Augusto Pinto pinto...@gmail.com 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 process. 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 2015-16'.]