G.B.Prabhat, the author of Eimona, has impressive credentials. He is a 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 and eminently suitable for a non-stop read.
The humor and the depth of characterization, the distinct messages and thoughts centered on each of the characters are indeed telling. The new flat world is forcing disparate cultures to come together in an enmeshed way – with business and new-found prosperity 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 society 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 with a trade-off. Invariably society and most individuals pay a price for pursuing things that are centered on the such things as “live for the moment,” or “follow-the-group syndrome.” The deleterious consequences of such a mechanical life, characterized by hollow plastic smiles and superficial values, generally follow hauntingly and unfailingly. Prabhat’s work is woven brilliantly, combining wit, humour, false values, aimless materialism, simplicity, and 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 on any of the continents but alas perhaps exists everywhere in this flat world. Clearly the message is universal even though 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,” For Subbu, the 84-year-old simple man who is the key character in the novel, 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 absorbing, filled as they are with good humor and deeply thought out observations.
Subbu’s mind goes back and forth and assesses events and happenings based on new norms highlighting the conflict between the New India of stock options and artificial values and the Old India. The cold blast that hits Subbu in the form of fortunes that get built based on stock options, the prenuptial agreements, and the different business setups where the employed and the organization have a purely contractual relationship 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 forever in his lifetime dotes on the eight-year-old Maya, his great-granddaughter. The powerful characterization of the ever uncertain Bharat, a successful investment banker and Subbu’s grandson and his personable but aggressive wife Indu, an executive in a software firm, adds to the richness of the plot. Of note are the ways the events move when she can’t accept their young daughter’s nonchalant attitude towards the e-world’s modern tools – online chat, games, and all other non-academic activities, while the girl loves nature 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 to the Internet, expected of her in these times.
Rule-setting Indu wants to run the family with an iron grip, in the same way she works in the office, and that includes her old, suffering father, who lives alone and who in the past had a great social and business life. Several of Indu’s actions, so well brought out, typically represent the false sense of righteousness that pervades the society and her own response towards sad personal events and the partying life makes readers wonder and worry about the chaotic degeneration that we all see in our presentday lives.
Subbu also finds many modern day activities at odds with what he has seen in his prime – 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 overlook it are a representative point about the type of issues that the novel seeks to bring out.
Bharat’s inability to make up his mind, particularly in moments of crisis, the appearance of Buridan’s ass and the knowledge he gained that in the long run, the majority always wins, are all classic follies that we tend to see in modern life. What happens to the simple-minded old man Subbu and his great-granddaughter Maya closer to the end adds to the excitement in reading the book.
Yet, despite addressing such serious issues, the novel has an undercurrent of natural humour that amplifies the effect of the book many times over. Eimona brings out quite fascinatingly many destructive shortcomings of the so-called meritorious society where conformity to the new norms is non-negotiable, however bizarre they might appear to the balanced mind. It raises several questions that deserve to be answered by every thinking person.
A combination of sharp observation and an eloquent style, liberally embedded with gentle satire, Eimona clearly qualifies to be the most representative story of the modern life and the digital generation. It leaves a sense that we need to pause, reflect, and question the happenings in our fast-paced modern lives and perhaps realign and revise our outlook towards life. G.B. Prabhat hopes that Eimona becomes an often referred word around the world. This is a must read book – one can perhaps keep reading year after year.