Goa! Just the sound of that name conjures up visions of the sun, the sand and the sea. The well-known Mario’s cartoons have added to the spice and lure of the place. Some of us have been drawn to the old churches which still retain an atmosphere of piety and worship. But through it all we remain spectators and tourists, some more engaged than others but still of a transient nature. So it was with a special feeling of delight that I read and looked through the pages of this very home-grown story of a dog, a girl and St. Francis. “Once upon a feast” is written by Mia Marie Lourenço and illustrated by Fatema Barot Mota.
The tale is about an approaching feast and the close participation in it of all the people who worship or work there. Among them is a lively and well-loved dog called Brownie. I start with him because nicely enough, the story begins with a long-drawn-out “Owoooooo” from him! Aquina, the little girl who seems to have a close relationship with the dog appears next in the story. Caetan, the scruffy-looking sacristan of the church makes his appearance as the third important member of this trio. So there you have the main protagonists! The story sails along from there and lands at a safe harbor with no awkward edges. So what is special about this book?
Come forth- LOOK, and you shall find! The author is but a slip of a girl of 13 who shows tremendous promise and has held this story together with great maturity. The artist is a gift to Goa who has illuminated the story with simple yet evocative images. As you reach the middle of the story, you enter the church and look around you at all the sights…images, architecture, people and finally the altar. This is the center-fold! The publishers, Bookworm, have kept their banner flying with fine paper quality and comfortable fonts.
What of the hero, St. Francis? He seems to be a silent but sympathetic observer of the antics of Brownie, Aquina and Caetan. Perhaps he has a hand in bringing about the end? Read and decide for yourself.
Thank you, Bookworm, for giving us an insider’s look at Goa.
Usha Mukunda December 5th 2012.