Goa has always been about the gorgeous beaches and picturesque churches, reminding you of the cool walks on the sand or the party hopping spot that all of India has made it to be. But no one tells you about the slight taste of salt in the air, or the how the sandy grains stick to your trousers when you walk on the beaches or how the faint smell of fried prawn follows you around with the aroma of lemon rice hanging in the air.
This is what Damodar Mauzo’s Teresa’s Man and other stories from Goa does to you. It gives you the flavour of Goa, the culture and the local stories. This book brings soul in the popular perception of Goa and how.
The collection of short stories, 14 stories to be exact are narrations of the small things in life that one often misses. The book is about ordinary people, people that each of us recognise in some form or the other. The emotions too are those universal feelings that everyone has felt at sometime or the other, love, hunger, lust, grief, remorse, sickness and much more. What is beautiful about Mauzo’s tale is that the emotions are raw and at their simplest. One can only imagine how they may have been expressed in Mauzo’s Konkani, though Xavier Cota’s translation is flawless most of the time.
One of my favourite stories from the book is Electoral Empowerment, the story of a wife tired of being treated terribly by her husband finds the only way to revolt- by voting for someone he doesn’t support! What I loved about the book apart from all else mentioned before is how women in the books are so strong and powerful. Be it revolting quietly in Electoral Empowerment or openly expressing their inner most desires like in From the Babes Mouth or when they are being discreetly deceptive as in A Writer’s Tale.
The book has stories collected over time, for more than four decades, so one may be a little surprised when the book talks of ‘a four anna tot of feni’, or mentions of kerosene lamps, no electricity or no mobile phones. And this gives a certain old world charm to these beautiful crafted tales.
Touching accounts of death and sickness, or struggle, failure and success makes Teresa’s Man and other stories from Goa a special book. For instance, the story Teresa’s man is a tale of a love story gone wrong. A couple deeply in love slowly falls off due to their lifestyle choices, how a man’s insecurities leads him to hate the same woman he had once loved.
The stories touch human relationships. Between a husband and wife, a mother and a child, between friends and between families. One of the beautiful stories in the book is For Death Does Not Come about a snake’s struggle for survival when she has lost all her family and her hope.
Another is Coinsav’s Cattle, the story of a poor woman’s love for her cattle, how she fights to not sell them, but once she has made up her mind, the cattle return. And how her love suddenly evaporates when she realises her that family will starve now that the cattle are back! Mauzo’s subjects and protagonists surprise you sometime with the sheer complexity of simple emotions.
Thus, Mauzo’s stories and Cota’s translation bring to you a healthy dose of emotions , much like the chicken soup for the soul except that the soup has an exquisite Goan flavour to it!