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The wait is over

After a gap of six years, Goan author Damodar Mauzo is all set to release his new book ‘Tishttavnni’, a compilation of 10 stories. The book releases online on July 31. NT BUZZ chats with the writer

DANUSKA DA GAMA | NT BUZZ

At 76, senior author and litterateur Damodar Mauzo says that he can now read the writing on the wall –that time is running out. And in an attempt to catch up with this lost time, Mauzo has been hard at work on his writing. In fact, the recent lockdowns were a blessing in disguise for him, giving him added time to focus on writing. And now ‘Bhai’ Mauzo is all set to release his new book online, and reveals that there will be more books soon.

Q. This is the first time that your book will be launched online. Your thoughts on this.

We have to accept that the COVID situation has come to stay for a while. A book release can’t wait indefinitely to see the end of the physical distancing clause. So we have to seek a way out. And my publisher, Dinesh Manerkar of Sanjana Publications thought that the best solution would be a virtual book event. A launch online is an inventive way to connect with readers from far and near. I am eager to see the result. This will be a wonderful lesson to learn ahead of time, I think. As for the organisers, the event can be to their advantage. It is less expensive, less time consuming, and with a bigger outreach. You skip wine and snacks or tea party; no elaborate speeches; no bouquets of flowers. Just the launch – a story of the book, a critiquing, a book-reading, and a short interview of the author by a fellow writer. Viewers too, get a chance to message their questions and comments. This online book release can be more exciting than the physical launches. I will not be surprised if virtual book launches become post pandemic’s new normal.

Q. How did you choose the name for the book and what does it mean?

I often find giving a suitable title to a narrative more challenging than writing the story. It has to be appropriate enough to arouse interest of the readers and at the same time sustain the curiosity without giving away the content. Most of the times, I have preferred to give the book a title of one of the stories that goes well with the collection. ‘Tishttavnni’ is the title story. In Konkani when you make someone wait too long you call it ‘Tishttavop’. ‘Tishttavnni’ means ‘a long wait’. When my last collection of stories, ‘Sapanmogi’, was launched in 2014, I had promised that the next one would be ready soon. But it took six long years to see the light of this day. In a way, ‘Tishttavnni’ is my apology to the readers for the long wait.

Q. The book contains 10 stories written between 2014 and 2020. Tell us more about these.

The stories in this collection are not written with any theme in particular. They all deal with different issues. The mix has covered various topics like how two adolescent girls’ cheerful friendship leads to anxiety after the Hindu girl eats beef (‘Burger’); a spineless man flaunting ‘why-should-I-bother’ attitude (‘Mhaka Kityak Podlam’), or a doctor’s dilemma when he gets an invite from his colleague’s wife to spend the night (‘Night Call’). ‘Jhel Vitolltana’ (As Ice Melts) is a story of a stubborn army colonel in the background of the Kargil War, while ‘Yasin, Yatin, Austin’, though the title sounds like ‘Amar-Akbar-Anthony’, is strikingly different. The story tells how an overambitious cabbie unintentionally manipulates his skills to cash on the religious sentiments of the tourists. The reader will also find surrealism in some stories like ‘Gentleman Chor’ (Gentleman Thief) or existentialism in stories like ‘Mhaka Kityak Podlam’.

Q. What is that you want to say through these 10 stories?

The stories are of human relationship. They aren’t preachy nor do they lecture morality. Though I cherish my ideology and value my beliefs, I do not believe in inflicting them on my readers. The stories do not speak loud but will certainly convey a message. For example, ‘Fuddlo Balkrishna’ (The Next Balkrishna) is a story that silently comments on how people’s esteem for fair skin is hollow. Or, in ‘Sundarkayecho Upasok To’ (He is an Admirer of Aesthetics) the protagonist is exposed for his fake beliefs.

Q. The cover of your book looks pretty trendy in its different scripts. Tell us about it.

Thank you for calling it trendy. Seeya Pandit is an accomplished artist. Though the concept is mine, she has done justice to it by executing it perfectly well. Konkani is, rather was, written in five different scripts – Kannada, Nagari, Roman, Malayalam, and Perso-Arabic. Though I write in the Devanagari script, I value the writings in other scripts as well. To demonstrate my respect for these scripts, which have safeguarded the language through the challenging times, I suggested this design to the artist.

Q. How did you choose these stories? Were there more?

It wasn’t difficult, simply because I have included all the stories written during the last six years. Of course, I have completed three other books in the meantime. A book of an overview of Konkani language and literature, that took one and a half year, was published last year. A book of feminist stories in translation, and a compilation of the socio-political essays written originally in English also got published. But the present one is my contribution to the genre of story, written during the last six years. You will realise that I am not a prolific writer. I have written only ten stories over six years. That is because I wait for the stories to come to me. And stories do come. But if I don’t pen them immediately, because of my other commitments, they turn away and do not show up again for a long time until I am in the mood and coax them to return. This is how I have written quite a few stories that had eluded me, during the lockdown.

Q. Can you share your inspiration for some stories?

Let me tell you about the story ‘Jhel Vitolltana’. I was attending a seminar in Shimla at the Indian Institute of Advanced Study. Over dinner, two participating writers who had served the Indian army as commanding officers were discussing the dispassionate manner in which the army intimates the death of soldiers at war to their families. One of them recounted his account when he had tried to convince his boss to change the ways. That was the genesis for my story. The role of politicians and laymen in lynching episodes that have happened in India gave birth to ‘Mhaka Kityak Podlam’. The beef eating narrative was written even before the ban on beef in some states. ‘Burger’ is a story of two schoolmates and how the book-reading habit leads to a Catholic girl and a Hindu girl developing thick friendship. This is the life I grew up breathing. Now when I see the discord between the two communities widening I felt like writing about it. And the story ‘Gentleman Chor’ was inspired by an incident that was related to me by the daughter of my poet-lyricist friend, late Shridhar Kamat. Following Shridhar’s death, I was on a condolence visit to his house where during an intimate chat with his family, Ashwini (the daughter) narrated to me how a thief was caught red-handed in their neighborhood and how Shridhar called him to his house and offered tea to him over a pep talk. When the thief left his house, Shridhar called him a ‘boro chor’. These are a few stories behind the stories. To tell you the truth, every story has a story to it. I think every writer should chronicle it.

Q. Can we expect more from you soon?

I have completed a novel for the millennial readers. Two more books are on the way to the press. And if everything goes well, three more books may get published in the next few months.

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