A few days ago I was given Jerry Pinto’s first novel. After a very long time I was reading a novel that made me pause every now and then and say to myself: Gosh, he is good! This book is amazing.
When you read this Q & A with Jerry Pinto, you will know why. Or better, read the book for yourself after you read this interview.
Jerry Pinto is the editor of The Greatest Show on Earth (Penguin), an anthology of writing about Bollywood. He has also edited Reflected in Water: Writings about Goa (Penguin). He is the co-editor, with Naresh Fernandes of Bombay Meri Jaan; Writings about Mumbai (Penguin) and with Arundhathi Subramaniam, of Confronting Love (Penguin), an anthology of love poems by Indian poets writing in English. He is also the author of Asylum, a collection of poems; and of Helen; The Life and Times of an H-Bomb (Penguin) for which he won the National Award for the Best Writing on Cinema, in 2006. Em and the Big Hoom (Aleph Book Company) is his first novel.
Soaring into heaven moment:
Gosh, I think I am easy to excite. I can remember the time I first fell in love. I can remember the time I first saw my byline in print. I can remember the feeling of seeing my first book, Surviving Women, in print. Each of these was a bit dizzying. But Em and the Big Hoom (Aleph Book Company), when that came out, that was special. Perhaps it’s only proximity. One tends to forget the intensities of both pleasure and pain, because the brain is a forgiving organ.
That infernal fire time:
The first bad review. The first rejection. The first time you puncture the tin drum and discover that it is hollow.
20 years, 7 drafts and 7,00,000 words thereafter, would you do this differently and again?
This is a terrifying question because one always feels the answer would be ‘Yes, I would’. I would be wiser. I would be more economical. I would be more respectful. I would be kinder. But then that means I would have to be a different person.
So the question now morphs into: would you be a different person. The answer to that is always, ‘Yes, I would’ because the person one is, is never enough.
Not smart enough, not sexy enough, not tough enough, not caring enough, not kind enough, not anything enough. But then sophomore psychology reminds us: there is always a distance between the perceived self and the idealized self. And so perhaps if I were another person, the image of myself would only have moved.
And then there are the possibilities of chaos theory which I am only beginning to understand. The flutter of a butterfly wing might cause a typhoon across the world? Well then, changing how one is, changing how a book was written, what might that unleash? There are already too many worlds unfolding; would I want to unfold more?
I suppose the answer depends on which Jerry is being addressed: the optimistic Jerry who writes because he believes in the future or the pessimistic Jerry who wonders whether any writer is equipped to survive the dystopias we are visiting upon ourselves.
What does Jerry Pinto the writer fear the most?
Waking up one morning to find that I have nothing to say. Waking up one morning to find that I have no desire to say anything.
What does Jerry Pinto the writer desire the most?
I don’t know. I wish I had other tools. I wish I were a musician. Music seems to act so effortlessly on other people, it seems to transcend cultures so magically.
What does Jerry Pinto the writer hate the most?
There is a mean Jerry Pinto in here somewhere among the multiple selves. I find him quite unbearable.