Mr J. B. Moraes – Mangalorean Star
Simplicity, clarity and sincerity are the hallmark of Moreas’ poetry. He is not a poet who wields the pen to impress his readers or one who takes selfish delight in juggling with words. When Mr. Moraes wants to say something he says it directly. His poetry lends itself to translation with apparent ease, for his language is astonishingly transparent just as his thought. After all, it is not the function of language to make clear what is not. Was it not Goethe who said that the best poem is the one that could be translated with ease into another language? Mr. Moraes’ poetry at its best is intensely human, unassumingly simple, never too loud, too gaudy, but soft and intimate like the murmur of a fountain,” says Dr. Manohar Rai Sar Dessai, the doyen of Konkani poets in Indian Literature, the bimonthly English journal.
“Moraes shows a great mastery of Konkani in his use with the simple language and modern type of verse. His sense if rhythm of the spoken language does not forsake him. The metrical regularity found in some of the older poems has not been lost even in his later free verse. The difference is that he has found new types of rhythm to sing his thoughtful songs. Thus his poetry is essentially lyrical. The influence of English romantic style can be gauged from the simplicity of language and the polished and tranquil expression of recollected emotion. This is what makes his poems highly readable” says Mathew Almedia S.J. in the Encyclopedia of Indian Literature.
Jonh Baptist Moraes was born in 1933 in a village called Kallamundkur (also known as Niddodi) near Mangalore. Mr. Moraes is the proud son of late Benjamin Salvadore Moraes (passed away in 1962) and late Mary Sequeira (passed away in 1972). His brother Boniface and sister Celina both are settled in Mumbai.
The newly opened high school seven kilometers from his home was a boon which enabled him to complete his matriculation in 1951. He had to trek the distance to school on foot. He was fortunate to get a junior clerk’s post in Parke Davis, a multinational pharmaceutical company on a salary of Rs. 120. With diligence, grit and hard work, he climbed up the hierarchical ladder in the company and retired on superannuation as Regional Manager in 1993. Not withstanding the stress of holding a responsible post, the bulk of his writings belong to a period of 42 years of service in the company. He never allowed his literary activities to interfere with his fulltime job and vice versa. It was his discipline in appropriating diligently the spare time available that he could accomplish so much.
His fondness for reading, which manifested even in his childhood, earned him the quote “He converses only with his books” from the village folk. While in service, he was instrumental in starting a library of English, Hindi and Marathi books for the employees. He chose the books himself, by attending various book exhibitions and bookshops. This widened his knowledge of literature and literary figures in these languages. Like any other book-lover, he has a habit of collecting second hand books from the roadside. About 50 years ago, books of real literary value could be purchased from the roadside for a pittance. For instance, ‘The Home Library Club’ formed jointly by The Times of India, The Statesman and the Associated Newspapers of Ceylon Ltd., which brought out some great anthologies like The World’s Greatest Speeches, etc. These books contained over 600 pages on an average and were hardbound. The biggest thing was, they were available for as little as five rupees!
“Despite a fulltime job, domestic responsibilities, the tensions and stress of a busy city life, if one is determined to write, it is not impossible” – so wrote the “Evening News of India” in 1986 quoting Mr. Moraes in an article titled ‘An Encounter with an Outstanding Author’.
As an author, Mr. Moraes is at home in several genres of Konkani literature, such as poetry, fiction, biography, essay, full-length plays, verse plays, research articles, book reviews, translations, adaptations etc. Mr. Moraes has published 15 books including three collections of poetry, one collection of translated poems, a full-length play, a political biography, a monograph on a Konkani poet and the translation of a literary history. The last two are published by the Sahitya Akademi. He plans to bring out in book form, his serialized epic poetry Divyamrut based on the Bible.
Though the beauty and mystery of nature molded his poetry to some extent, his early writings were mainly influenced by the abject poverty, illiteracy and ignorance around him in his native village and a sense of dedication to his mother tongue ‘Konkani’ that was struggling to gain recognition as an independent and literary language 60 years ago. His short stories bear a strong flavor of the soil and delightfully illustrate the village life around him.
His most acclaimed book is the biography of George Fernandes, Ek Sahasi Jinni published in 1999, perhaps the only biography of the national leader in any language. The struggle and tribulations and the fight against adversities are brought out effectively in the book which earned him the Best Book Award from the Dr. T.M.A. Pai Foundation, Manipal.
Mr. Moraes received the Sahitya Akademi Award for his collection of poems Bhitorlem Tufan in 1985. He was the first Konkani writer from Karnataka to receive this Award. Eight writers who received the Awards before him were all from Goa. He received Maharashtra Gaurav Puraskar in 1990 and Sandesha Prathistan Literary Award in the year 2000. He has written a monograph of the great Konkani poet C.F. DeCosta for the Sahitya Akademi under the series ‘Makers of Indian Literature’. He has also translated History of Kannada Literature for Sahitya Akademi.
As a journalist, Mr. Moraes has a long experience of over 45 years in working with the various Konkani periodicals. He was one of the three founder editors of Konkan Daiz a monthly on the lines of Reader’s Digest started in 1958. He was on the editorial board of Poinnari weekly for 12 years (1964 – 1976) and in 1965, wrote a series of well- researched articles in the weekly on eminent Mangaloreans. He was also the founder-editor of Divo weekly (1995-1998). Now, Mr. Moraes is editing the Konkani Bhasha Mandal’s quarterly news-magazine Konknni Saad since 2000. He has read research papers in various seminars and symposia on issues concerning Konkani language and literature. His paper on “Problems of Konkani Journalism” read in the First World Konkani Convention held in Mangalore in 1995 was well received.
Mr. Moraes was elected President of the 19th Session of the All India Konkani Parishad held in Madgaon in January 1993 when Mumbai was reeling under the impact of communal riots. People were not venturing out of their homes. With great determination and effort, he along with his wife, were able to reach the Santacruz airport on the way to Goa. He admits it was a scary moment.
Mr. Moraes was an instrumental in reviving the oldest representative body of Konkanis “Konkani Bhasha Mandal, Mumbai’, in 1992 which was stagnating for several years. After revival, the Bhasha Mandal was able to celebrate its Golden Jubilee (1993) and Diamond Jubilee (2002) mainly due to his efforts. He has been its General Secretary since 1992.
Mr. Moraes tied knot with Matilda Pinto from Kinnigoli. Together they have four sons: Mervin, Joseph, Hector and Peter. All are married and settled. Mr. Moraes is a proud grandfather of 7 grand childrens. Mr. Moraes feels indebted to his wife Matilda for her unconditional support and countless sacrifices.
Currently, he is a member of the General Council and Konkani Advisory Board of the Sahitya Akademi. He is also Convener of the Konkani Advisory Committee of the Bharatiya Jnanpith.
NOVI VHOKAL, 1977
BHITORLEM TUFAN, 1984
EK DHENT, EK PAAN, 2002
GEORGE FERNANDES, 1999
SOPANN-PARKI ZUZE, 2002
PUTIPHARACHI BAIL, 1990
CH FRA DeCOSTA, 2001
Translations into Konkani:
ONTYA NASHILLEM SOPANN,1975 (Novel)
NOVEM POINN, WOO1
KANNADA SAHITYACHO ITIHAS, 1989 (Literary History)
NISRALLEAK LOTUN GHALO,
BOLPYAM MODHLI SHELI,
ZORLO GOMES, 1987
(Sherlock Holmes Stories)
Serialized Epic Poem:
In English Collaboration:
HISTORY OF KONKANI LITERATURE, 2000
Contributions of Articles:
MASTERPIECES OF INDIAN LITERATURE, 1997
His message to mangalorean.com readers:
“Unless we inculcate love for our mother- tongue, our writings in or on Konkani, would be shallow. However, scholarly they may look outwardly. Konkani writers should widen their knowledge on Konkani language, literature and culture by reading as many books and periodicals, Then only we will have a wider perspective on the subject. This alone is not enough; we have to read literature of other languages like English, Kannada, Hindi, Marathi in which we are proficient. Then we will have accumulated a wide storage of knowledge in which we can delve and pick up drops of nector (wisdom) for our Konkani brethren. Unfortunately, the reading habit is dying due to various reasons. If we rediscover our thirst for reading, good will occur to the reader, publisher and particularly to the authors of our Konkani books.”
Mangalorean.com wishes Mr Moraes all the very best in his future endeavors.