from playing all day long in the summer sun. Summer vacations during our
childhood meant being hauled to Mangalore to my grandmother’s home,
where surrounded by acres of paddy fields, coconut and betel nut trees,
mangoes and jackfruits, and of course cows and buffaloes, we spent two
languorous months away from school.
brought up her four daughters and kept her farm, her children and her
livestock safe from encroaching neighbours and random male relatives. She
handled runaway buffaloes, thieving hawks and monsoon crabs with equal
aplomb. With this kind of daredevil reputation, it was little wonder that we
siblings waited to visit her, for the adventure she offered and for her stories.
last touches to dinner were being made in the kitchen. Mai knew a little
English, but her stories were told in Konkani. By the time we were eight or nine
we could understand most of it and ask questions. My mother or aunts were
on hand to explain a difficult word or two, but for the most part we figured it
trouble but eventually found their way out to a happy ending. Some of the
stories were yucky, with liberal amounts of poop thrown in for theatrical
effect. (Kids love poopy stories as I’m finding out recently!) Others were
somewhat scary; especially when the protagonist was lost or in so much
trouble that there didn’t seem a way out.
able to predict the twists and turns, each new Konkani word making more
sense to us. Those stories built up our understanding of a new language and
gave us the confidence to speak it fluently.
different reason. Come April, we will pack our bags and head to Mangalore
where Mai can entertain another generation of English-speaking kids with
Konkani stories that remain with them long after the summer is over.
the chance to play with his cousins but maybe this year, Mai’s Konkani tales
will be an important part of that adventure too.
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