Augusto Pinto

One of the priceless moments I had during the judging of the
Fundacão Oriente Short Story Competition 2015-16 came during
the meeting of the competition jury to decide the final
results. Jury member, the children's writer Anita Pinto, in a
dramatic whisper declared: "You know what people are saying:
'the results of all these competitions are fixed!'"

The rest of us were quite taken aback and jury members --
Herald executive editor and former competition winner
Alexandre Moniz Barbosa; and Sahitya Akademi award winner
Meena Kakodkar; and Marathi short story writer and dramatist
Narayan Mahale and I -- all hastened to reassure Anita that
nothing of the sort would happen!

On reflection I felt there was something to the metaphor of
'fixing' the competition that I found quite appealing. Not of
course the negative connotation of 'to fix' -- which implies
something dishonest being done to influence the results of a
competition as nowadays all sports competitions from World
Cup cricket to ISL football are accused of doing. Rather the
very positive side to the word 'fix' -- to repair; to mend
something -- in order that it improves, becomes better...

Fixing the FOSSC Competition

I would like to say for the jury of FOSSC 15-16 that it was
very intensely involved in “fixing” this already undoubtedly
excellent competition from the very start. This was done in
many little ways -- from publicizing the competition well; to
promoting the short story writing workshop ably conducted by
Dr Isabel Santa Rita Vas; to preparing judging protocols.
However I'm going to focus on just two measures we took:
making the competition more attractive and streamlining the
judging process.

The single most important thing that the Jury did to make
FOSSC more attractive was to offer more prizes to the
contestants. This competition has attracted between 60 and a
100 odd competitors in past editions and we felt that these
writers deserved to have more prizes. We saw that our desire
attained concrete shape by putting our hands into our own
purses. Jury member Anita Pinto donated Rs 10,000 for a 4th
prize in memory of her mother Nur Coelho (who incidentally
was also a writer); to encourage Konkani writers Meena
Kakodkar donated Rs 5000 as a consolation prize for a Konkani
story that didn't appear in the main prize list, in the name
of her mother Hirabai Gaitonde; Marathi was getting left out
and I wasn't too sure if any of my relatives dead or alive
would like to be associated with giving a prize for Marathi,
but I said 'zhalach pahije' and announced a prize of Rs 5000
in my own name....

            The second way we tried to fix the competition
            was where it came to judging. Judging a short
            story competition in four different languages is
            a bit complicated as you may agree. Imagine a
            fruit competition where you have to judge the
            best fruit from among cashews, chikoos, mangoes
            and coconuts. But there at least every judge has
            a sense of taste that will dictate his or her
            choice of the best fruit. With languages it can
            be more complicated: what happens when someone
            didn't understand Marathi or Portuguese or could
            not read Devanagari script?

My casual search of the Internet made me discover that the
Fundacão Oriente short story competitions is perhaps unique.
In literature, at the international level the Nobel prize and
the Saraswati Samman at the national level are competitions
where works across different languages are compared, but the
procedures they adopt couldn't be easily used by us.

The main analogy I found was among competitions at film
festivals. But there the films are subtitled in English and
anyway much of the narration is visual. At the few literary
competitions across languages, a translation of the work must
be sent. Could we adapt this procedure here? But how could we
translate so many entries and into how many languages could
we do that?

The solution we hit upon was to translate into English -- the
language which all of us had in common -- those Marathi,
Konkani and Portuguese stories which those who could read had
shortlisted so that everyone else could get a very good, if
not a perfect idea, of the prize winning entries that were
being judged. The responsibility of translating these stories
was undertaken by me and two of my colleagues in my college
Anjali Bhide (Konkani) and Aditi Barve (Marathi) assisted me
in this task with some of the stories. Jury deputy chairman
Alexandre Moniz Barbosa translated the one story in Portuguese.

Fixing the FOSSC Results

Finally to the results. We had a lot of reading to do: 41
stories in English; 19 in Konkani; 17 in Marathi and one in
Portuguese. (I was a bit disappointed that very few Konkani
writers who used the Romi script participated.) These stories
were read by the jury without knowing the authors' names --
this competition is one where reputations do not matter.

There was just one story in Portuguese. The jury recommended
the sole Portuguese story 'Miguel e a Creatura' by Maria
Fernanda Noronha da Costa Sousa be given the prize on offer.
The story, a children's story written apparently by a
youngster would, we felt, be an incentive for writers in the
Portuguese language in future.*

The Special Marathi consolation prize of Rs 5000, was given
to the story 'Sood' by Vitthal Gawas. This was a suspense
thriller resulting from frustrated love set during the
popular Sao Joao festival. When the names of the writers of
the stories were revealed I was pleasantly surprised that the
story which had a good understanding of the ethos of the
festival was not written by a Catholic.

          The Konkani Special Prize of Rs 5000 in memory of
          Late Hirabai Durga Gaitonde was given to 'Chabuk'
          by Geeta Narayan Naik. This well made story with a
          surprise ending featuring one brother who is
          enamoured by the materialism of the West and who
          abandons Goa; as opposed to his younger brother who
          makes a life out of the limited resources in Goa
          itself. The climax of the story is stunning. This
          story was like a metaphor for what was happening to
          Goans today across communities.

Before I come to the main prizes I'd like to mention two
stories that were closely considered by the jury for prizes
but did not get awards. 'Salad' was a story by Rochelle
Potkar which is a tense exploration of what Goa which is
becoming -- and it alludes to property, prostitution and
pedophilia.... However since the writer although of Goan
extraction lived in Bombay and one of the rules being that
the writer had to be resident of Goa, we decided to exclude
it from the prizes but suggested that it be retained for the
anthology. Another story which narrowly missed out on a prize
was Fatima Noronha's 'By God's Grace' which has some
delightful sardonic humor.

The third and fourth places were actually shared. So the jury
asked Anita Pinto to decide who should get the Nur Coelho
prize of Rs 10,000 which she had instituted and she chose
Devika Sequeira's 'Dona Aida's Petunias'. This is a well
crafted tale with a twist in the ending, that tells of the
very cosy relationships which the elite of Catholic and Hindu
Bamons of Panjim shared with one another around 40-50 years
ago. I think it was the confidence with which the writer was
able to recreate the milieu of those times that impressed the jury.

          The Fundacão Oriente prize of Rs 10,000 was awarded
          to 'All'mi' or 'The Mushrooms' by Uday Naik. This
          story is set in a village somewhere close to the
          border with Maharashtra where the people speak a
          dialect which is a blend of Marathi and Konkani. It
          tells of a family whose fields are destroyed by
          mining waste tries to eke out a living. The problem
          of the story is of the father wants to give gifts
          to his children for Ganesh Chathurthi but who does
          not have the money. He's forced has to go and pluck
          mushrooms from the hills (which is illegal) and for
          which if caught the forest officials will harass
          him terribly. (Note that mining which probably
          destroys entire hills is permitted; but not taking
          mushrooms which are a protected species.) Does he
          get the mushrooms and is he able to buy gifts for
          his children? You'll have to wait for the stories
          to be published to know this.

The second prize, the Semana de Cultura Indo-Portuguesa prize
of Rs 15,000 went to 'Nustekann Marline' by 'Suvarna
Bandekar'. This story is about a character named Marline who
is a seller of fish and vendor of gossip but whom we never
see even once. She is always off-stage and I deliberately use
the theatrical metaphor because this story is a very dramatic
one. The drama is conveyed through the dialogue and is a
lovely study of group behaviour and how gossip and rumour
would rule our lives in times not too long ago and perhaps
still does.

The first prize, the Alban Couto Memorial prize of Rs 20,000,
went to 'Rakhondar' meaning 'The Protector' by Nayana
Adarkar. It is the story of a character who is also the
narrator of the story and who's the kind of person whom
people would have called names -- a half crack, a *pixem*, an
eccentric -- apparently a simpleton but really a person with
a sharp questioning intellect who has a very ironic view of
life, who observes the world very carefully, although she
rarely openly protests about the unfairness of society; and
if she does do so, she makes it out to be a joke. Usually she
gets squashed and crushed for making her jokes.

          I really enjoyed the sophisticated technique
          employed (of stable irony by an unreliable narrator
          -- if you ask) by which we are let into the
          character/narrator' mind. This is a person who does
          not scream loudly or make pompous speeches although
          she giggles a lot as the author lets us subtly know
          what she thinks about the very patriarchal
          structures of society.

When the jury had their discussions I realized that this
author's character which I was fascinated with, some of the
other jury members had problems with. Should we be awarding
this story when the character never makes any attempt to
fight back against the system was a question raised. But it
was here that I realized how successful the conception of the
author was, because consciously or unconsciously she had
forced her readers to engage with the dilemma which the
character faced, and I dare say that it was the chairman's
considerable weight that tipped the balance towards this
story getting the first prize!

FOSSC  Recommendations

Before I end, I would like to mention some recommendations,
some personal and some of the jury.

          Among my personal recommendations: firstly I think
          that in future the FOSSC organizers should make
          ensure that the prestige of the competition should
          be retained by gradually increasing the prizes for
          the competition. Secondly I think that those
          writers with a Goan connection not resident in Goa
          be invited for either a separate prize or at least
          to be included in the anthology. Thirdly apart from
          the stories the jury suggested in their
          recommendations below for the anthology, I would
          suggest that if there is space available then
          perhaps some more stories could be included at the
          editor's discretion.

Most importantly I think that having a professional
translator must be an integral part of the story judging

Finally I wish to make known the stories that the jury felt
that the FOSSC organizers should publish in their anthology.
All of this of course at the discretion of the editor. (The
stories given below are not in any particular order.)

* Rakhandar (The Protector) (Konkani). Nayana Adarkar
* Nustekan Marline (Marline the Fisherwoman) (Konkani).
  Suvarna Bandekar
* All'mbi  (The Mushrooms) (Marathi). Uday Naik
* Dona Aida's Petunias. Devika Sequeira
* Chabuk (Konkani). Geeta Narayan Naik
* Sood (Revenge) (Marathi). Vithal L. Gawas
* Salad. Rochelle Potkar
* By God’s Grace. Fatima M. Noronha
* A Litany of Emeliana's Sins. Lisbern Shawn
* Rainy Day Blues. Kenny Nolan Silveira
* Priya's Angel. Pantaleao Fernandes
* Baina. Sunil Kumar Damodaran
* Saved by the Baker's Horn. Maria Luisa Ferrão Valadares
* Scattered Pages. Anusha V.R.
* She Deserves More. Brenda Coutinho
* Cancelled Note. Kiran Mahambre
* Vatadya (The Guide) (Marathi). Dayaram Padloskar
* The Divine Quest. Sonu Dabral
* Monisponn. Umesh Sardessai
* The Birdbath Man. Ahmed Bunglowala
* Where's My Seat? Anna Marie Remedios
* Chautichem Vhojem (The Chathurthi Gifts) (Konkani).
  Shantan Sukhtankar
* Acrobat. Preethy Sunil
* Reminiscence. Analia da Costa
* Mr. Seth. Aradhana A.V. Patra
* Miguel e a Creatura (Miguel and the Creature) (Portuguese).
  Maria Fernanda Noronha da Costa Sousa

To conclude I'd like to say that being associated with this
competition was very interesting for me and I am sure also
for all the other jury members. We came across many talents
and ideas seeking an outlet. In their own ways each of these
stories espoused a vision of a Goa of their dreams. Every
single one of the stories had a spark of creativity in them.

It may be just possible that the judges did not fully
appreciate the worth of the stories submitted. If this was
indeed the case, I hope that all these writers will not be
discouraged but continue writing, as I think the best way to
fix your writing is to keep writing more. I do hope this
competition will result in many talents coming to the fore
and a well made anthology being brought out.

On behalf of the jury, I'd like to thank the previous
Delegate of Fundacão Oriente Dr Eduardo Kol de Carvalho and
indeed the current Delegate Dr Inez Figuera too for
associating us with these competition. I also would like to
acknowledge in particular Yvonne Rebello who is the backbone
behind much of the Fundacão's work, for the help she gave to
the jury
* I was to learn later that the jury recommendation of a
prize for the Portuguese story was rejected by the donor
because there was only one entry and no competition.

[Augusto Pinto was chairman of the Fundacão Oriente Short
Story Competition Jury 2015-16. The above is a version of his
speech at the prize distribution function, held in Goa on
December 30, 2015. It was originally titled 'Fixing FOSSC

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