Intimacy in the time of Corona
Two months into the lockdown and writer Shobhaa De has penned an entire book. “The lockdown has created countless new spaces for all of us to explore our own creative potential. We have the time and the impetus to document this strange new menace. Would we allow a microbe to dominate our thoughts? Kill imagination? Or would we use the time to enhance and hone our own creative potential. So many thoughts crowd my mind! So many emotional insights surface,” she says.
Hooked and booked
The book ‘emerged’ organically, says Shobhaa. “The world had turned topsy turvy overnight. There was enormous confusion and fear,” she explains. “Togetherness’ has come with a hefty price tag. All the carefully calibrated personal goals and equations are falling apart. This is turning out to be such a melodramatic script! People are losing their jobs, but more than anything else, they are losing their bearings. We can no longer take anything for granted.”
Just two weeks into the lockdown, her head was bursting with ideas and images. “I had finished my novel Srilaaji ahead of schedule, and all of a sudden, these stories and voices started speaking to me. I didn’t think! I just wrote! I wrote in a fury, sometimes managing a story a day,” she says. “These are like internal monologues of different people coping with the unexpectedness of the bizarre situation.”
Titled Lockdown Liaisons, these are short stories dealing with fantasy, sensuality, love, desire and intimacy. “Intimacy has become a rare commodity in our over busy, over stressed lives. Intimacy creates expectations and pressures. Intimacy scares us! That’s because we have lost touch with our basic feelings. But the lockdown has forced a lot of us to confront our own emotional failures and shortcomings, along with our strengths and pleasures,” says Shobhaa. “But the lockdown has forced a lot of us to confront our emotional failures and shortcomings. I see a very complex post-pandemic emotional grid evolving, especially when it comes to romantic, sexual, and conjugal relationships. It is developing as we speak. We will question and redefine all that we have based our beliefs on and invested in.”
The new Vlogger in town
Shobhaa recently started an Instagram series called #lockdownchronicles! “I started it on pure whim, never for a moment imagining anybody would be interested. But now it will be 60 days of non-stop daily videos without skipping a single episode,” says the 72-year-old. “It is my way of creating a casual ‘conversation’ with followers. There is no script, no rehearsal. I end each chronicle with a song, which started as a private joke. I can’t sing for nuts! But it is the one thing my followers look forward to. There is no script, no rehearsal. It is a spontaneous, off the cuff effort! A ‘joint production’ with my daughter Anandita, who is my sporting videographer.”
Shobhaa points out that as a writer, she is obliged to find expression for all that happens. “I use the word ‘obliged’ deliberately. I have used all the platforms available to me to express my concerns during this bizarre period,” she says. “My columns reflect my politics. My vlog is a direct, daily conversation with followers - the tone is positive and upbeat, light hearted and conversational. Fiction is by far the richest form of self-expression!”
At home, things have not changed drastically for the author. “I work long hours – now those hours are even longer! The impact has been minimal, apart from the psychological awareness that comes with enforced sharing of time, space and those awful words ‘domestic duties’!” She laughs. “The kitchen lures me more than ever. So reconnecting with my latent ‘chef’ has been a fun discovery.”
Little has changed for her, she says, because she grew up knowing that a little discipline takes one a long way. “It sounds boring, but there has to be discipline. I am a bit of a maniac when it comes to utilising my time well. I love what I do, and the lockdown provided the perfect opportunity to go flat out!”
Shobhaa is locked down with her husband and daughter, and she is emphatic when she speaks about personal space. “We figured early on that if we are to hang on to our sanity, we would need to ‘mark’ our space, our individual zones, in the home pretty clearly. And not intrude! Our hours are fixed - and keeping to a schedule has really helped all three of us. There hasn’t been any great ‘revelation’ as such, just a quiet acceptance and recognition of our very different personality types,” she says.
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From HT Brunch, May 31, 2020
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