COVID-19 came and demanded urgent understanding. Strange as it is, this way of talking makes the invisible visible. To this end, we inscribe upon it, structures of our making. Yet, there is this uneasy feeling that the virus does not care for our structures. It does not play by the rules of our ‘universal’ reason or our humane emotions. It just borrows the machinery of our cells to multiply its being, which consist of a rudimentary chain of proteins. So rudimentary that it is broken down by bubbles of soap. This miracle of simplicity has disrupted our complex moves; we misstep and falter. It rides on and weighs down the terms of our self definition, the terms of sociability.
The present pandemic is an event. And as true of all events, it can be understood only in hindsight. We are getting some sense of it already, but better pictures can emerge only with time. It has put in sharp relief repressions of, as price for order, faultlines in our worlds. What we are going through is unprecedented, and for that reason these are uncertain times. It is a good example of chaos, the unbounded. The perimeter of order has been breached.
Uncertain times are usually times of churning. We are reminded of our fragility and finitude. Such churnings also hold hopes of new beginnings and directions.
The present collection of works could be offered as works of self-reflection in the mirror of the pandemic. The pandemic is a pretext with which we weave paths to ourselves and the invisible connections that hold us together with our worlds.
Joseph Ann Warjiri’s ‘Waiting for Galahad’, measures the edges of ordinariness in the pandemic with an enduring image of the call and return of heroism. ‘Forgetting’ by Robin S. Ngangom finds for us, in the spectacle of the pandemic, (with some amount of vengeance) the resurfacing of those, which we have buried deep in our convenient forgetting.
Chaoba Thiyam’s ‘Tala Nangi Oyokkon’; Kumam Davidson’s ‘The Old Man by the Lake’ capture neglected spaces in our lives. This is one of the many ironies of the pandemic. Debanjali Biswas in ‘Barefoot in the Garden’ discovers the joy of gardening and unforeseen encounters during her lockdown experience. They could be the ‘pause’ that Robin S. Ngangom mentions in his poem. ‘Migrant Series’ by Satyabrata Hijam etches in charcoal a defining ‘breathe-taking’ moment in the unfoldings of the pandemic. Natali Ningthoukhongjam in ‘Reclaiming Time with Aribam Syam Sharma’s Imagi Ningthem and Ishanou’ invites us in the negotiations of past and present in her aesthetic experiences of two films by the film-maker.
Response to the pandemic has been overwhelmingly political in nature. It has ripped apart some of the veneer to the cracks in our political consciousness. ‘“Touch me Not”, A Quarantine Story’ by RubaniYumkhaibam, ‘To my Daughter’ by Bobo Khuraijam, and ‘Brahmanical Supremacy and Workers in the Time of Pandemic’ by Chandni Mehta, tell us in their unique voices, stories of Stigma, Racism and Casteism.
Usham Rojio, in ‘Theatre in the time of Crisis’, presents the challenges that the pandemic brings to the arts. Taking recourse and resources from the works of theatre icon Heisnam Kanhailal, he surveys possible ways of meeting those challenges. Meeting challenges of another kind is found in Rulee Phukan’s ‘Lockdown 2020: Ground Notes’. It is a document of the trials and absurdist trappings of relief work during this pandemic.
COVID-19 is here to stay for sometime. It shall bring further pain and misery. Hopefully, they too shall pass, soon enough. If the present collection of works is any indication, it is that we shall make sense of the pandemic, integrate it in our experiences, and step into what lies ahead.