By Dhruv Arora:
Teresa’s Man and other stories from Goa
Some books form a symbiotic relationship with the reader. One can’t be sure whether the book feeds off the reader, or the reader off the book. Sahitya Akademi awardee Damodar Mauzo’s latest collection of short stories, Teresa’s Man and other stories from Goa (masterfully translated from Konkani by Xavier Cota) may not be impossible to put down, but it would be dishonest to deny the cosy relationship it develops with the reader in the unforgettable journey through the stories.
What perhaps stands out the most about this volume of short stories is that nothing quite stands out. In fact, it is the raw nature of the text and the stories that draws you in. It wouldn’t be wise to depend on the first short (casually titled From the Mouths of the Babes) to set the tone for the rest of the book, as each story is very unique and leaves the reader feeling a different emotion at every conclusion. The best way to read the book would be to perhaps leave all expectations at bay and let the stories take you through the slew of emotions as intended by the author.
Averaging about 20 pages per story, the book is perfect for even the casual readers. Each short tells a very intimate story usually relating to only a handful of characters. In spite of being quite concise, each story manages to develop a strong relationship with the reader.
The title story (Teresa’s Man) starts with an almost unsuspecting and seemingly innocent relationship between a working Teresa, and Peter, her stay-at-home husband. The narration puts you inside Peter’s head as you slowly start to unravel both the relationship between the two, and the impact of the words of people around Peter. What starts off as an innocent and even somewhat romantic exchange between the two, soon starts to deconstruct into something much more convoluted than what it was to begin with. Teresa and Peter’s story culminates at a very unexpected place, and the relationship that the reader develops with Peter eventually concludes with an incident that leaves the reader feeling the weight of the choices he goes on to make.
The bite sized portions of smiles and sorrows encapsulated within these stories have the potential of surreptitiously becoming a part of the very routine captured so well in some of the stories. There’s always an argument for the meaning getting lost in translation, but one can’t help but feel grateful to Cota for making Mauzo’s work more accessible to non-Konkani readers.
For the avid readers, this read may be a quick stroll in the park, but this book can also be recommended to the casual readers looking for unsuspecting smiles and casual heartbreaks packaged in small and unintimidating bite-sized portions, or those lost in the everyday grind looking to carve their way back to reading.
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