Lockdown Narratives: Four Short Stories. Four Lockdowns by Durjoy Choudhury is an engaging book with stories based on quarantines and lockdowns and other situations where humans were forced to take backseat.
In total there are four stories, one is about Covid-19, second is about clampdown in Kashmir, third is historical fiction, set in 1918 when influenza was causing havoc in European countries, and the last one is futuristic – set in 2032 – it depicts how life will be when we all are surrounded by machines and robots in a time when humans cannot see or touch each other.
The first story – 956, 5th, Ave – is a story about two friends. Once they were in the same school in India. Nafeez and Oishi. The former is based in the USA, and the later is settled in Kolkata, India. The guy Nafeez writes to Oishi when Covid starts hitting the USA severely. They chat via emails. They inform each other about the pandemic situation from their countries or regions. At Nafeez’s side, Covid takes a disastrous side and Oishi begins worrying about him. Their story is subtle and moves at its own pace. In first two stories, there is a melody of prose and poetry. It is simply amazing and soul-stirring.
The second story is from Kashmir. The author showed the grim reality of the valley – how there people are scrutinized. This story is about letters. Someone writes beautiful poetic letters to someone. The narrator working in the postal department is rather fascinated by the letters that talk of love and nature and captures the raw beauty of Kashmir and more. What happens when the narrator decides to meet the receiver? The revelation is bound to startle you, for sure.
The third story is set in historical time of 1918, a war time along with influenza pervading across Europe. It is rather a long story mainly about family roots and a few more aspects. The cross-cultural settings in this story weren’t easy to understand. Had it been short and much refined, it could have been a better story to share.
The last story is set in future years i.e. 2032. It brilliantly captures the monopoly of one robotics company that rules over humans and their desires are left and ignored beyond inexplicable suffering. One guy rises and challenges their robots. It is also about lockdown and ‘don’ts’ that one needs to practice in the times of post pandemic. How a society will look after a pandemic, can be better understood through this story? But the missing human angle makes this story a little bit boring. It is a good sci-fi but lacked some unspeakable intensity.
From the collection, first two narratives of lockdown are contemporary and carry the feel of being real and full of pain. From a Covid point of view, this book is meaningful and holds a good value for readers. Durjoy’s got good flair for writing; however, at times some of his sentences are long-winded. Overall, it is a worth reading book, and first two stories can melt a person to any extent.