour. On one rainy day, however, he decided to stay indoors and yet continue collecting his research data. What he did to make that possible was to make his hypothesis stand on its head with a double negative: “Whatever isn’t black isn’t a crow”, which does flow logically from his original hypothesis. So all he had to do now was to pick up all the non-black objects he could find in his house and note that they weren’t crows! Research made easy!

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