Djenardin Singh Pathania: A portrait
by Bajram Haliti on 21 Jun 2013 2 Comments

Djenardin Singh Pathania is personality that in the world of romalogia enjoys a unique position. The field to which he has devoted himself for more than five decades would, without his contribution, have left unknown, that is, romalogia in many theoretical and practically relevant aspects (philology-linguistic and ethnographic researches, lexicographic attempts, collecting and translating work).


In a long and creative life, working on his own motivation and cooperating in many projects of scientific institutions and many associations all over the world, Pathania made and published several scientific studies. His contribution in collecting and elucidating Roma ethnographic material in the form of handwritten collections of stories cannot be left unmentioned.


Much of his life was spent wandering, living the life of Gypsies, so he could be in direct contact with Roma and collect stories, as there was no other source to document their lives. In the words of his father who lived in London and who told him that it was only in London that he for the first time saw a white-man, there is on earth one more people that is alike Indian people, and that is the Roma.


By profession, Pathania is an engineer. So where does his devotion for the totally unknown and unexplored field of Roma come from, to which he has committed himself?


While he was still a student, according to his own account, his father passed him the picture of the people with whom he made friends and who are not of German origin but enjoy features close to the Indian people. In his conversation with them, Pathania adopted a lot of the same words and they told him that they come from India and that they have left their cradle.


Pathania says that the source for his lifework was his father. Since 1976 Roma were for Pathania an inexhaustible source of inspiration. He started to collect literature and invested all his money in buying books. He discovered the connection with the language of Roma that he met in India and started to engage himself with it in the most difficult way – he mixed with all groups of Roma from India to Sarajevo (in 1986 I had a chance to meet him personally at the great meeting “The language and the culture of Roma” on their unpredictable journeys and stopping, he listened, asked, noted…)


Pathania has for years noted Roma stories and their numerous modifications in Roma Diaspora’s communities, the characteristic of which is bilingualism. He did this even in the situation when no one thought about the codification of the neglected Roma language.


With the first publications beyond the country, the name of Djenardin Singh Pathania started to be known in scientific circles. He became the scientific authority and presented his findings at many projects, meetings; his writings took a notable position in numerous publications and magazines all over Europe. He is ‘stolen’ by all so-called linguists. His work is followed by flattering critics and rewards.


Djenardin Singh Pathania chose a field that had not existed even among Roma, and provided recognition for it. He has not looked back at critics as he became an expert of Roma language and oral literature. It is hard to find one among Roma’s linguistics and nation-connoisseurs who can stand shoulder to shoulder with him.


In his young years, Pathania explored foreign languages but soon became completely devoted to Roma language. So, over the years he collected rich material about all Roma’s dialects. Pathania has done a lot and for human affirmation of Roma, for saving their national identity.


On the Second Festival of Writers, in which Pathania also participated, he told me that he prays God to fulfill him two wishes: first, to learn Roma language; second, to die dignifiedly. His first wish god Ramah fulfilled him and the second our Roma’s god will fulfill him.


Djenardin Singh Pathania remains our Roma’s Panini, the author of the first grammar book in India and in the world.


As a member of the World’s Parliament of Roma I suggest that the congress of Roma on the next session award him the greatest reward for perseverance of Roma identity and standardization of Roma language.


The author is a key figure in the World Roma Organization (WRO) from Kosovo; he now lives in Belgrade. His email is

Courtesy Roma Virtual Network

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