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Set in Bombay during the last decades of the twentieth century, Em and The Big Hoom tells the compelling story of the Mendeses mother, father, daughter and son. Between Em, the beedi smoking, hyperactive mother, driven frequently to hospital by her mania and failed suicide attempts and the Big Hoom, the rock solid, dependable father, trying to hold things together as best he can, they are an extraordinary family.
Winner of 'The Hindu' Literary Prize 2012
‘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’llcome with you to the doctor.
‘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.’