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Friday, September 01, 2006

Eimona: The New World

I recently wrote that I have started reading the book Eimona. Amidst my hectic travel and a punishing schedule, just managed to finish reading the book. G.B.Prabhat, the author of Eimona, has impressive credentials. He is the pioneer in offshore consulting business and a well known name in the global IT/Business Consulting space. Eimona is his second novel and after an interesting opening rapidly paces to an amazingly engrossing read - very rich in words and full of events - suits itself for a non stop read. The humor and the depth in characterization, the distinct messages/thoughts centered on each of the characters are indeed quite telling. The new flat world is forcing disparate cultures to come together in an enmeshed way – with prosperity, business accelerating the pace of life like never before resulting in practices and events that were unthinkable a couple of decades back. These happen quite routinely and have the potential effect of denting the fabric of societal and traditional family values. Eimona is certainly amongst the early attempts to capture and bring out in its own brilliant way that these advancements come out with a tradeoff. Invariably society and most individuals pay a price for pursuing things that are centered on things like live for the moment, or follow the group syndrome and the deleterious consequences of the mechanical life with plastic smile ensconced with artificial values generally follow. Prabhat’s work is woven brilliantly combining wit, humour, false values, aimless materialism, simplicity, virtuous life and raises serious questions. The novel is set in Madras in India and captures the nuances of Eimona, a place that does not physically exist in any of the continents but alas is perhaps existent everywhere in this flat world. Clearly the message is universal, while the setting may be contextual.

What is Eimona ? It is the reverse of anomie – an affliction that causes the victim to have social interaction that’s lower than the usual standards in the group, a sort of rootlessness. By seeing through the eyes of Subbu, the eighty four year old, simple man, the world as he sees it is changing so fast in all its facets that established norms turn upside down. The way the change in norms are captured and presented makes the reading quite absorbing – filled as they are with good humour and deeply thought out observations. Most of these are brought out as Subbu’s mind goes back and forth and assesses events and happenings based on new norms and bring out the conflict between the New India of stock options and artificial values while the society does not fully want to get rid of the flavors of the Old India.. The cold blast that hits Subbu in the form of the nature of fortunes that get built in millions based on stock options, the changing landscapes of residences when nature in its closest form at distance has not changed a bit, the prenuptial agreements and the different business setup where the employed and the organization have a purely contractual relationship etc – all these make reading of the novel, a very meaningful exercise. For example when his great granddaughter is born – he worries that she should not be named with the new economy tongue twisters – Vrimnolika, Karnishta or Avnita – he is relieved when she is named Maya , a simple but traditional name. Subbu, who has seen so many of his family members gone for ever in his lifetime dotes all his attention on the eight-year old Maya, his great granddaughter. The powerful characterization in the form of the ever uncertain – Bharat, a successful investment banker as his grandson and his personable but aggressive wife Indu, an executive in a software firm and the way the events move when she can’t accept their young daughter’s nonchalant attitude towards the eworlds modern tools – online chat, games and all other non-academic activities but is quite tuned towards nature loving activities and pursues simple interests, which transcend social class and technology barriers. A nature loving child becomes a problem child when she does not get attracted towards the net, expected of her in these times. Rule setting Indu wants to run the family with an iron grip – the same way she works in the office and that includes his old, suffering father, staying alone and who in the past had a great social and business life. Several of Indu’s action, so well brought out typically represents the false sense of righteousness that pervades the society and her own response towards sad personal events and partying life all make readers wonder and worry about the chaotic degeneration that we all see in our present day lives.
Subbu also finds many modern day activities at odds with what he has seen in his prime time – every working day in any family, the apartment complex transforms into a bedlam of noise and confusion by seven thirty in the morning, only to become quiet and solemn in an hour. His concerns about the potential inequity that modern society is spreading and how the beneficiaries tend to over look it is a representative point about the type of issues that the novel seeks to bring out. Bharat’s inability to make up his mind – in moments of crisis – the appearance of Buridan’s ass and the tutorship he got that in the long run – the majority always wins – are all classic follies that we tend to see in modern life and the novel captures it at its essence quite well. What happens to the simple minded old man Subbu and his great grand daughter Maya closer to the end adds to the excitement in reading the book.
Yet, despite addressing such serious issue of life, the novel has a well felt undercurrent of humour and coming out so naturally; it amplifies the effect of the book many times over. Eimona brings out quite fascinatingly many destructive shortcoming of the so-called meritorious society where conformance to the new norms is non-negotiable, however bizarre and anachronistic they might appear to the balanced mind. It pops up several questions that deserve to be answered by every thinking person. Combination of sharp observation and told in an eloquent style, liberally embedded with gentle satire, Eimona clearly qualifies to be the most representative story of the modern life and the digitized generation. It leaves a sense that we need to pause, reflect and question the happenings in the fast paced modern life and perhaps realign and revise the nature of the journey seeking more and more prosperity leaving with a taste of lesser happiness all around. Eimona may soon become a well spoken word as well, around the world. This is a MUST READ book – one can perhaps keep reading year after year. Indian readers can buy the book here and international readers can buy it here.
Readers beware : I may not have done full justice in my review of the book, considering its class

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