Review of Jerry Pinto’s “Em And The Big Hoom”
This is a story about a world within a world. The reader is introduced to the cobwebs in the hallways of a mentally challenged person’s mind. The book catches him by the collar and takes him on a whirlwind of a trip. Immediately enough, the reader finds himself inside the four walls of that unique world in which Imelda resides. He is introduced to the trials and tribulations of the narrator’s life and that of his father and sister. While the wheels of existence revolve in a normal pattern for everybody else outside that apartment, a stark contrast is painted inside those four walls. The reader tries to voluntarily dive into the erratic machine that is Imelda’s mind and, as a result, is taken on a roller-coaster ride as the chapters unfold. There are moments when he is able to untangle a few knots and is lulled into feeling that he is finally being able to decipher this weirdly enigmatic but oh-so-real character. At other times, he is rudely brought back to earth when he realizes that the untangling of knots was more of an illusory phenomenon. The volatile mindset and the lack of a proper direction in the thought process coupled with generous helpings of suicidal tendencies and erratic actions and decisions tests the husband’s, the son and the daughter’s endurance.
Even amidst this chaotic environment, there are healthy dollops of narratives which give the reader a sneak peek into the Imelda and The Big Hoom of yesteryears. The description about her job and the courtship that ensued gives a sense of direction and normalcy to an otherwise ravaged character. Understanding her causes the reader to feel an involuntary sense of empathy for the family as a whole. The Big Hoom endures this tsunami of madness and carries out his duties like a true stoic would. This, in turn, makes him a larger than life character drawing the reader towards him even though his character is shrouded by a veil of silence. Through the narrator’s words and otherwise, one gradually realizes that the undertone of sadness is exacerbated through undulating waves of negativity and the one simple thing they crave for is what the whole world takes for granted – a normal happy life. The book essentially helps us to revisit our own lives and makes us understand how fortunate we really are. Here is a family where the children have been forced to grow up faster than usual and the father has steadily grown weary of his burdens. Here is a family where a normal incident-less day is celebrated euphorically. Here is a family that would give anything to be in our shoes and experience the normal happy life.
The saga of Imelda’s life and the people willingly and unwillingly embroiled in it opens up a new disturbing world that the reader could not have ever fathomed otherwise. As a result, the book is a brave trend-setter which veers off the beaten path and makes the reader sit up and take notice.
Published in Efflorescence, Journal of the Department of English, Naba Ballygunge Mahavidyala, India (July, 2013)