These are a few excerpts from the book with a little commentary from moi (okay, more than a little).
On the balcony of our small flat in a city of small flats
The third page of the book and this is how he describes Bombay. Whoever ever described Bombay thus? I love it!
That’s what comes of 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.
That’s how Em rolls when she does.
I wasn’t sure I would ever be able to deal with the world. It seemed too big and demanding and there was no fixed syllabus.
Hahaha! This is Em’s unnamed son (narrator) speaking to us. See what he did there? Juxtaposed the irony of real life with the farce of education.
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 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 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.’
Words fail me.
Buy your own house, I say to all the girls. I can see them thinking, “Who’s this soiled dove to give us advice?” But my heart is good and I know what’s what and God is my judge. If it’s your home, you can do what you want there. If it’s your home, no one is going to tell you to sit if you want to stand.’
Imelda’s best friend Gertrude talking about women’s liberation before it became cool.
‘Only one word of advice,’ Em said. ‘ Do what your heart tells you. It doesn’t matter if you make a mistake. The only things we regret are the things we did not do.’
Em’s advice to Susan on her first date.
Marriage is all right. At least the person you’re having a go at is an adult. But motherhood… You’re given something totally dependent, totally in love with you and it doesn’t seem to come with a manual.
Em, on being a Muddh-dha (as she calls it)
There was something capricious about God. How could one expect perfect submission from those who are imperfect? How could one create desire and then expect everyone to pull the plug on it? And if God were capricious, then God was imperfect. If God were imperfect, God was not God.
Em’s unnamed son (narrator) thinks out loud about god.
I am imperfect, my world is imperfect, I have no time for solutions premised on perfect persons seeing the perfection of solutions that work in a perfect world.
Em’s unnamed son (narrator) continues.
Love is a hollow word which seems at home in song lyrics and greeting cards, until you fall in love and discover it’s disconcerting power. Depression means nothing more than the blues, commercially packaged angst, a hole in the ground; until you find it’s black weight settled inside your mother’s chest, disrupting her breathing, leaching her days, and yours, of colour and the nights of rest.
Words are hollow. We put the substance in them from our own being.
Love is never enough. Madness is enough. It is complete, sufficient unto itself. You can only stand outside it as a woman might stand outside a prison in which her lover is locked up. From time to time, a well-loved face will peer out and love floods back. A scrap of cloth flutters and it becomes a sign and a code and a message and all that you want it to be. Then it vanishes and you are outside the dark tower again.
This is how Em’s son describes her when she’s manic depressive. He sums it up by saying that in the dark tower, ‘You’re a tourist and she’s a resident.’
Fight your genes.
The big Hoom’s advice to his son of a mad wife.
If anyone ever does you a favor, you cannot forget it. You must always credit them, especially in public, especially to those they love and those who love them. You must always pay your debts, even those that you can never fully repay. Anything less makes you less.
The big Hoom speaks to his son about the importance of gratitude.
She read my mind. (‘Mad people are telepathic, clairvoyant and everything that should frighten you. Be afraid of me,’ she had once joked)
This is what Em’s brand of humor is like. But her family are right at home with it (pun intended).
I am no I. I am now part of a we. Wee wee wee, I wanted to weep and run all the way home and bury my head in my mother’s lap.
Imelda discovers that she is in love with Augustine and confesses to her friend in a letter she never posts. This is also how her son discovers when Em finally understood that the big Hoom was the one. There’s a very sweet incident that leads to this realization for Imelda and it is a delight to read.
‘He was a natural protestant, when I met him,’ Em would say. ‘He protested everything.’
Hahahaha! Em on the big Hoom.
What is it about the sea? Is it because it’s there?
Imelda thinks out loud to Augustine. Profound.
In this city, every deserted street corner conceals a crowd. It appears in a minute when something disrupts the way in which the world is supposed to work. It can disappear almost as instantaneously.
This is so true about Bombay!
It occurred to me that the mad in India are not the mentally ill, they are simply mad. They have no other identity. Here, everyone was mad. They had lost their hair so that the institution could keep them free of lice. They had lost their clothes because their families had abandoned them, and they had lost their lives because they had lost their families. They were now free in a bizarre sort of way.
An epiphany that Em’s son has on a visit to Thane Mental Hospital.
You can cry in public as long as you don not sob. Tears are transparent. If you’re walking fast, if the sun’s too strong, no one notices. Sobs intrude. They push their way into people’s consciousness. They feel duty-bound to ask what has happened.