Between families and doctors

Nikhil Govind

DOI: 10.20529/IJME.2014.016


Jerry Pinto’s Em and the big Hoom is a rare foray, in Indian writing, into the world of the mentally distressed. Beautifully written, it captures the see-saw of intimacy and affliction in a middle-class family in Mumbai. The illness is not named or pathologised in the initial pages of the book, as it might have been if the aloof, third-person voice were that of a psychiatrist. Rather, we plunge into the world of the family (the minutiae of their everyday sorrows, joys and misunderstandings), and it is only much later that we lift our shoulders above the waves of the prose to realise that the mother is seriously ill. By then, the small world of this vividly pictured family (the unusual title refers to the parents) has already evoked our sympathy. This is especially true of the foul-mouthed, beedi-smoking mother, who flamboyantly pits herself against the large and foreign worlds of the police stations and state hospital wards.

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