Blame us, for we are HT City, for noticing even a writer’s looks first! In our defense, what else can one do if the man in question is fiction-cum-children’s book writer and poet Jerry Pinto? His glasses might tell you he’s a writer, but everything else about him denies it. With the energy of a child reading his favorite poem, coupled with the zeal to endlessly talk about any topic — Jerry Pinto is one of his kind.
His recent achievement, which made big news, was being awarded The Hindu Literary Prize for his novel Em and the Big Hoom, about which he says, “The thing about Em and the Hoom is that it’s very largely autobiographical. My mother suffered from bipolar disorder, which had an impact on me from the third month of my birth. I’m told my mother was a very talented, beautiful and charming woman. But, I knew a very different woman; the one who had two people wrapped up in one; sometimes these two people had very little resemblance. So, when I created Em… I drew on my mother, but, it wasn’t my mother’s portrait. It’s 95% true and 95% fiction. But, that’s the case with almost all novels. We are almost endlessly drawing fiction from reality.”
Jerry, however, firmly believes that reality is devoid of style. “Fiction is giving reality a fancy makeover — good clothes, new make-up, a pair of stilettos. One of the funniest things about writing is that you always start writing thinking you know what you want to write. Suddenly, that person, as you write him or her, takes a life of his/her own. Then, you feel you’re writing for someone, from whom you are drawing energy, and things just flow.”
His take on children and their reading habits? “There is a neurotic anxiety amongst parents that their children don’t read; a lot of parents complain about it. In return, I always ask them if they themselves read. If you read and tell your kid ‘let me read, I’ve had a bad day’ or ‘let me read, I’ve had a fight with a friend’, wouldn’t he/she do the same? Also, if you want them to read, stop forcing them,” says Pinto.
Recalling his childhood, Pinto adds, “As a child, I used to read heavily; though I was not allowed to, a majority of the times. When I was in Class 3, my father took me to a public circulating library, where one used to take a book, pay `5, bring back the book and pick up another one. He said, any book I buy today, I won’t be able to read 10 years later. Thus, the desire to buy as many books as possible, which wasn’t allowed.”
Pinto thinks it’s time parents realise that children are most happy when they are having fun, which could be derived from reading a book. “But, if it’s not a book, don’t be after him. Instead, read to the child when you can. Why do kids remember daadi ki kahaaniya?”
Now that we had him, we couldn’t miss the opportunity of asking him about his twitter handle ‘Mahim ka Jerry’. Hailing from Mahim, Mumbai, Jerry says, “Mahim is a fascinating place. One area is full of Muslims, another has a dargarh, a gurdwara, sheetla devi mandir and so on. Great writers and singers have lived there. For me, this is my history and geography. In this area itself, we have eight cinema halls.”
He gives the credit for his book on Helen — Helen: The Life and Times of an H-Bomb, which won the Best Book on Cinema award — to all of Helen’s movies he saw here. “My parents spoke Burmese, Konkani, Portuguese, English, Marathi, and a very awara Hindi that people used to laugh at. So, to make sure we were fluent in it, instead of sending us to tuitions, they sent us for Hindi films. We ended up going for all bizarre films, such as Kunwari Bahu, Aap Toh Esse Na The, Pet, Pyar aur Paap,” recalls he.
Currently, Jerry is busy translating a Marathi book called Baluta by Daya Pawar. Declaring translation easier than writing, he says, “The bad thing about being a writer is that it’s a lonely process. It’s like manual labour. There’ll soon be a voice-recognition software that leads to explosion of bad books. Translation is definitely easier than writing.”