Em and Big Hoom

Em and the Big HoomEm and the Big Hoom by Jerry Pinto

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When you go to a home, you knock and wait for someone from the home to open the door and let you in.There is a certain premise to enter the home, make oneself comfortable and then have a chat.And when it’s finally time to part, you might or might not have understood the reality of that home or the family.But that was not the case with Em and Big Hoom.

When I started reading this book, I was literally put in the middle of the lives of Em, Big Hoom and their family. I felt warm and welcomed to their home.Not one time did I feel I was not a part of their family.I literally lived and breathed with them.

I felt the burning and suffocating smell of beedis in my eyes and nose.I understood the bits and pieces and was able to read in between the lines from Em’s talks.I felt ashamed at the same time intrigued at her adult talks.I felt the silent, yet the roaring presence of Big Hoom.I sensed the tender love between these folks.I could hear all the thoughts of em for endless hours.I also shivered when she tried to let go of her life.And I was part relieved and a part sad when she finally left.I knew I was somewhere becoming the shadow of the narrator, who has poured his hearts out!

Our mothers are very dear to us.She somehow has been bestowed with the power of holding all the members of the family.Now, it’s very scary situation if something happens to such a strong link.And even scarier if it related to being mentally disabled.Imelda, aka Em, is one such person, who slowly and at times looses the grip of reality.

‘After you were born, someone turned on a tap. At first it was only a drip, a black drip, and I felt it as sadness. I had felt sad before . . . who hasn’t ? I knew what it was like. But I didn’t know that it would come like that, for no reason. I lived with it for weeks.’

‘Was there a drain?’

‘No. There was no drain. There isn’t one even now’.

‘It is like oil. Like molasses, slow at first.Then one morning I woke up and it was flowing free and fast. I thought I would drown in it. I thought it would drown little you and Susan. I got up, got dressed and went out onto the road and tried to jump in front of a bus. I thought it would be a final thing, quick like a bang.  Only,it wasn’t.

I don’t know if there is any better way of defining depression.It’s akin to drowning in one’s sadness, though we don’t want to be drowned and we know how to stop oneself from being drowned but yet, yet simply could not help but sink down.That’s depression.

And how can one forget Augustine, the Big Hoom ?. When there are people who simply choose to stay out of trouble by avoiding ill people from their lives, here a man who stays and fights for a normal life.His love for Em, cannot be said in words.It can be known only from the heart.

“Love is never enough. Madness is enough. It is complete, sufficient unto itself.”

Such a brilliant portrayal of a dysfunctional(?) family amongst us describing the vivid emotions and the broken thoughts of a depressed, bipolar, suicidal mother but more importantly reading this book showed me the difficulties, that sort of numbness and the absence of normalcy in the lives of the caretakers of these mentally ill people.

I wonder if one day, I fall as hard as Em, will I be lucky enough to be surrounded by folks like Em’s family?

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The Kaunteyas.

The KaunteyasThe Kaunteyas by Madhavi S. Mahadevan

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is the tale of Mahabharata retold from the viewpoint of Kunti, who I believe was the one who had the power to avert the great war but she couldn’t choose to do so.I now realize why !.At every point of the tale, she always chose the well-being of her family and her kingdom above her own life.Though she is very intelligent and witty and full of love and honor, she always did what a lady is advised and supposed to do since the day she is born.She had huge powers vested upon her but she was always bound to look beyond herself and chose not to utilize her power as a mother, as a queen or as a lady.

The life of Kunti was depicted in such a way that we naturally sympathize with her and her choices and life.From a girl who was given away right after she was born, growing up in foster care, being naive, being vulnerable, being obedient but inquisitive and intelligent, her pain of being in love, her defeat to share her husband, her sacrifice for children everything is elaborately described in this book.For me, it felt like a mirror to the lives of women in our society today as she is expected to keep herself and her priorities at the bottom of the chain. These long tales painted such a picture of how a woman needs to keep sacrificing for her family and how she must follow her husband’s orders, how she is not allowed to make herself a priority, how she has no support from anywhere that it has become the new norm leading our society to a patriarchal one.

I was not particularly blown away by the narration as it had nothing new to offer except a new viewpoint as that of a women’s narrative.This may because I had expected something on lines of MT Randamoozham.Nonetheless, a good read!