Renowned writer and recipient of this year’s 57th Jnanpith Award, Damodar Mauzo, opines that he could attain this height in his literary work mainly due to his translators. He suggested that regional language writers should keep an eye out for the translators of their choice as this helps literature reach different corners of the world.
Mauzo was speaking at his felicitation function, for having been bestowed with the prestigious Jnanpith Award for the year 2022, at Ravindra Bhavan, Margao, recently. He said that when we boast of being multi-lingual, there should be an emphasis on translation. He even mentioned his translators in English—Xavier Cotta, Vidya Pai and Hindi translator Ramita Gurav, as the new Hindi translation of his book, Swapna Premi has been published recently.
Speaking about his reaction when he received the news that he has received the award on December 7, 2021, he said that it was a pleasant shock for him and he didn’t believe it for some time. Then, in order to confirm the news, he tuned in to the news channel, where he came across the unfortunate news of civilians getting killed mistakenly in Nagaland. He expressed that at on one hand, he saw tears of happiness in Shaila’s (his wife) eyes, and on other hand, on the television, he saw people mourning the tremendous loss.
“What a paradox it was. I think such contradictions, which we experience in life, in a way, inspires a writer to write,” he said.
He said that, now, due to this recognition he has been to at least seven states, and has attended a dozen event. And, due to this, he could not write anything in the past 4 months. Thus, pointing at another paradox. He said that he likes to be surrounded by people, and he still needs to write more and better.
Mauzo also spoke about freedom of expression, which is of utmost importance to a writer. He stated, “Writers should not be the cheerleaders of the current dispensation. If that happens, it is a sad and a fearful thing. We have to fear the fear itself.”
Mauzo also suggested that one, especially young writers, must keep on reading as it is very important to hone one’s craft.
Speaking about Mauzo’s writing, the Chief guest of the event, senior journalist and director of The Hindu Publishing Group, N Ram, said that when he came across Mauzo’s writing, he was struck with his profound ideas.
He also liked to describe Mauzo as a writer, who is a fighter rather than an activist. He opined that writers are just writers, who fight many battles through their writings and otherwise. N Ram also shared the opinion of Mauzo which he expressed in his book, Ink of Dissent, that modern Indian literature has stood by the less privileged people in India.
N Ram also spoke at length about press freedom, and how it has become difficult for news organisations to present the voice of dissent. He also expressed that now many young writers are self-censoring themselves due to online trolling and cancel culture.
Senior Writer and advocate, Uday Bhembre, who was one of the speakers at the event, said that this award is the success of Konkani language and literature. Speaking about the journey of Konkani literature, he said that the language went through lot of hardships, but it doesn’t lag behind now. He gave a historical context stating that Konkani could be traced to the 16th century, but then, it abruptly stopped when conversion started in India. It was due to the decree issued by the Portuguese to replace Konkani with Portuguese. But they could not succeed in it, and Konkani survived. There was a gap of 200 years when there was nothing written in Konkani, but, it was revived in the last decades of the 19th century.
He mentioned that our ancestors faced a lot of opposition and obstacles, but they worked hard to promote the language. They suggested that his generation work fast to achieve more, so as to make up for lost time, by producing a wealth of Konkani literature. He said it was due to this far-sightedness of the elders that Konkani had come so far.
He also opined that compared to Konkani speakers, the amount of literature that’s coming out is quite substantial. He said that there were around 40 lakh Konkani speakers in the country, and there were around 500 to 600 Konkani writers right from Mumbai to Kochi, and around 300 new Konkani books were published every year.
In his concluding remarks, he said that Mauzo getting this award and recognition, gives a boost to the self-confidence of writers and plays an important role in promotion of the Konkani language.
Director of Higher Education, Prasad Lolienkar, in his address, said that this award is the honour of the Konkani language movement, and also of Konkani literature. He also said that a good writer, along with creativity, should also have integrity, which Mauzo has.
He said that even though Mauzo was a businessman by profession, his DNA was not that of a businessman as he doesn’t write what the readers need, and thus, in the process, improves the aptitude of his readers. He said that such recognition is important to take the Konkani language and movement forward.
Writer and the president of the Konkani Bhasha Mandal, Anwesha Singbal, in her address, stated how Mauzo inspired a generation of young Konkani writers and continues to do so. She said that he taught patience, to express fearlessly, to put forth one’s opinion clearly, but with all humility and also integrity.
Writer and translator, Jose Lourenco, in his address, spoke about Mauzo’s journey, how he managed to take Konkani beyond the coastal areas, and took it to the world and also brought so many writers to Goan shores by being part of various literary events in Goa.