Published on June 18, 2013
Roman Catholic of Goan origin, and grew up in MahimMumbai Mumbai-based Indian writer of poetry, prose and childrensfiction in English, as well as a journalist familiar figure innewspaper corridors and media classrooms Pinto started giving maths tuitions at the age of 16. “Sevendays a week, nine hours a day,” he recalled. “I had to earnR700 a day to pay for my mother‟s nurses.” Even while he was getting on with his high-energy life –teaching quadratic equations, filling columns ofnewsprint, starting a travel dotcom, serving as consultingeditor for a men‟s magazine and writing other books – Pintostarted planning a novel about his family. “ Hindu literary price – 2012 Those who care for the afflicted must bear the special painsand pleasures of their situation.
Earlier works:Surviving Women, Bombay Meri Jaan:Writings on Mumbai (with NareshFernandes), Asylum and OtherPoems, Confronting Love (edited withArundhathi Subramaniam), Helen: The Lifeand Times of An H-Bomb, Reflected inWater: Writings on Goa, BollywoodPosters (with Sheena Sippy) and Leela: APatchwork Life (with Leela Naidu).
Psychological novel A psychological novel, also called psychological realism, is a work of prosefiction which places more than the usual amount of emphasis It‟s early morning at the Breach Candy Hospital, where a motley group iswaiting outside the OPD. Imelda Mendes, who is sitting with her son, startschatting with a morose young man who can‟t make it to the NationalDefence Academy because he has albumen in his urine. Imelda graciouslypromises to pray for him, after which the conversation turns to her healthproblems: “What about you, aunty?” “I had a nervous breakdown and tried…” I began to hiss a little at such a promiscuous revelation. “Don‟t mind my son. He‟s shy. I tried to kill myself so I have to take pills andthey have to examine my blood.” “You are mental, aunty?” I bristled but my mother didn‟t seem to mind. “Yes, yes.” “Oh good. My Buaji says God listens to the prayers of mentals because theyare touched by His hand.” “95 per cent fiction, 95 per cent autobiography”
Comparisons to other literary works –Sylvia Plath – The Bell JarPrimary influences“Mental health”, says Pinto, “is a lottery”.And when you‟re the caregiver forsomeone with a mental illness, “you‟relooking at the loser of that lottery”.
Cathartic writing – emotional release (Pity and fear) With cathartic writing, you pour it all out in the hope that it will bebetter once you‟re done” So he sets the novel dramatically in a 450-sq.ft apartment, where the characters are forced to “live and love anddeceive within earshot of each other narrative tone is lighter than air despite the heavy theme the characters are well drawn out and believable, and last but veryimportant: the Goan Roman- Catholic idiom is spot on. If charactersdon‟t speak like they would in real life then one find it hard to relateto the situation The huge laugh and effortless witticisms Perfectly simple language, in terms of explaining psychologicalillnesses to readers who probably don‟t know what psychologicalillnesses are Modern style of writing More lucid style of writing
Pinto has long been a master of the „only-in-Mumbai moment‟For the last 25 years – time out mumbai This book was set in a time when Mumbai was known asBombay (between 50‟s and 80‟s) Catholic family living in Mahim , 1 BHK apartment for 4 –where he grew up and continues to live – in their “small flat ina city of small flats” “big, baroque saga of the Roman Catholic Goan comprador-class, Portuguese speaking, shabby-genteel, screwed upfamily” Through the last decades of the 20th century Also, his descriptions of the Goan ethos are wonderfully pithyand authentic, be it the people or their way of life, theirattitudes and expectations of themselves and of others Social background depicting their poverty
Complex – „in-medias-res‟ No linear plot Carefully designed plot to let the readerunderstand how broken, discontinued andinconsistent their lives are, just like the plotand setting The narrative isn‟t sequential, but is still aneasy read, moving seamlessly from past topresent, from letters to conversations. Telling this story then becomes an act ofcatharsis for the Narrator
I used to tell stories about my extendedfamily,” said Jerry, “about the triplets born withtheir heads attached; or about twobrothers, one of whom killed the other andthen blinked for the rest of his life; or aboutthe man who staged his own death becausehe was terrified that the Portuguese were stillwatching him.” “Love battered mendeses” delicious eccentrics – his characters
Pinto handles his characters with a gentle humor &understanding that is warm and reassuring even when the taleis dark. Ultimately this is a story about family, about strength, courageand resilience in the face of overwhelming odds. I do wishthere was more of The Hoom though. His stoic, rock-solidpresence throughout the narrative lends it a backbone, muchlike his. So although we get to know his roots, we‟re neverquite sure of his feelings about his wife‟s illness. That he isdevoted and caring is obvious but not much else. Pinto leaveshim a mystery of sorts, perhaps intentionally, to add to hisaura. It works. Here is a passage that I like from early on in the book,
young migrant from Burma, a survivor, thwarted frompursuing her education because of poverty A dutiful daughter silently shouldering the burden ofsupporting her family. She seems in all ways anormal young woman of hertime, brilliant, vivacious, funny, a gifted writer, aspirited human being Paranoid schizophrenia and Bipolar disorder bipolar, manic depressive, neurotic Suffers from delusions and hallucinations Is clearly no cuddly mummy Round character 1st a Protagonist THEN an antagonist
Em swings between spells of dark, suicidal terrorsand periods of manic garrulity during which shechain-smokes Ganesh Chaap beedis and talksrudely about sex. Black person is following her Voices demand her NOT to show any affectiontoward her son or else he will be killed by them She has no doubts for example, writing to herfiance about the fact that she isn‟t too keen onsex, and asking him whether that would be a dealbreaker for the marriage! Pretty radical for thetimes she lived in! She‟s intriguing, endearing, andfrustrating all at once – to us and to her son,
Supporting character throughout – whetheras a foil or a contrastOnly stable element in the family‟s lifeUnderstandingPracticalLoving Dutifulstable, sensible, a large, loomingpresence, a much-needed anchor.
the narrator and his sister Susan - mix ofresentment, “helpless, corroded love” and startlingmatter-of-factness. “I used to tell my mother that I would put her in a novelone day, and she would say, „I should like to see the day‟.Sadly, she didn‟t,” said Pinto, whose mother died 15years ago. Partly, I wrote it to lay ghosts to rest.” Her chaotic life is in effect theirs, and theycrave, especially the children, a „normal‟ routine, devoidof incessant drama. Children became stoic, not by choice, but by the lack of it(“there was no going in. And there was no going away”). Susan - graceful and dependable offspring
Narrator oscillates between love and hatred just asshe does. He fears for his sanity and yet cherishesher eccentricities, he wants to be rid of her butcannot contemplate the reality of a life without herpresence, he wants to emulate his father but lacksconfidence in his own abilities, he wants freedomfrom the constant upheavals that are their life andcan only imagine what „normal‟ will feel like. “I lost my faith as my hour glass loses sand” (whenhis mother is dying) He also fears that his mother‟s mental illness mightbe transmitted to him through the “genes”
Psychological IllnessesNormalcyDark and eccentricIsolationMADNESS (read out quote given by anu)mythic resonance of IndiaBrutal honesty
Simple To the point Goan catholic language/idioms written in English as Indian vernacular Pinto‟s elaborate and frequent metaphors, (READTHE BIG QUOTE YOU WROTE IN YOURNOTES) – Pinto depicts madness as a tower, aprison, quicksand, an Arctic floe; it is likened towinter and nighttime and despair and all thingsdark analogies are drawn repeatedly to show how itfeels to be on the outside, looking in, and yet notso far outside that it is impossible to fall in
I watched as Em slashed her wrists, I recognizedthe helplessness the narrator felt when there isnothing he could do while his mother suffered; thedetermination of the kids to maintain a veneer ofnormalcy in front of anyone who is not part of thefamily; the isolation they felt despite a steadystream of well-wishers. This book communicatedall of these emotions without self-pity. The matterof fact tone and the emotional restraint in the bookare what made this story so real and moving. Bythe end of the book I was in tears. Manage to depict isolation in a crowded city
Em and The Big Hoom has 1,185 ratings and 225 reviews. Samadrita said: The tragedy of words like 'touching' and 'poignant' is that they have ...
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Parts of it are extremely funny, and its pages are filled with endearing and eccentric characters. EM AND THE BIG Hoom is a profoundly moving book: ...
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‘Em and The Big Hoom’is a profoundly moving book: I cannot remember when I last read something as touching as this. I don’t know what Jerry’s plans ...
Em And The Big Hoom Author: Jerry Pinto Publisher: Aleph Pages: 235 Price: Rs495. In the old myths, even the bravest of brave men cower before the mad woman.