Jerry Pinto Em and the Big Hoom

ISBN 13: 9780241966518

Em and the Big Hoom

4.09 avg rating
( 3,335 ratings by Goodreads )
 
9780241966518: Em and the Big Hoom
View all copies of this ISBN edition:
 
 

Em and the Big Hoom

"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.

About the Author:

Jerry Pinto is a writer of poetry, prose, and children’s fiction, as well as a journalist. Em and the Big Hoom is his first novel. He is the winner of numerous literary awards, including a 2016 Winham-Campbell Prize for Fiction, the 2013 Crossword Book Award, and the  Hindu Literary Award.  He lives in Mumbai, India.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

1.
‘Someone turned on a tap’

Dear Angel Ears,

Outside the window, a Marathi manus is asking mournfully if anyone would like to buy salt. Or at least that’s what I think. Mee-ee-et, he wails, Me-eeetwallah, mee-eet. Other sounds: Mae mumbling about morning Mass; an impertinent sparrow demanding the last bit of my toast.

I miss you terribly. But if you are going to send me a postcard, I shall abstain. I think postcards are for acquaintances and now that we are friends, you should find some nice stationery and write me a proper letter. These scribbles will not do, they are meant for the common masses.

A butterfly is banging on the windowpane in the corridor and I must now rise to let it out. If your next letter is not to hand with heartwarming promptness, I shall declare you unfit for human consumption and throw you to the lions.

Love.

I

PS: The sparrow wins. Imelda: nil, Sparrow: one.

In her letters to him, she called him Angel Ears.

‘Why Angel Ears?’ I asked her, in Ward 33 (Psychiatric), Sir J. J. Hospital.

She turned her cool green eyes on me and smiled. For a while, her fingers stopped playing with the worn-out sheet that was covering her.

‘Haven’t you noticed? His ears are the sweetest thing about him. They look like bits of bacon curled up from too much frying.’

I had never thought of my father’s ears. But later that evening, as he stood in the kitchen and cooked for me and my sister, scraping at a fry-up of potatoes, I saw that his ears were indeed unusual. When was the first time that she noticed his ears? Was it part of her falling in love with him, or did it happen in the hypersensitive moments that follow? And when she called him by that name the first time, did he respond immediately? He probably did, without asking why. They could be like that together.

It intrigues me, love. Especially theirs, which seems to have been full of codes and rituals, almost all of them devised by her. She also called him Mambo, and Augie March, but almost never by his given name, Augustine.

He called her Imelda, which was her name, and, sometimes, Beloved.

· · ·

She had another name for him: Limb of Satan. LOS. I asked her about that late one night, when the two of us were smoking together on the balcony of our small flat in a city of small flats. Behind us the one-bedroom-hall-kitchen, all 450 square feet of it, was quiet. In front of us, the side of a tenement rose like a cliff-face. Two trees were framed in between the buildings and in the foliage of one, a streetlight flickered erratically. She started laughing, a harsh scrape of sound that might belong in a brothel.

‘Because he was always tempting me to sin,’ she said.

‘Who was?’ Susan, my sister, was awake. She fitted herself into the balcony, waving a hand at the cloud of smoke we were producing.

‘Your father.’

‘It’s not a sin if you’re married, is it?’

‘It’s always a sin according to the Wholly Roaming Cat Licks.’

‘That can’t be true.’

‘Can it not? I think you’re only supposed to do it if you want babies. I wanted four but Hizzonner said, “Then you pay for the other two.” That, as they say, was that. And I had to give the twenty-six others away.’

‘What!’ Susan and I looked at each other. Were there hordes of siblings we knew nothing about?

‘I gave them straight out of my womb,’ she explained. ‘I could always tell when it had happened. I’d hear a click and I would know I was pregnant again, and I’d pray to Our Lady to take the poor wee thing and give it to someone else who wanted a child. Maybe one of those women who buy wax babies to offer the said Lady at Mahim.’

‘So you’d have . . .’ I ventured.

‘Abortions? No, what do you take me for? I’d just climb down five stairs and jump six.’

‘Jump down the stairs?’

‘Six steps and land with a thump, six times, to shake those little mites from their moorings.’

She turned to Susan.

‘But if you get knocked up, you come and tell me and I’ll come with you to the doctor. We’ll get you D’d and C’d before you can say Dick with a Thing and a Tongue.’

‘What is deed and seed?’

‘Dilation and curettage. I don’t know what exactly it is but it sounds like they open you up and put a young priest in there. Anyway, only doctors do it. So when you’re knocked up, you’ll get a proper doctor to fiddle with your middle, you hear? No back-street abortions for you.’

‘What about adoption?’ Susan asked.

‘What about it?’

‘Mother Teresa came to college and –’

‘She came to your college?’

‘Yes.’

‘You didn’t tell me.’

‘I didn’t?’

‘No. No one tells me anything. What did she say?’

‘She said that if we got pregnant we should carry the child to term and give it to her.’

‘She said that? Gosh.’

She frowned and was silent for a moment, considering this.

‘I suppose it comes from not having lived in the world for hundreds of years. She’s lived in a convent, it’s not her fault. But still. Suppose I got pregnant today. Suppose I got nice and big and everyone asked, “When is it due?” and “My, you’re carrying in the front, it must be a boy,” and “What do you want? Pink or blue?” – and after all that, there’s no baby at my breast. What do you think they’d think? What would I say? “Oh, I carried the baby to term and then I sent him off to Mother T because I couldn’t afford him and I didn’t want to have an abortion . . . ?”’

‘Maybe you’re supposed to hide,’ I said.

‘Oh yes, go away for a vacation for six or seven months. Where?’

‘Goa?’

‘Goa!’ she said theatrically. ‘That’s worse than having it in Bombay. You might as well take an advert out in O Heraldo – “Fallen woman available for gawking and comments behind hankies. Holy Family parish church, Sunday Mass. For personal appointments and the full story, contact Father so and so.”’

She shook her head.

‘That’s what comes of all this celibacy business. We confess to men who’ve never had to worry about a family. Naturally, it’s a huge sin to them, this abortion business. What do they know? They probably think it’s fun and games. Let them try it. I remember poor Gertie. Once, she was sure that it had happened –’

‘An abortion?’

‘No, stupid, a pregnancy – she was late, and she was never late, so she knew. She took me out after work and we stood on the street near Chowpatty beach and she ate three platefuls of papaya. I thought she was constipated. But then we went to Bombelli’s and she had three gins as if they were cough syrup. That was when she told me what she was trying to do. “Bake the poor thing out of there,” she said. “It gets too hot inside, the bag squeezes and the baby pops out. I hope.” She came to the office the next day and she looked like death warmed over. Apparently, it had worked. “Baby, if something like that happens to you, you go and get it D’d and C’d. It’s not worth it,” she said to me. And now I say unto you, Sue, and to you too . . .’ she said, looking at me.

‘Me?’

‘Yes, you. Not that you’re going to get pregnant any which way you turn out. But if you do put a loaf in some poor girl’s oven, you will take her to a government place, you will announce that you are Mr and Mrs D’Souza –’

‘Why D’Souza?’

‘I don’t know. Some name. Any name. Not hers. And after it’s done you will take her somewhere to rest and relax and weep and you will stay with her until she can go home.’

‘You mean I’m not to tell her to jump down six stairs and give the baby to Our Lady?’

‘You are a wicked young man to laugh at an old lady’s guilt,’ said Em. But she was smiling too.

· · ·

She was always Em to us. There may have been a time when we called her something ordinary like Mummy, or Ma, but I don’t remember. She was Em, and our father, sometimes, was The Big Hoom. Neither Susan nor I, the only persons who might ever care to investigate the matter, can decide how those names came about, though we’ve tried (‘Em must mean M for Mother’ and ‘Maybe it’s because he made “hoom” sounds when we asked him something’). On certain days we called her Doogles, or The Horse, or other such names that sprang from some subterranean source and vanished equally quickly. Otherwise, she was Em, and most of the time she was Em with an exclamation mark.

Once, by mistake, I called her Mater. I got it out of a Richie Rich comic. The very rich, very snobby Mayda Munny used the word to address her mother. I should have known that I would not get away with something so precious, but I was nine or ten years old and did not know what precious meant. Em peered at me for a moment, pulling deeply on her beedi. (She smoked beedis because they were cheap, she said, and because once you’d started down the beedi road, you could never find your way back to the mild taste of cigarettes. The Big Hoom rarely came home from work in the evenings with sweets for us when we were children, but he never forgot the two bundles of Ganesh Chhaap Beedi.)

‘Mater,’ she said, and her eyes shone behind the curls of smoke. ‘Yes, I suppose I am. I did do it, didn’t I? And here you stand, living proof.’

I think I blushed. She roared, a happy manic laugh.

‘I thought you boys knew everything about the cock and cunt business!’

‘We do,’ I said, lamely, terrified of where the conversation was going.

‘So what did you think, both of you were products of the Immaculate Conception? Gosh, you couldn’t keep us out of bed in those first years.’

‘Em!’

‘What? Are you feeling all Oedipal-Shmeedipal then?’

‘What’s Oedipal?’

Em loved a good story. She was off.

‘Ick,’ I said when Oedipus wandered off, his eyes bleeding and his future uncertain, escorted by his daughter who was also his sister.

‘Well you may say “Ick”,’ said Em. ‘But that’s what Freud says every boy wants to do to his mother. Ick, I say to Mr Freud. He must have been odd, even for an Austrian. Not that I’m racist, but why would they have a navy when they’re landlocked?’

‘Mr Freud was in the navy?’ I asked, confused.

‘No, silly, I’m talking about The Sound of Music.’

The Big Hoom came into the bedroom.

‘You’re telling the boy about?’

‘The psychoanalytic movement,’ said Em, her voice slightly defiant.

‘Have you got past the id, the ego and the superego?’ he asked pleasantly.

‘I should have started at that end, shouldn’t I?’

‘At what end did you start?’

‘Oh, I was telling him about the Oedipus Complex.’

The Big Hoom said nothing. He did nothing. He looked at her. She went into a tizzy.

‘It’s knowledge, knowledge is good, it will help, knowledge always helps,’ she said. She was attempting logic. But she was miserable. It was only later that I came to understand why she never used her condition as a refuge: it would have violated her sense of fair play. The Big Hoom let her stew for a bit and then he nodded. He opened The Hamlyn Children’s Encyclopaedia, a book that I refused to read because it had been given to Susan as a birthday present, and slowly led me through the facts of life.

This might have been enough, but my mind was already locked on to what Em had told me. ‘Why do boys want to do that with their mothers?’ I asked.

A lesser man might have run shrieking from the question, or told his son to shut up. The Big Hoom taught me the word hypothesis, instead, and explained a little bit about Freud and tried to clear things up. Finally, he set me to making words out of ‘hypothesis’ and promised me ten paise for every word after the twentieth.

I loved the word hypothesis. It sounded adult and beautifully alien. I had never heard anything like it before. I wanted more words like it. I felt, instinctively, that when you had enough words like hypothesis, you would be able to deal with the world. I wasn’t sure I would ever be able to deal with the world. It seemed too big and demanding and there wasn’t a fixed syllabus.

I didn’t know how to deal with what we were as a family, either. I didn’t really know what we were as a family. I only knew that something was wrong with all of us and that it had something to do with my mother and her nerves.

‘What are nerves?’ I had asked The Big Hoom once. I didn’t really want to know but a question was a good way to get him to pay attention to me. He put down his newspaper and took me into the gallery. Outside, wires snaked and writhed between the buildings of our housing colony. He pointed to them.

‘What are those?’

I hated these moments. I wanted to be told, I did not want to be asked.

‘Wires,’ I said.

‘What do wires do?’

‘Electricity?’

‘Yes, they carry electric current,’ he said. ‘Nerves do that inside the body.’

Thoughts, like electric currents, and inside my mother’s head they ran uncontrolled – flashing and sizzling. I carried that image with me through my childhood for what ailed my mother and took her to hospital, sometimes every few months. Then she gave me another.

· · ·

She was in Ward 33 again, lying in bed, a bed with a dark green sheet and a view of the outside. We could both see a man and a woman getting out of a taxi. They were young and stood for a while, as if hesitating, in front of the hospital. Then the man took the woman’s hand in his and they walked into the hospital and we lost them.

‘That’s why Indian women fall ill,’ Em said. ‘So that their husbands will hold their hands.’

‘Is that why you’re here?’

I wanted to bite my tongue. I wanted to whiz around the world, my red cape flying, and turn time back so that I could choose not to make that remark. But Em, being Em, was already replying.

‘I don’t know, Baba, I don’t know why. It’s a tap somewhere. It opened when you were born.’

I was repaid in pain, a sharp thing.

‘I loved you. And before you I loved Susan, the warmth of her and the smiles and the tiny toes and the miracle of her fingernails and the way her scrapes would fade within the day as she healed and grew. I loved the way her face lit up when she saw me and the way she nursed. But after you came along . . .’

She turned to the window again. An ambulance turned in, lazily, in the way of the city’s ambulances. Inured to traffic, unconcerned by mortality, unimpressed by anyone’s urgency, the ambulance driver stopped to light a beedi before jumping out of the cab. We watched together as someone inside opened the doors and two young men leapt out and tried to wrest a stretcher from within.

‘Was it like that?’ she asked. She had forgotten how she got to the hospital.

‘No,’ I said. ‘You came in a taxi.’

‘What was I wearing?’

‘The green dress with the pockets.’

She looked puzzled.

I rooted about in the locker by the bed, a locker marked ‘Patient Belonging’, and opened it. I pulled the dress out.

‘Oh that one,’ she said. ‘Bring it here.’

She stroked it as if to rediscover a little more about it.

‘The tap?’ I said.

‘Sorry. I must be going mad.’

We both smiled at this, but only a little. It was a tradition: the joke, the smile.

‘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....

"About this title" may belong to another edition of this title.

Other Popular Editions of the Same Title

9780143124764: Em and the Big Hoom: A Novel

Featured Edition

ISBN 10:  0143124765 ISBN 13:  9780143124764
Publisher: Penguin Books, 2014
Softcover

9789382277316: Em and the Big Hoom

Aleph ..., 2013
Softcover

9788192328027: Em and The Big Hoom

Aleph ..., 2012
Hardcover

9780670923588: Em and the Big Hoom

Viking, 2014
Hardcover

9780670923595: Em & the Big Hoom

Pengui..., 2014
Softcover

Top Search Results from the AbeBooks Marketplace

1.

Jerry Pinto
Published by Penguin Books Ltd, United Kingdom (2015)
ISBN 10: 0241966515 ISBN 13: 9780241966518
New Paperback Quantity Available: 10
Seller:
The Book Depository
(London, United Kingdom)
Rating
[?]

Book Description Penguin Books Ltd, United Kingdom, 2015. Paperback. Condition: New. Language: English. Brand new Book. Brilliantly comic and almost unbearably moving, Jerry Pinto's Em and the Big Hoom is one of the most powerful and original fiction debuts of recent years. 'Profoundly moving. I cannot remember when I last read something as touching as this' Amitav Ghosh 'Hilarious, reckless, brilliant' Kiran Desai In a tiny flat in Bombay Imelda Mendes - Em to her family - is by turns flamboyant, maniacally affectionate and cruelly candid. Her husband - Augustine, the 'Big Hoom' - and two children must endure her 'microweathers': swings from searing joy to brooding malevolence. And here is the story of how this family of four came to be. Of how Imelda was courted by Augustine - 'Hello, Buttercup' - and of how with the passage of time and the arrival of her children she slowly turned into Em, loving and loathing a world terrified of her extravagant excesses .'A near-perfect account of a psychologically troubled mother. Touching and funny' Irish Times 'Delightful. Pinto is quite a genius with dialogue' Guardian Jerry Pinto has been a mathematics tutor, school librarian and journalist and is now associated with MelJol, an NGO that works in the sphere of child rights.He has edited several anthologies including, most recently, an anthology on his native city, Mumbai. Seller Inventory # AAZ9780241966518

More information about this seller | Contact this seller

Buy New
US$ 11.97
Convert currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: FREE
From United Kingdom to U.S.A.
Destination, rates & speeds

2.

Jerry Pinto
Published by Penguin Books Ltd, United Kingdom (2015)
ISBN 10: 0241966515 ISBN 13: 9780241966518
New Paperback Quantity Available: 1
Seller:
Book Depository hard to find
(London, United Kingdom)
Rating
[?]

Book Description Penguin Books Ltd, United Kingdom, 2015. Paperback. Condition: New. Language: English. Brand new Book. Brilliantly comic and almost unbearably moving, Jerry Pinto's Em and the Big Hoom is one of the most powerful and original fiction debuts of recent years. 'Profoundly moving. I cannot remember when I last read something as touching as this' Amitav Ghosh 'Hilarious, reckless, brilliant' Kiran Desai In a tiny flat in Bombay Imelda Mendes - Em to her family - is by turns flamboyant, maniacally affectionate and cruelly candid. Her husband - Augustine, the 'Big Hoom' - and two children must endure her 'microweathers': swings from searing joy to brooding malevolence. And here is the story of how this family of four came to be. Of how Imelda was courted by Augustine - 'Hello, Buttercup' - and of how with the passage of time and the arrival of her children she slowly turned into Em, loving and loathing a world terrified of her extravagant excesses .'A near-perfect account of a psychologically troubled mother. Touching and funny' Irish Times 'Delightful. Pinto is quite a genius with dialogue' Guardian Jerry Pinto has been a mathematics tutor, school librarian and journalist and is now associated with MelJol, an NGO that works in the sphere of child rights.He has edited several anthologies including, most recently, an anthology on his native city, Mumbai. Seller Inventory # APE9780241966518

More information about this seller | Contact this seller

Buy New
US$ 12.45
Convert currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: FREE
From United Kingdom to U.S.A.
Destination, rates & speeds

3.

Jerry Pinto
Published by Penguin Books Ltd, United Kingdom (2015)
ISBN 10: 0241966515 ISBN 13: 9780241966518
New Paperback Quantity Available: 10
Seller:
Book Depository International
(London, United Kingdom)
Rating
[?]

Book Description Penguin Books Ltd, United Kingdom, 2015. Paperback. Condition: New. Language: English. Brand new Book. Brilliantly comic and almost unbearably moving, Jerry Pinto's Em and the Big Hoom is one of the most powerful and original fiction debuts of recent years. 'Profoundly moving. I cannot remember when I last read something as touching as this' Amitav Ghosh 'Hilarious, reckless, brilliant' Kiran Desai In a tiny flat in Bombay Imelda Mendes - Em to her family - is by turns flamboyant, maniacally affectionate and cruelly candid. Her husband - Augustine, the 'Big Hoom' - and two children must endure her 'microweathers': swings from searing joy to brooding malevolence. And here is the story of how this family of four came to be. Of how Imelda was courted by Augustine - 'Hello, Buttercup' - and of how with the passage of time and the arrival of her children she slowly turned into Em, loving and loathing a world terrified of her extravagant excesses .'A near-perfect account of a psychologically troubled mother. Touching and funny' Irish Times 'Delightful. Pinto is quite a genius with dialogue' Guardian Jerry Pinto has been a mathematics tutor, school librarian and journalist and is now associated with MelJol, an NGO that works in the sphere of child rights.He has edited several anthologies including, most recently, an anthology on his native city, Mumbai. Seller Inventory # AAZ9780241966518

More information about this seller | Contact this seller

Buy New
US$ 12.91
Convert currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: FREE
From United Kingdom to U.S.A.
Destination, rates & speeds

4.

Pinto, Jerry
Published by Penguin (2015)
ISBN 10: 0241966515 ISBN 13: 9780241966518
New Paperback Quantity Available: 1
Seller:
WYEMART LIMITED
(HEREFORD, United Kingdom)
Rating
[?]

Book Description Penguin, 2015. Paperback. Condition: New. All items inspected and guaranteed. All Orders Dispatched from the UK within one working day. Established business with excellent service record. Seller Inventory # mon0000171356

More information about this seller | Contact this seller

Buy New
US$ 7.86
Convert currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: US$ 5.21
From United Kingdom to U.S.A.
Destination, rates & speeds

5.

Pinto, Jerry
Published by Penguin (2015)
ISBN 10: 0241966515 ISBN 13: 9780241966518
New Paperback Quantity Available: 1
Seller:
Bestsellersuk
(Hereford, United Kingdom)
Rating
[?]

Book Description Penguin, 2015. Paperback. Condition: New. No.1 BESTSELLERS - great prices, friendly customer service â" all orders are dispatched next working day. Seller Inventory # mon0000544644

More information about this seller | Contact this seller

Buy New
US$ 7.79
Convert currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: US$ 7.81
From United Kingdom to U.S.A.
Destination, rates & speeds

6.

Jerry Pinto
Published by Simon (2015)
ISBN 10: 0241966515 ISBN 13: 9780241966518
New Softcover Quantity Available: 3
Seller:
Rating
[?]

Book Description Simon, 2015. Condition: New. Seller Inventory # GH9780241966518

More information about this seller | Contact this seller

Buy New
US$ 12.26
Convert currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: US$ 3.43
From Germany to U.S.A.
Destination, rates & speeds

7.

Pinto, Jerry
Published by Penguin (2015)
ISBN 10: 0241966515 ISBN 13: 9780241966518
New Paperback Quantity Available: > 20
Seller:
The Monster Bookshop
(Fleckney, United Kingdom)
Rating
[?]

Book Description Penguin, 2015. Paperback. Condition: New. BRAND NEW ** SUPER FAST SHIPPING FROM UK WAREHOUSE ** 30 DAY MONEY BACK GUARANTEE. Seller Inventory # mon0001414665

More information about this seller | Contact this seller

Buy New
US$ 11.18
Convert currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: US$ 5.20
From United Kingdom to U.S.A.
Destination, rates & speeds

8.

Jerry Pinto
ISBN 10: 0241966515 ISBN 13: 9780241966518
New Quantity Available: 20
Seller:
Speedy Hen LLC
(Sunrise, FL, U.S.A.)
Rating
[?]

Book Description Condition: New. Bookseller Inventory # ST0241966515. Seller Inventory # ST0241966515

More information about this seller | Contact this seller

Buy New
US$ 16.47
Convert currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: FREE
Within U.S.A.
Destination, rates & speeds

9.

Jerry Pinto
Published by Penguin Books Ltd
ISBN 10: 0241966515 ISBN 13: 9780241966518
New Paperback Quantity Available: > 20
Seller:
THE SAINT BOOKSTORE
(Southport, United Kingdom)
Rating
[?]

Book Description Penguin Books Ltd. Paperback. Condition: New. New copy - Usually dispatched within 2 working days. Seller Inventory # B9780241966518

More information about this seller | Contact this seller

Buy New
US$ 7.66
Convert currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: US$ 9.04
From United Kingdom to U.S.A.
Destination, rates & speeds

10.

Jerry Pinto
Published by Penguin (2015)
ISBN 10: 0241966515 ISBN 13: 9780241966518
New Softcover Quantity Available: > 20
Seller:
Ria Christie Collections
(Uxbridge, United Kingdom)
Rating
[?]

Book Description Penguin, 2015. Condition: New. book. Seller Inventory # ria9780241966518_rkm

More information about this seller | Contact this seller

Buy New
US$ 11.87
Convert currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: US$ 5.04
From United Kingdom to U.S.A.
Destination, rates & speeds

There are more copies of this book

View all search results for this book