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The pandemic became the time and space for my second book

Jhumpa and I can agree that the pandemic has left each one of us confused, filled with moments that have brought pain and moved us, and overall, we continue to stay terrified.


Purva Grover

Published: Sat 20 Mar 2021, 9:42 PM

Recently, I was asked by an acquaintance if I wrote in 2020, and I am certain that I looked at her in disbelief and my brows acted up as well at the question put forward. Courtesy of the mask, my facial expressions stayed hidden. I write for a living, professionally. I write to maintain my sanity, personally. I’d take a liberty here and quote one of my favourite authors, Jhumpa Lahiri, and how I connect with her when she says, “Why do I write? If I want to understand what moves me, what confuses me, what pains me — everything that makes me react, in short — I have to put it into words. Writing is my only way of absorbing and organising life. Otherwise, it would terrify me, it would upset me too much.”

Jhumpa and I can agree that the pandemic has left each one of us confused, filled with moments that have brought pain and moved us, and overall, we continue to stay terrified. As a compulsive writer, writing has always been my safe space, I turn to it during moments of joy, despair, and every other emotion that lies in between and beyond. So yes, the question was not one meant for me, but then I do understand that many of us did find it tough to continue with our daily work tasks and chores over the year gone by; so yes, it’s been tough to stay put together, and the question was asked in good faith.

As for me, in 2020, I relied on words more than ever. They became my shield and strength. An empty notebook and an empty word document became my happy space. I wrote 4,00,000 + words (thanks to the Grammarly app for the count) in the year that was. Some found a place in hearts, some on the stage, some at book clubs, some at spoken word evenings, some in video storytelling sessions... and yes, a few found their way into my second book incidentally titled It Was The Year 2020. Just as I lost many words too — for projects did come crashing and a few book contracts fell through.

But if I were to answer the question “Why did I write my second title during a pandemic?”, I’d fail to come up with a fancy or goosebumps-inducing back story. The e-book is available across Amazon and Kindle platforms and was picked up as a read instantly, reaching the top 300 under literary fiction, within ten days of release. As one reader wrote as a review, “Whilst, we’re still trying to make sense of 2020, here’s a book daring to sum it up as it was.”

I’ll try, nevertheless. To begin with, I am in love with words and their magic; and over my 16 years of writings, I’ve come to understand that words connect us, empower us, and can soothe us. Could we ask for more during a pandemic? So, I guess I didn’t decide to write a book, but the book chose me. It sounds eerie for it happens to be a book I wrote on the pandemic, during the pandemic and was published in Covid times (February 2021) as well. Its title is what literary experts call a ‘fragmentary novel’, and its elements can be read in isolation or absorbed in their entirety.

The tale does lack a traditional plot, and its characters remain nameless, all victims of a crisis. It is set in real-time, and it does dare to speak of the pandemic — waiting to take over our lives, or whatever little is left of it. What was the trigger then? Perhaps the search for a word that could sum up the year 2020. After all, there’s a word for every emotion, occasion, and situation, right? If not in the English language, then definitely in Norwegian, Danish or Japanese. As I struggled to find one word, I found relief in the information that the Oxford English Dictionary had expanded its word of the year to encompass several words of an unprecedented year.

As for me, I just borrowed a few and put them together in It Was The Year 2020. What, then, is the word for 2020? I know not. The title and I too are in search of that word. And if you do happen to pick this read, do remember that nothing here is in order, for 2020 was anything else but in “order”!


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