The Konkani Short Story: Amplifying Unheard Voices

By Glenis M. Mendonca
short-listed for the jrlj best in non-fiction 2018

The short story is a favourite among Konkani readers due to its brevity, realistic setting, tension-filled well-knit plot and limited characters, familiar and inspiring. In this time-conscious world where lengthy fiction seems stretchy and listless, it is the short story which can be read over a single sitting. At times, there are sub-plots that may make the short story a bit longer. Hence in contemporary vernacular, the term katha or story, is used and not laghu katha or ‘short story’, as its length has become negotiable.

Konkani literature can boast of a treasure-chest of stories, handed down over generations in an oral tradition or a written form. However, most of them are available to the Konkani reader sans translation into English. Translation into English is available of select stories by specific noteworthy writers like Damodar Mauzo who has published three collections into English as books (These Are My Children, Teresa’s Man and other Stories and Mirage) or Jayanti Naik (The Salt of the Earth). The other stories are published in anthologies like Ferry Crossing and The Harvest (ed. Manohar Shetty) or noticed in stray books published by Katha, IMB — Goapuri, Sivasankari, Sahitya Akademi, Goa Today of the 1980s and ’90s, and the Navhind Times — the Panorama of the ’90s.

Many lie in the translator’s frozen PC folders, waiting for a good editor to approach them and suggest publication. The modern Konkani story begins with Shennoi Goembab (Vaman Varde Valaulikar), the pioneer of the Konkani literary Renaissance. Mhoji Ba Khoim Gueli (Where has my Ba Gone?), his first story was published in the magazine Novem Goem and was later included in the collection of the stories entitled Gomanto Upanishad (Vol. I 1928). This poignant story presents the pathos of the sixyear- old Babulo who has lost his mother and desperately seeks to eternally reunite with her through death. One can juxtapose the plight of Babulo with the Konkani society who were forcibly weaned from their native language by Portuguese colonisers and yearned for their mai-bhas (mother-tongue). This story thus becomes emblematic of the Konkani people and their predicament. It was translated by Rashmi Rathi and published in Goapuri, Oct–Dec 1999.


Read the full essay in our print anthology ‘The Brave New World of Goan Writing 2018.’ Buy the anthology here.

Glenis M. Mendonça is Assistant Professor at the English Department of Carmel College Goa. Her Phd. thesis is titled, ‘Konkani Fiction in English Translation: A Critical Study.’