How writers are making sense of the pandemic

Published On: October 18, 2020 09:10 AM NPT By: Sangita Shrestha

Post-pandemic, they hope to see more meaningful conversations and writings 

KATHMANDU, Oct 18: Being at home during the pandemic has made everyone rethink about what really matters in life. Most of us have realized the most important aspects in our life are purpose, time, health and the loved ones. 

We talked to four prominent female writers —Saraswati Pratikshya, the poet and novelist, Durga Karki, the author of Kumaari Prasnaharu,  Bhushita Vasistha, writer and editor at Nepalaya, and Sarala Gautam, the author of Dumero— who shared their take on life before and after the pandemic, the health of the country's democracy, writing and much more.

Life during pandemic

Durga didn’t really make anything of the pandemic. She was busy with her office work from home, and she started doing exercise. Saraswati was busy making friends in her neighborhood, and she became aware of the nature around her. She also learned rooftop farming. “I started noticing things that I did not notice before, and became mindful of people and nature,” she said.

Writers Saraswati and Bhushita found time to reflect on the meaning of life. “This pandemic is valuable to reflect and consider what could be gained from so much loss and void. I think the virus has taught us the benefits of silence and solitude so that we can look into ourselves and explore the deeper recesses of our consciousness,” shared Saraswati.

Writing during pandemic

Sarala pointed out that she has been writing on social justice and the pandemic shifted her perspective. “I realized we are focusing more on social justice but we have not cared much about nature’s justice. A comprehensive approach to nature and society with introspection on both is necessary for justice,” she commented. 

Durga did think and observe a lot during this pandemic, which  “was painful” but which gave her “ideas for a few articles and stories.” Likewise, Bhushita got the time to think and understand herself as a person. The stillness and restriction gave everyone a time to think more, rather than being in the rat race. “Life is not about becoming and not about achieving,” she said. 

Saraswati focused more on reading as the pandemic “created a kind of halt” in her writing process. 

The government and the health of democracy

Nepal on Friday reported as many as 4,392 new cases of the coronavirus infection. Since the country reported the first case of the pandemic on January 23, the total number of infected has reached 126,137, including 88,040 recoveries and 715 deaths. 

Sarala observed that the government has communicated to the people in a threatening tone and it has been on the defense--imposing lockdown when things get worse.  “Democracy means equality and the government should be able to uplift the people at the bottom. But we are left to the mercy of Lord Pashupatinath. The government does not seem to have any plan, vision and strategy,” she said. 

Saraswati seconded this view: “The government's role during this pandemic has been pathetic. It seems they don’t have any preparation and plans to keep the situation under control. Every citizen has the right to expect support from the government during such a difficult situation. But the government failed to honor people’s trust. This will, in the long run, force the people to stop believing in their government, which will eventually erode our faith in democracy.”  

According to Durga, it is not only the government which is irresponsible and unprepared, the people are no different. “We have a lot to do, both the government and the people,” said Durga. 

But Bhushita sees it rather differently “There are two ways to look at this. If I am in the middle of mountains in Sankhuwasabha, the government is doing great as roads are being built and it seems coronavirus has not affected. But if I’m in the city, the government is a total failure,” said Bhushita. According to her, the government is going through challenges but it could still have done better.

How will writing change after this pandemic?

People want to travel to places, try out new food, spend time with their family and friends, and go back to work like before. When all this is over, how will writing change?

According to Saraswati after every major event in history--whether the two world wars, industrial revolution or other events--the course of writing and thinking has changed. “We always saw our role from the perspective of a master, and the advances in science and technology fuelled that confidence. But the pandemic has changed everything: a small virus has changed our course of life and forced us to ponder on our life, health and the way of living,” said Saraswati. “A writer’s writing and thinking process after the pandemic will be more human centric, with a focus on the inside. The writing will be more reflective.” 

Durga thinks we will be more forward-looking, if not anything. However, she also doubts if we will ever change. “We saw the level of destruction in the earthquakes of 2015, but we did not change. It was a momentary realization that passed away with things returning to normalcy,” she said. 

“We are facing this great pandemic but people aren't afraid. It's a different case for those who can't afford to be afraid, but even those who have to be afraid are not responsible,” she added. She also believes that the greatest stories of this pandemic are yet to come. “It will come like the stories of the Maoist insurgency and keep reminding us what we went through.”

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