“Burger”, our first Konkani story Read Aloud at Bookworm. A very private in-house reading session guided by Siddhi and Padma, Don Bosco College of Social Work interns. Unbeknownst to them, they are playing a wonderful role in immersing us with Konkani. As both of them sit together to figure out a session plan or read a book that will be used in the classroom or have their lunch, the lyrical quality of their conversations ask of us a quieter more gentler speech and I have been waiting for the right text so that Siddhi and Padma can help me explore Konkani in it’s written form.
I found it in Jaag, July, 2015. The most unlikely place for a neo reader like myself. Jaag is apparently known for a Standard of Konkani that may be far removed from the ‘jungli’ variety of our Bookworm team’s speech. But this was a story by Bhai Mauzo. I have read him translated into English, felt the warmth of his hand and smiled in return to the crinkle in his eyes and so I felt it was fitting that we begin our Konkani read- aloud with Bhai.
We made copies of the stories and sat in a circle and realised how different language sounds when read fluently and with expression by Siddhi and haltingly and poorly by the rest of us. But what we realised very early on is the hardest words were the English words in devanagari. This is fascinating. Does ‘a’ language center in our brains not allow us to see the ” Oliver Twist” and “Three Muskeeters”. We struggled along with Siddhi on words like abridged, interval, percentage, concentrate,math, daddy, castle – stories, breakfast. sarcastic and more. It was wondrous the way our minds suddenly began to grasp that there was a lexicon common to 2 languages and then Niju, suddenly said ‘ pat’ does it mean sin, it is the same as in ‘patakam’ in Malyalam and so is ‘bejar’ and so is ‘kumsaar’ and we paused to understand how some very Christian words are part of communities that experienced early Christianity and included word symbols into the local language.
Only Damodar Mauzo, could make us feel deep empathy for Irene as she worried about polluting Sharmila with a beef burger. We were so anxious about how this friendship would end and when we got there, we realised what a craftsman Bhai Mauzo is, at this short story form. Irene’s daddy has such a lovely sense of humour, her mother is a more cautious kind, Sharmila’s father is a reader and the village priest is wise and non-judgemental. A story book community with shades of the real for all of us.
But, what stayed with us even more, is how well the references to good books are inserted into the story. Both these girls are ‘good students’ and we are informed that their friendship is strengthened by good books and on reading they are both doing better in their 9th Standard exams. Simplistic maybe, but based on good evidence that reading is learning and the gains accrue.
We felt very proud that we stayed with the story, understanding the nuances that come from good language and even prouder when both native speakers Padma and Siddhi said this is the first long-ish story in Konkani they have read in a long time !