Wednesday, 13 April 2011

DESTINY’S BOOK


On 19th July 2008, Noxibant Nirmilelem, a book of 8 Konknni short stories in Romi script penned by late Camilo Menezes was released. Incidentally, the book was released during the X presentation ceremony of Late Camilo de Menezes Achievement Awards, a function which my family has been organizing every year to felicitate the SSC toppers from Quepem taluka. Most of us in the Menezes kuttumb never knew that there was another writer in our family and all that some of the elders knew was that he had written and staged a couple of tiatrs in Kepem when he was young, two specially, Favona Tem Mevonam and Mhozo Oprad being quite a hit during those days before the Liberation of Goa. The discovery of his lost writings, some fifty years after they were first written, is a fascinating story in itself!

In February this year, Walter Menezes, my father released his second book, Zoit ani her kovita under the Sahitya Prabha assistance scheme of the Goa Konknni Akademi. He had gone to submit 50 copies of his book to the Akademi and it is here that my father briefly met Brazinho Soares, a senior Konknni writer from Santa Cruz. During this chance meeting, Brazinho casually enquired whether Camilo was my father's father. My father replied in negative. “Camilo is not my father, but my eldest brother,” he said.  

Brazinho confided in my father that Camilo used to write a lot some 50 years ago on a Portuguese-Konknni weekly newspaper called 'A Vanguarda’ and that he (Brazinho) used to look forward to his writings, especially the stories which were serialized. That evening my father came home and excitedly relayed the news to us. On earlier occasions, I had gone to the reference section of Central Library in Panaji and I immediately volunteered to find my titiv’s lost literature. If I had to find the writings there was no better place to start than the Central Library!

After finishing my HSSC examinations, I went to the Central Library where the staff gave me four yellowed volumes of A Vanguarda, all neatly bound. The volumes were taking me back in time, to a period before the Liberation of Goa, as I leafed through the pages of the weekly newspaper. Till noon I found nothing.

After lunch when I sat down to search again, I found Camilo’s first published work on A Vanguarda. “Yes!” I cried in sheer exhilaration. Luckily there was no one around, so it saved me a few blushes! As I ploughed further, I began to find more and more. I was astounded by his written output. One of his stories, Noxibant Nirmilelem, was serialized in eight instalments!

I captured all his articles, poems and stories on my digital camera. At the end of the day I came home with eighty odd photographs of the pages which I then downloaded on my computer. I used almost a month of my summer holidays to carefully go through the ‘printed pages’ as I ‘zoomed’ in and out of the computer screen to write by hand Camilo’s literary output on old diaries and then type the same again in MS word!

A difficulty cropped up when my father went through the manuscript and realized that on account of a torn page of A Vanguarda one story was incomplete. Luckily for us, I could find the ‘missing part’ at Thomas Stephens Konknni Kendr, Porvorim whose library also had a collection of the same weekly newspaper.

Fifty years ago, Prabhakar Tendulkar was the editor of the Konknni section of A Vanguarda. Once my father decided to put Camilo’s short stories in book form, there were no two opinions about who should write the preface of the book. Tendulkar-bab still remembered Camilo’s writings when we went to meet him with a print-out of the manuscript in Mapusa, although the two of them had never met in person. In his preface, Tendulkar-bab regrets that Camilo did not continue writing and that had he done so, “to Konknnintlo ek fankivont borovpi zatolo aslo”.

So on 19th July 2008 when Prabhakar Tendulkar released the book in the distinguished presence of Dr. Francisco Colaco, Smt Tereza Travasso, Chairperson of Quepem Municipal Council and others, it was like a dream come true. The same editor who, fifty years ago, looked after the Konknni section of A Vanguarda was now releasing a book of short stories which he had once published in his weekly newspaper. Camilo may have died ten years ago but he must have surely smiled from heavens above at the turn of events taking place on his 70th birth anniversary!   


It is not always that some lost writer is found again. Or that his book is published ten years after his death. I feel privileged that I was a part of that journey and discovery. Looking back, all I can say is this: hem amchea 'NOXIBANT-uch NIRMILELEM'.

(A Version of this article appeared on Gomantak Times, dt: August 28, 2008) 

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