Frederick Noronha explores the challenges in children’s literature in Goa and suggests ways for improvement.
In Taleigao, not far from the village-turned-suburb’s main square, you now run into an unusual new venture. Bookworm, the children’s library, has opened shop there. This small initiative, which has been running its many initiatives (from a library, to a mobile library and jumble-sales for fund raising) for the past half-dozen years, is tastefully set up.
Sujata, Elaine and their team have been working out of Santa Inez and Porvorim earlier. For a variety of reasons, they had to find a new home. But if some neighbours saw the enthusiasm and clutter of young kids as a nuisance, Goa needs to re-look closely at what it offers its children by way of intellectual stimulation, books and reading material.
Like any small region, Goa has very little on offer. Newspapers, even magazines (now) are available in number here. But reading material for children is few and far between.
You could count the number of writers for children on the fingers of one hand, or at best two. Books are few and hard to find. This is more so in English, despite it being a language widely used when it comes to reading here. Marathi can bring in books from Goa’s large neighbour; but that’s not the same thing.
In the case of Konkani, there are actually quite a few more books written for children.But most are not in the (not widely used though official) Devanagiri script. Since many were apparently produced with official support and funding, there is little push to promote the same. You might be surprised to find titles you never noticed before, sitting and waiting their time at the sales shelves of the Goa Konknni Akademi, for instance.
Bookworm itself came out with a couple of titles recently. Other authors like Anita Pinto and Dr Belinda Viegas have authored stories, strongly set in Goa itself in the first case. But this is just a drop in the ocean given the need to build a local imagination – that appreciates the peculiarity of Goa – in the minds of our young.
Besides the smallness of Goa, there are other issues waiting to be tackled here. Unlike Kerala or Maharastra, our State lacks an efficient library movement. For long, there have been no institutions or initiatives specially focused on children’s literature. Once a book is published, finding the right market for it is another challenge.
It’s time Goa looked beyond just subsidies as a means of promoting writing for children (or any kind of writing for that matter). What is needed is skill-building, institution building, and perhaps creating more shareable resources. Otherwise, we will be destined to having our minds colonised early, thinking that the centre of the world is london or New Delhi, and that the diversity of our regional stories matter for little.