Truth, the Bambaiyya Way | Deccan Herald


Jerry Pinto’s latest novel, The Education of Yuri, is a tender coming-of-age story of 15-year-old orphan Yuri Fonseca.

From page one, it draws you into its richly constructed and generously populated 1980s world of Mahim, where Yuri lives, along with his khadi-wearing Catholic uncle, Julio, who had no choice but to be the guardian of Yuri after the death of his sister and brother-in-law in a traffic accident. While the black-and-white wedding portrait of Yuri’s parents hanging in his bedroom is nothing but “static images drained of life”, Tio Julio is a lifesaver – a reality. Because it was his uncle who sacrificed his own dream and advised Yuri to “[g]and an education, get to know yourself and your world. Then do your best and things will fall into place. With this simple expectation and adolescent naivety, Yuri begins to experience life – its many firsts and lasts.

It’s this “upbringing” – both literally and metaphorically – that propels this hugely accessible existential tale of a youngster’s growing years as the world around him is stuck in dissenting binaries of all kinds. : rich-poor, socialism-capitalism, man-woman, etc…

The story is written in a way that only a few can be, for few novels deal with the question of your being and delve into the questioning of everyday notions that seem so fixed and cemented that we rarely tend to dissect them for ourselves. While it might sound heavy in fiction, it’s rendered in such a Bambaiyya and polished style that it makes you laugh and think along the way.

Two of Yuri’s most valuable discoveries, in my opinion, include his affection for his friend Muzammil from Pedder Road (read: filthy rich) and poetry. The two, in a way, help Yuri get to know each other. While for the first, he will gradually develop a vocabulary and will know that it is also love, the second becomes an integral part of his life. Example: “And then, as he began to read more poetry, stealthily at first, then with pleasure, came the feeling that he might want to write it down. With that came the horrible emptiness of wanting to write and having nothing to say.

Class setup

While the protagonist’s life as a reader and writer is interesting to read, the book is unique in that it weaves existentialist quests into young adult fiction so precisely that the text is not overloaded with the politics of its characters. And there are many of them and they all have a role to play. Their idiosyncrasy and charm for facilitating and resolving multiple conflicts justifies the diverse cast that Pinto has packed into this volume. Arif is an example of this, as he explains to his teacher how a college degree has situational utility, much like the box of matches he carries around in case a smoker needs them.

It’s interesting that Pinto uses the classroom setup for several philosophical and feminist renditions, because that’s where something snaps in all of us, if we’re lucky enough to be admitted to a place like a middle-school. This is where we learn that everything we have learned must be unlearned, and with a newer, vague and slippery understanding, we negotiate with the world, often making mistakes, sometimes getting lucky and sometimes risking everything. for a cause, which Yuri also does by almost becoming a Naxalite.

Fragment of a poem

It is Pinto’s sheer craftsmanship that makes you feel that Yuri’s existential crisis has become yours, and without you knowing it, you become both an active participant and a voyeur, with an equal degree of attachment and distance, and your heart goes out to Yuri, who sometimes behaves like a typical “man” unable to process his emotions. In a way, it’s like an unrefined fragment of a poem.

Famous poets like Nissim Ezekiel, Adil Jussawalla and Eunice de Souza are part of the story. So does a masseur, who plays an extremely important role, providing closure to the narrative and helping Yuri learn the meaning of the word “freedom.” Reading these passages reminded me of The Boatman: A Memoir of Same-Sex Love by John Burbidge, in which the experiences with such masseurs in 1980s Bombay, with whom many locals and foreigners had had homosocial encounters , are vividly described. Despite that, I’m sure it would be hard to claim it’s a “queer book.” In a way, Pinto’s book testifies to what Nissim said in a lecture in this book: “Poetry doesn’t have to deal with literal truth; he has to face [a] higher truth.

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