Writing, for children…
Anita Pinto’s ‘Tales from Golden Goa’ was something I first came across when my now-teenage daughter Riza needed some reading material. Rather, material to-be-read-to. The fascination with which she lapped up the Goa-based stories was really heart-warming.Our own generation grew up with a scarcity of books for children. We would badger mum to pick up the few available at Varsha’s, the bookstall in Panjim then run by the father of Waman and Santosh Bhate who currently tend to it. There was another near the Shakuntala fountain in Mapusa, that mostly disappointed us and said no new books had come in from Orient Longman (or the handful of other national publishers).
There was a greater chance to come across an Enid Blyton, or a Beano or Bunty comic from the UK, or even an Africa-oriented Lance Spearman (aka The Spear) comic.
Now things have changed. A little. Aren, the second child, enjoyed Anita’s writing as much. The writer is releasing her second book of specifically Goa-focussed short stories for children this weekend (Oct 22, Saturday) at 5 pm at the Kala Academy. While looking at that subject, one was wondering how many options children looking for local reading material actually have. Functions like these could be an excuse for taking stock and building links among those focussed on the important job of writing for children.
A quick (and incomplete) rummage through my book collection tells me that a few but determined set of individuals have been writing for children in Goa. Perhaps they do so even if there the channels for distributing more such writing is yet to be effectively built.
For instance there’s Anne de Braganca Cunha (Goan Whoopee, Goan Tales for Children, 1999 and The Greedy Monkey, Mosaic Books, New Delhi); Surekha Panandikar (The Bridge at Borim, National Book Trust, 1999), Odette Mascarenhas (the Alfie Alphonso series), the late Olivinho Gomes (Konkani Folk Tales, NBT, 2007) and ex-Tanzanite (if not mistaken) Dr Susheela S Fonseca (Touched by Love, a novel for youth, 2005).
There have been magazines too, like the Prashanti Talpankar-edited one in Konkani (Rajhauns ani Bhurghim) and the children’s section in BIMB, ‘The Bookworm’ magazine from the children’s-library-and-more initiative of the same name, another by Rinald D’Souza, now a Jesuit priest, and musician-ad guru Alex Braganza’s own mag for youth. I’ve not seen copies of these lately, except for The Bookworm but could be simply out of touch.
On posting a query to Twitter, I got a couple of crucial reminders: Merril Diniz @MerrilD pointed to (my long-time friend) Mario Coelho of Ponda, while Prof Ramrao Wagh @ramraowagh pointed to another old friend, Rajashree Bandodkar-Karapurkar who, as he rightly noted, writes for children and her focus is on popular science.
Last weekend, I ran into Vishnu Wagh, the prominent writer active in the Marathi-Konkani space, theatre and other fields. Among the names he mentioned were Gajanan Jog of Taleigao, Kumud Naik okf the Goa Konkani Akademi, Rajini Bhembre of Curchorem, Milan Talaulikar of Tonca, Prof Prakash Parienkar, Dilip Borkar’s Bimb journal, sections within the Sunaparant and Marathi Gomantak Hello magazine, and Chandrakant Rama Gawas of Keri-Sattari.
There are others too, who while they don’t write exclusive for children, do have some of their writing which could be suitable to young people. For instance, Vinayak Sadashiv Sukhthanker (see his Tales & Tellers of Goa, 1974), Rahul Alvares’ adventures with snakes and his adventures during a sabbatical year after school (‘Free From School’, 1999), Luis S R Vas (Modern Goan Short Stories, 1971). Eulalia Alvares is from Mangalore, whose grand-neice, if I do not get it wrong, bears the same name and similar interests and is based at Margao.
While all this might sound like a long list, the point is (i) writing for children in Goa is still hard to come by (ii) it is written in different languages and scripts, with few translations among these, only dividing the small local market further (iii) some initiatives and writers have stopped or ceased (iv) there isn’t much happening on a consistent basis.
One hopes more could be done to promote this field, badly needed to stimulate the imagination of our kids.
The writer can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org or 2409490 or 9822122436. First published in The Gomantak Times, Goa.