Last night it was a book launch to cherish because the cream of literati forsook their little, little differences and came together to launch Jerry Pinto's novel Em and the Big Hoom, which has been 20 years in the writing. The chairs were all taken and there was only standing room. The murmur of the chatterati rose steadily until it became a roar at the back of the hall in CCI. I was relieved when David Davidar started the proceedings. I don't know what would have happened otherwise. I would have gone deaf probably. The excited chatter of voices, the laughter, the hugging, the kissing, all part of the rather intimate literary goings on of Bombay. It seemed everyone knew everyone. I recognized a few faces, considering I am not a ferocious social animal, in a manner of speaking.
David Davidar and Ravi Singh from Aleph, the publishers, were there. Kiran Nagarkar was there (No, I am not writing anything, I am too lazy!), Dilip D'souza was there (he liked a short blog post I wrote on an expose he did of the Kota IIT coaching classes, "let's keep in touch" he said), some friends from Caferati including bossman Peter Griffin were there. Peter Griffin who goes by the nickname "Zigzackly" is seeking nomination to be president and I have endorsed him and he has promised me a Padma Shree in return! Hm. I would like to see someone like him presiding over the Rajya Sabha with his ascerbic wit and sense of propriety. Once when I was carrying on a conversation with a friend when a Caferati event was on, he said, "John, will you take the conversation elsewhere?" Hm. Hm. Huh? I can't figure this guy, he is always such an enigma! I would like an enigmatic president than the blank-staring faces we have so far had had.
Be that as it may. I digress. Of course, Jerry is a known face in literary circles most people know him for his non-fiction writing and his poetry. However, to write a novel for 20 years is really something I guess. I was itching to ask him one question, which unfortunately got lost in the intellectual mêlée, which was whether he thought about ditching the project at any time. That's because I am at that stage myself. Mr. Bandookwala, M.B.A., Harvard, my novel, is undergoing birth pangs and I have thought often, why suffer the birth pains when you can stop the delivery itself. That means to forget about being a writer, which means to abandon one thing I held on to, that means to lose hope and regret it all my life. How would it feel to terminate a journey when one is within sight of the destination? Dream on!
But go at his writing steadily, as Jerry did, is what seems the only way out. Though progress is slow the child has to develop hands and feet and as a parent one can't just jettison a baby altogether. That would be throwing the baby with the bathwater (or, something such), as Parameshwaran Iyer, our English teacher would say. Erudite poet Parameshwaran Iyer where are you? We had some very good English teachers in my school Adarsha Vidyalaya who were Malayali Brahmins (MalBrahms, my own invention): Parameshwaran Iyer, Ganapati Iyer. There were more but only two names come to mind. You know you aren't going to make a big difference, you know you will have to depend on activism or some such bullshit to stay in the reckoning, you know your novel will sink without a trace, you know you may be derided and reviled for it. Still you persist, despite prognosis of doom from the doctor, whose sole aim is to scare you and collect money.
For the second time I digress. Sorry! Em and the Big Hoom is about a family in which the mother is mentally disturbed. From what I have read until now, the mother is the narrator, and the story unwinds slowly from her disturbed speech and the journal she has maintained. I like it and it carries Jerry's signature tone, his poetic takes are nothing short of brilliant. The design and cover are laudable and congrats Aleph for the production values, though the price of Rs 450 pinched a bit. But on the whole I have a feeling I am going to love the book.