Rupa Publications blurb: Peter wheels his bicycle out. Mounting it, he puts one foot on the pedal, the other on the threshold, and waits for Teresa. This was how he used to wait for her at the station two years ago. He used to be in love with her then…
Sahitya Akademi-awardee Damodar Mauzo is one of the most prominent, prolific and feted figures in contemporary Konkani literature. His writing spans an enormous range, straddling both urban and rural geographies, and runs the gamut of human emotion—the paralyzing helplessness of the small farmer in the face of implacable nature; the eternal ebbs and flows of the man-woman relationship; and the many humiliations, small and large, of raising a differently abled child.
In the title story, an ineffectual husband finally reaches his boiling point; ‘Coinsanv’s Cattle’ is a heart-breaking depiction of how a farmer couple must make the impossible choice—send their beloved animals to slaughter or face starvation; and, in the quietly humorous ‘A Writer’s Tale’, a senior author becomes the unwitting subject of a woman’s fiction. Compiled with care, and smoothly, felicitously translated by Xavier Cota, Teresa’s Man and Other
Stories from Goa brings to readers tales which are as compellingly local in their flavor as they are universal in the ideas and emotions they evoke. This volume is a must-read.
From the Mouths of Babes
A sweet little tale of a husband who is wary of public displays of affection and has not kissed his wife on the lips even though they have been married quite a few years ago. His little son’s mischievous antics at school, an innocent peck from him to his friend and a long awaited happy news finally manages to make the husband part his lips.
In the Land of Humans
Using the innocent farmer Halsid’du as the protagonist, the author successfully manages to convey the plight of poor farmers who are forced to sell their cattle and livestock when the rains fail them, and also subtly touches upon how mob mentality takes over when normal people like us are provoked by politicians for the selfish means.
Using the narrative device of faith and blind superstitions, the author easily manages to convey the message of the importance of showing compassion to all living beings in our vicinity, even if they are irritating and destructive rats.
In this deeply disturbing tale, the main character Baboy is someone who seems to be extremely worldly wise, pragmatic and also seems to have inadvertently caused his one year old grandson to die due to his insistence of avoiding medicines and doctors under all circumstances. But the ending to this story proves that there is more than meets to the eye as far as Baboy’s personality goes.
In this somewhat morbid and vaguely bittersweet tale, the author takes us on a dinner date in Delhi with two politicians from opposing parties in Goa, where one of them wants to enjoy the evening, while the other one grapples with the knowledge that his friend’s wife is dead back home and he has yet to break the news to him.
Through this heartrending tale, the author tells us what probably is the story of millions of small Indian farmers across the country. When Inas and Coinsanv are forced to sell their cattle to buy fertilizers and seeds to ensure a decent harvest in the monsoons, they undergo the same emotions they would if they had to give away their own children; after all, the cattle were no less to them.
However, the clincher in this story is the last line, which while surprising also mirrors the stark reality of the poor farmer’s life.
Highlighting the ugliness of the mob culture that pervades our cities from time to time when political and other unruly forces get together to disrupt normal lives under the guise of bandhs, this story serves as an important reminder for all of us to remain human first, and then slaves of our respective religions, languages and what not.
As the saying goes, true faith never let down anybody. And in the case of Shankar, the protagonist of this story, it couldn’t be truer. For somebody who is so hard-pressed for money and is struggling trying to figure out how to celebrate Ganesh Chathurthi in the cheapest possible manner, the elephant headed God himself shows a way out in the end, albeit in a morbidly funny way.
There is more to the title of this story than meets the eye. The story of a young man who is jobless, listless and generally purposeless in life, with his only identity being that of his wife’s husband. As if this wasn’t bad enough, the fact that he allows his inferiority complex to take over and resorts to domestic violence seems to speak volumes about the hundreds of unemployed young husbands out there just waiting to be provoked into hurting their earning wives.
For Death Does Not Come
Using an extremely unusual point of view, that of a water snake, the author cleverly narrates how we humans have selfishly used nature and more importantly its limited drinking water resources for our own selfish means conveniently forgetting that there are various other species which are as reliant on the same water sources as we are.
An extremely sweet but depressing tale about how the parents of a child affected by cretinism do their best to ensure that their only son not only enjoys as normal a childhood as any other child. This particular story deals with how they plan his fifth birthday and in the course of them inviting over their friends and neighbors documents their son’s condition.
Although this is quite a sad tale by its very nature, the ending brought a smile to my face. This tale embodies all that is noble and right with the democratic process of citizens using their electoral mandate to make choices which they can finally justify to themselves.
In what is meant to be a sad morose story about a doctor who suffers from terminal cancer worries about how he has not done enough for his family after he passes away in a few days, his young daughter teaches him a really important lesson which completely changes his point of view on things. I quite enjoyed this small little tale and especially the ending.
A Writer’s Tale
Man, does the author know how to end an anthology with a bang or what! This story by far the longest one in the book is also the most intriguing and baffling one till the very last paragraph when the author delivers the proverbial twist in the tale. Made for really good reading.
Overall summary of the anthology
Overall I quite liked this anthology and given that this is my first experience in reading Konkani literature in any form or fashion, I have to say I quite enjoyed the peculiarities and idiosyncrasies that its characters and settings bring to the table. However, I have to admit that it doesn’t strike me as too much different from what we see in the rest of the country though.
Overall, this is quite a good read and I wouldn’t hesitate in recommending it for people looking for some really well written crisp short stories. Purchase the book from Flipkart [Link] or Amazon [Link].
Disclaimer: A review copy of this book was provided to me by the publishers in return for an unbiased review of the same.