Reviewing a year since India's COVID-19 lockdown through stories from Firstpost's culture archives
We’re recapping the personal essays, series and special projects that attempted to document the crisis, and parse it for meaning.
At Firstpost, we’ve been looking back over a year since the nationwide COVID-19 lockdown through our culture coverage. Over parts 1 and 2 of this retrospective, we compiled a lowdown on how artists and cultural institutions had navigated unprecedented circumstances before turning our focus on communities — people and places — that had been disproportionately affected during this time. In part 3, we’re recapping the personal essays, series and special projects that attempted to document the crisis, and parse it for meaning.
‘…LIVES’ — Anvisha Manral and Adrija Ghosh crowdsourced moments from people’s lives during the lockdown, to compile stories of days (and nights) stuck in coronavirus crisis-induced limbo, spanning Mumbai to Lugo. View it here.
‘…THROUGH EVERYDAY OBJECTS’ — Suryasarathi Bhattacharya and Anvisha Manral crowdsourced images that crystallised the anxiety, isolation and warped time people experienced during the crisis through snapshots of innocuous objects from daily life. See it here.
‘…SIX MONTHS IN’ — How did people mark the passage of time when time itself had stood still? On the six-month anniversary of the lockdown, Anvisha Manral and Suryasarathi Bhattacharya sought these markers of time from the lives of others. View it here.
‘…SECRETS’ — Neerja Deodhar and Arshia Dhar collaborated with artist Tanya Eden to present graphical narratives of ‘confessions’ from readers who wrote in to Firstpost with accounts of their thoughts and transgressions as they tested the limits of a locked down world. Access the project here.
‘…A YEAR LATER’ — Photographers share their one defining image in the twelvemonth since the lockdown was announced, talking us through why it captures a particular moment in time perfectly. View and listen here.
— ‘Category Error’
Through line drawings and text, Amruta Patil narrated the stories of the residents in a high-rise co-op society during the pandemic. The accounts were as specific as they were universal, as much an indictment of privilege and apathy as they were a slice-of-life record of what the lockdown experiences of many members of the Indian upper middle class were.
Read the series here.
— ‘A Summer Without’
A world in lockdown meant that many of the experiences that defined summer had to be done without. In some cases, that meant sombre celebrations for festivals like Easter, in others it meant the loss of longed-for travel, the lack of Big Tech conferences and sporting events such as the French Open, or that annual Himalayan trek.
— ‘How I became a boss at’
From baking sourdough to brewing cider, learning Spanish and salsa, to sharpening up art skills, people used the lockdown as a time for self-improvement and learning — sometimes to hilarious effect. In these first-person accounts, they told Firstpost how they mastered their chosen activity.
Read the series here.
— ‘An Oral History of the COVID-19 Crisis’
What were individual lived experiences of the lockdown and pandemic like? This project aims to piece together a narrative of how the pandemic is playing out in people’s lives in India, through their recollection of a significant day for them. This is an ongoing compendium, offering a deeply personal and granular account of living through the coronavirus crisis.
Access it here.
— ‘A Pandemic Year for Women’
On the occasion of International Women’s Day 2021, 11 women looked back on their varying experiences of the past year, and how they rose to the challenges of being mothers, artists, healthcare workers, community outreach professionals and entrepreneurs, students, and above all individuals trying to make their way through an unprecedented time.
Read the essays here.
— ‘2020, The Year of’
A series that examined 2020 through the lens of mental health, communities, art and culture and how these had been impacted by and responded to the coronavirus crisis and lockdown.
‘…from the Lockdown’ is Sunalini Kumar’s poignant exploration of the social schisms that have shaped individual experiences of the pandemic, and what a return to ‘normal’ might entail. Read the full essay here.
‘…on battling germophobia during a pandemic’ has Arshia Dhar revisiting her past experiences with OCD, hypochondriasis and germophobia, and the fear of re-triggering these conditions during the coronavirus outbreak. Read here.
‘…from a coronavirus hotspot’ is 72-year-old New York State resident Kala Ranganathan’s description of what it meant to be at the epicenter of the pandemic in April 2020. Read it here.
‘…on bereavement, grief and mourning’ is Neerja Deodhar’s essay on navigating these emotions after the death of a family member — a process complicated immeasurably and made alien by the pandemic and lockdown. Read the essay here.
‘…on rebuilding a home’ has Niharika Pandit exploring how an unexpectedly prolonged stay with family, due to the lockdown, turned a strife-filled space she had hitherto avoided at all costs into a more peaceful one. Read here.
‘…on rethinking productivity’ has Neerja Deodhar dwelling on the work it takes to countering a culture obsessed with being “useful” even during a crisis. Read it here.
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