Are we doing enough to promote the reading habit?

Citing figures of books published in Goa,
and additions to the Central Library,
FREDERICK NORONHA suggests more needs to
be done for making Goa a region that
recognises the value of the book.

THE PRINTED WORD

At a price of Rs 200, the Central Library was kind enough to dig-up for me a list of books published in Goa between 2000 and 2007. They did so when requested under the Right to Information Act, thus saving saved me the bother of locating the scattered official gazettes in which these lists are annually published.

At the library by you.

Central Library: Rare books section

So, to cite some figures:

In the calendar year 2006, some 74 books were published in English, 97 in Devanagari-script Konkani, eight in Roman-script Konkani, 50 in Marathi, two in Portuguese, and nine in Hindi.

Needless to say, one is not delving into the language or script controversies here.

Firstly, because the break-up can be misleading. English’s number gets buouyed up by a suprising number of ‘guides’ for school students. Devanagari has the support of the State machinery and funding, as does Marathi.

Apart from that, we probably need to value a book in whatever language and script it makes its appearance, even if the call for non-discrimination is a well-founded one.

In addition, the Central Library also me offered numbers of their members. In reply to an RTI query, of course. Between April 2000 and now, the circulating section membership fluctuated between a low of 597 (2006-07) and a high of 1022 (2005-06). Children members ranged from 11 to 29.

Maybe one is reading this wrong, but for an institution with such a history, perhaps the Central Library deserves more members.

Added in the reply was a comment: “There is no decline, instead daily visitors have increased manifold due to the assignments/projects and other research works taken up by the students/researchers in their academic studies, besides regular research scholars/eminent writers.”

Okay, no comment.

In the seven-year period, Goa’s main library had cummulatively bought 19,048 books for its circulating section and 2,805 for its reference section. In addition, it also got 426 plus 2885 books for its Rare Books and Goa Books Section and under the Delivery of Books Act.

Pages from the past by you.

Pages from the past

The Central Library has 14 computers, out of which three are for public use. Some 81,016 records are available in a computerised format. So the question before us all: is Goa doing enough to build the reading culture?

FOOD, LUSITANIAN

coverbacalhau by you.

While rummaging through a second-hand bookshelf in an Arpora supermarket on the weekend, I ran into this unusual book. It’s called ‘Bacalhau: Traditionally Portuguese’.

It’s a 28-page book, and price or publisher details are not mentioned. Neither is the price. Briefly, at the start of the book, it’s mentioned that this was “presented” by Leonoras Restaurants (Pvt) Ltd of Verna.

The book is dedicated to Anastasia Leonora Mendes “who has painstakingly compiled these recipes”.

The book(let) explains that its publication came about “in an endeavour to preserve this Portuguese legacy”. It is a collection of traditional bacalhau dishes and soups “that will tempt your palate”.

Bacalhau, as the Wikipedia explains, means codfish in Portuguese. But the word almost always refers to salt cod and the dishes made from it, as fresh cod is rarely consumed in Portugal.

There are ten bacalhau recipes here, and eight more for soups (shrimp and mussel, cockle, fish and salted cod done in the variants of Minho, Alentejo and the Algarve).

A little more by way of background (thanks, again, Wikipedia): Bacalhau dishes are common in Portugal and to a lesser extent in its former colonies like Angola, Macau and Brazil. It is considered a delicacy and is also eaten on special occasions like Christmas Eve and Holy Week, especially on Good Friday.

A related dish made from it is bolinhos de bacalhau (Brazil) or pastéis de bacalhau (Portugal). These deep-fried balls contain less expensive parts of the clipfish mixed together with potatoes, eggs and parsley, in the same vein as fishcakes.

As we overcome our colonial hangover, it might make sense to appreciate the value of even something as Portuguese as bacalhau. Maybe that could add to our own already-rich food diversity.

Leonora’s, set-up by expat Jerome Mendes, deserves a word of acknowledgement too for going beyond just trying to be a commercial establishment. Its attempts to promote Konkani film too are well known. Maybe Goa needs, or deserves, more enlightened business ventures like these.

What struck me though was my own ignorance about this book’s existance. One’s chance run-in into it, at a second-hand shelf, only underlined how little we all know about books published in Goa itself!

BUTTERFLIES, A GUIDE

Parag Ragnekar is a young wildlife enthusiast, whom most in the green circuit would know well. He has been working with the Mineral Foundation of Goa.

I came across Parag’s “A Photographic Guide to (the) Butterflies of Goa” (Broadway, Panjim; Rs 150, 2007, 66pp) book a little while ago. This is a well-produced, easy read for anyone interested in the subject.

It’s printed on good quality paper, and sticks to its promise of being a “photographic guide”, being very well illustrated. Parag’s interests include photo-documenting the lesser-known fauna of the Western Ghats.

coverbutterflies by you.

Books like these do add value to our own understanding of Goa. What is most gratifying is to see a new generation of wildlife enthusiasts or green campaigners spring out seemingly of nowhere. With politicians and real-estate lobbies so keen to go on a rampage in this eco hotspot, we will need every such person Goa can harness.

Incidentally, Goa’s history with environmental campaigns goes back to the mid-seventies. So when campaigners of another generation lament that they are tired and under-recognised, they probably fail to recognise that the seed of concern they (and others, including TV programmes) planted might just be taking root.

What’s also unusual is that a book such as this — dealing with the fauna — is funded and published by the Mineral Foundation of Goa. Have campaign issues got mainstreamised? Whatever the case, the Foundation has much more to do, if its concern is to be accepted at face value, and such efforts are not to be seen as mere greenwash.

KONKANI ADAGES

‘Vozram’ is a just-released book by Isidore Dantas, and illustrated by GT cartoonist Alexyz R Fernandes, which describes itself as “a treasure trove of Konkani adages with English interpretations”.

Mumbai/Pune-based Dantas has, since some time now, been very helpful in volunteering to translate English texts into Konkani, and to build that language’s presence in cyberspace.

Those who know both langauges fluently vouch for his abilities there. This book (154 pp, Queeny Productions and Publications, Velsao-Pale, Rs 100) is a good compiliation of Konkani sayings.

It acknowledges having dependent on two earlier books of a similar kind — Fr Antonio Pereira SJ’s ‘Konknni Oparichem Bhanddar’ and Kamala Gajanan Wagh’s ‘Ajichea Supatli Moti’.

covervozram by you.

Translations are a tricky job. While Dantas has done a great job in collating the sayings, the English rendering does sometimes give the impression of falling in between a literal translation, and one which gives an adequate understanding of the context.

Nonetheless, this is a useful book. One wishes it were widely available and more visible on the newsstands. Dantas is one more of those expats thinking of their Goa, even while sitting far from home.

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About fredericknoronha

Alt.Publishing. Journalism. Books. Cyberspace. Networking.

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