Playwright, novelist, poet Ashok Kamat is all set to release his non-fiction books ‘Madkai: Dekhdinnee Samaj Vyavastha’ and ‘Ubo Tikhat’ on September 6 at Sanskruti Bhavan, Panaji. NT BUZZ speaks to the writer about his connection with Madkai
SACHI NAIK | NT BUZZ
Noted novelist, playwright and poet Ashok Kamat has been living in Sanvordem for decades now, but he still has a strong connection to the village of Madkai where was born. He lived there for 18 years, for some the time frame of experiencing the village may be negligible, but for Kamat those years nurtured the writer in him. This is something a reader will get deeper insight into once they read his book ‘Madkai: Dekhdinnee Samaj Vyavastha’.
His love for the village was so profound that when Kamat married, he would often reminiscence about Madkai and its lifestyle to his wife Archana, who would share the same nostalgia. “One day, my wife said that I should write down these experiences and stories about Madkai and that it’s easy to forget when you hear something, but when memories are penned down, they live through words.”
Taking heed of her suggestion, Kamat began to write. Besides, his experience of staying in the village, studying the village through books and interactions had given him a lot of information. Thus with an in-depth study of eight years, ‘Madkai: Dekhdinnee Samaj Vyavastha’ came to see light.
This non-fiction book covers three aspects: first, about how the village came into existence, its economic growth, village occupations and about khazan lands – growing paddy, cultivating prawns, and salt pans, tribal engineering; second, about the temple and the relationship it has with the villagers and its festivals; and third, the origins of the Saraswat Brahmins (some of them from Madkai).
People who have not been to Madkai will be able visualise the village while reading the book. The writer admits that his purpose was to make people aware of the village, lifestyle and other aspects during the Portuguese rule in Goa. Every person has a different way of looking at life, and Kamat loved his time spent in Madkai and wants the readers to experience the joy that he once felt. He has additionally separated facts from myths of the village.
“Upon studying the village, a few of my questions were answered, but those that are still left unsolved I have put forth to the readers so that they can think over them and find answers if possible,” says Kamat.
Kamat has been a teacher at the Sarvodaya High School, Curchorem for many years and would often visit Madkai for Ganesh Chaturthi or other festivals. However, his ties with the village are now frayed owing to certain issues with the village temple. When asked to describe Madkai then and now, he says that it has transformed completely: “It has become cosmopolitan; there are industries that pollute the air and atmosphere. The feeling of belongingness towards Madkai no longer exists among its inhabitants. The village was not very developed and the villagers had to struggle to earn for their survival in earlier days. Yet, people were firmly connected to the land.”
Kamat’s father was a farmer, and he has seen poverty in the village as a child. He recalls going to the forests in search of local vegetables like ‘tere’, ‘surnache dhanare’, when the seasonal harvest wasn’t sufficient for the family’s consumption.
Owning a house in the vicinity of the village temple, Kamat was always at a benefit. People would gather around the temple to interact, discuss, debate on topics and celebrate festivals. He thus developed his observation skills sitting outside his house and observing people, their expressions. Over time, he has learnt to decipher their behaviour and emotions through their actions and expressions. Many of these observations have found their way into his characters and dramas and novels.
Today, villages are no longer so, and are getting attached to cities. “After a few years, Goa will be the city itself, with no village in it, because every village is trying to connect to the city nearby. The specialty of village life is long gone,” says Kamat.
His second book ‘Ubo Tikhat’ is based on an incident in Kamat’s life that occurred soon after he got married. It is also built on the concept of the types of Brahmins in Goa and the mythically assumed qualities of each type.
Kamat started his writing career penning dramas only after his retirement in 2000. When he turned 60, his acquaintances gathered to celebrate his birthday and his friend writer Pundalik Naik then suggested that he write down his experiences and give his writing habit a boost. “I tried to write my experiences and it turned into a novel. It was completed by 2004 and released as ‘Gannaghai Niyatiche’,” he says.
Kamat has a huge list of books to his name including: one act plays, ‘Mhaji Bhuim Mhojo Mog’, ‘Ashokanki’, ‘Konn Konacho Nhi’; children literature ‘Suryaput Subhash’, dramas ‘Bandkhanichim’, ‘Devlam Jalim’, ‘Ek Saanj Amurpiki’; short stories ‘Ashokatha’, ‘Kallyo Pitcollichyo’; collection of poems ‘Jiveet Bimbam’, novels ‘Gannaghai Niyatiche’, ‘Juvareechin Painjanna’, ‘Aghatit’; autobiographical essays ‘Tee Jeen, Te Kheen’, ‘Jeen Challvallichi’.
As Kamat concludes, he says: “As of now I have gotten involved in research and want to write more of research-based books. However, I wish to also write a novel based on a love story since I never attempted it. I also have a funny and serious story in my own family that I feel is worth penning down.”
(‘Madkai: Dekhdinnee Samaj Vyavastha’ by Ashok Kamat will be released on September 6 at Sanskruti Bhavan, Panaji.)