Michael: How has your creative practice changed as a result of living through this pandemic?
Soumya: The pandemic has changed mainly two things about my writing.
Firstly, I was more like a nocturnal creature, hunting words upon the keyboard at the dead of the night. My job as a school-teacher never allowed me much time during the day to write strange and fantastic yarns – the kind of things I love to read and write. But as my only connection now with the outside world in this lock-down period is the window beside my bed and the balcony facing south, I’ve developed a deeper relationship with my keyboard during the daytime. Yet, God knows how much I miss my children at the school. And I hope to meet them again when this is over and tell each other stories about winning a battle against the lethal little monsters we can’t see with the naked eye, just like a thing from a sci-fi or fantasy movie. And I really, really hope that all those happy faces will be with me again – all of them. ALL OF THEM.
Secondly, summer days have become lengthy in India, and the nights seem lengthier now. But, you know, though I’m very much afraid for my family, I think this situation has brought us closer. We know that soon there may come a time when we would say the final ‘goodbye’ to the ones we love, and there is every chance that that moment is just invisibly hanging overhead to crush us down, yet I feel that I’ve never before experienced the affection of my parents, the love of my sweet wife, the naughty, smile-magnet deeds of my little son with so much proximity to my heart. This gives me a maturity – both as a family-man and a writer – to feel that the world remains beautiful as long as we love each other, even in hard times like this.
Michael: How do you think the world will change?
Soumya: In the long run, it will be a better place. There will be death, there will be hunger, there will be unemployment. But earth has its own healing process. And we’ll live to tell the tale. But what happens for now? In my opinion, this is a lesson for us all. If we fight together, we will win. But after that? Corona will go away, and with it, our common sense, too. Human beings can’t stay satisfied without inventing enemies. Newspapers will again be full with the news of ‘us’ and ‘others’. So, we will fight each other again; we will blame each other again; we will plunder the earth again; we will destroy the environment again. There is no end of human stupidity and egoism which will very possibly lead us to a gradual doomsday – a point of no return. But, I’m sure, one day the earth will heal – with or without the humanity. The choice is ours to make.
—April 11, 2020