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Book Talk
Booktalk on Karmelin with author Damodar Mauzo
August 23, 2012
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Report by booktalker, Norma Pereira

Before we knew it, the 20th of August rolled around for the third edition of booktalk – this time to discuss the delightful and eponymously named book – Karmelin. This month  we were privileged to have with us the book’s equally delightful award winning  author – Damodar Mauzo, who regaled us with his wealth of reminisces and floored us with his simplicity and humility.

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In the cozy room at the top of the stairs at Bookworm, 10-12 of us sat entranced as Mr Mauzo shared with us his background, his childhood memories and his tales behind the genesis of ‘Karmelin’. With twinkling eyes and memories that seemed as fresh as if they happened yesterday, he told us how he was able to get  the wealth of details and  the fine nuances that went into  fleshing out the life of an essentially  catholic female character like Karmelin. This is these tiny details that make the book so readable, and so warm and so close to the heart of what defines us as a people..

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We wanted to know what made him write about such an ‘ordinary’ character – a Goan ayah, a ‘kuwaitkaan’ , whom one would not normally find in the pages of a book. And like all true writers Mr. Mauzo simply replied that he was writing about a time and place and people he knew best – he has played, studied, walked , and eaten in kitchens and homes like the one’s depicted in his book. He drew on childhood memories, his own teachers, and experiences of life in a village  to give us not only an entertaining and thoughtful read but also provides us with  snapshots of a culture, a documentary as it were of the life and times of a rural Goa not quite recovered from a colonial past.

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The big inevitable question was broached – does something get ‘lost in translation’? Can ethos, nuance , syntax etc. be effectively communicated in a different tongue? Turns out surprisingly that it can – the book has been translated into 15 languages – not all of them Indian. The book’s national and international acclaim, says a lot for the universality of it’s story.. Themes of exploitation, vulnerability, a mother’s fierce love, survival and grit are all ones we can relate to.

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Tea and bhajiyas long gone , we could have gone on and on discussing this touching book, all the more to be treasured by Goans of being the output of an honest, organic, home grown writer who writes from the heart about Goa and what makes us special.

Our next book is The Good Muslim by Tahmima Anam published by Penguin. The book is available at Flipkart. We are meeting on 21st September, Friday 6pm to booktalk Smile

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