Writer Jerry Pinto says writing is akin to a wall with many windows. While one of the windows open to him as a poet, another projects him as a writer of Bollywood's beautiful but somewhat-doomed women such as Helen. He is a writer of non-fiction through another glass hole. And the space that is still left gapes at him and rummages him from inside.
His debut novel, Em and the Big Hoom, which brought him to Chandigarh on Wednesday, cannot be ruled out as a work of self-reflection. It seems as if every word in it has been imprinted on his heart for years and all his thoughts were waiting for this novel to rekindle the delightful and moving emotions.
Interacting with city's literary enthusiasts at a book-reading event, organised by city-based literary organisation Cafia Utsav Literarture & Art Trust, the Mumbai-based writer says that the novel could be termed as a monologue. However, he drives home the point when he says, "A novel or a book is not the definite reality of any human being, as life has much more triviality and insanity in store."
But despite all self-dispositions, one cannot take away the credit from him for weaving a character named Imelda - Em to her children - who is suffering from mental illness and bi-polar tendencies in his first novel, which is a breakthrough.
Where he scores the maximum marks is his unique treatment of the story and the delightful representation of eccentric yet jovial characters. Writer Amitav Ghosh puts it aptly when he says in his review:
"It is utterly persuasive, deeply affecting and stylistically adventurous. Although suffused with pain, it shows no trace of self-pity."
The 46-year-old writer credits his literary achievement to deeply moving love and strong familial bonds that, he says, keep each one of us united in crisis. He says, "Love gives us real power, but, at the same time, also makes us vulnerable as we are not ready to listen to anything bad against our loved ones."
The novel narrates the story of a boy growing up with a mentally afflicted mother - Em. She holds the family together with her unspoken love and her compelling imagination. Through this, her husband - the big Hoom - and her son and daughter learn to cope with her maniac and her frequent wish to die.
Sharing his journey, he says, "This novel was daring me for 20 years and at 40, I finally decided to take it on. Three years into writing the novel, I realised I had more than 3,50,000 awfully written words! But the real novel was born when I chose to retain only 12,000 words and further worked on it."
He says that real writing is not about the number of words one produces every day, rather it is about the number of meaningful words one writes. Out of the 7,00,000 words he wrote, the novel comprises 70,000; it is no surprise then that every page is worth reading.
Jerry, who breezed in like Mumbai se aaya mera dost, swayed everyone with his fun-loving personality at the event where Ravi Singh of Aleph Publishing Company, which has published the novel, was also present.