The online platform chronicled the mood of people during these unprecedented times
The lockdown has meant different things to different people; while some have been out of business, others have been adjusting to their new WFH routine. But, it has also ignited a few creative minds in the city. 25-plus Chennai writers have penned their personal experiences during these tough times, and their works have been featured in the online platform Lockdown Journal Chennai.
The Journal is the brainchild of writer Praveena Shivram, who, along with journalist-publisher Vincent D’Souza, hoped to chronicle essays, poems, fiction and non-fiction work based on the lockdown. They drew inspiration from a similar effort in Goa. “The idea was that the writing would be some kind of archival stuff that reflects the mood of people at this point of time,” explains Vincent.
Kickstarted on May 2, the Lockdown Journal Chennai — mostly popularised through word-of-mouth promotion within the writers’ community — has till date clocked 30 entries, all in English. Praveena assures that the entries are very different from newspaper reports and social media posts that revolve around lockdown. “For starters, the pieces are personal and real-time accounts,” she explains, adding “There is a certain urgency in writing, since the writer is living in the reality he/she is describing. That gives the journal its texture. Also, as it is not written in retrospect, the burden of nostalgia is not there.” There is variety in the writing — if storyteller Janaki Sabesh talks about her mother-in-law’s everyday routine in Google Kanmani, writer Aashika Suresh becomes pensive in the Grief in Confined Spaces poem.
Praveena exercises restraint when it comes to choosing pitches and finalising the stories that go on page. “It’s about how well the story has been put together and structured. Sometimes, I have worked with the writer to bring it to a certain level,” adds Praveena. Going back and forth takes time, which is why the platform is updated only when a piece is fully ready to go. In a bid to encourage more local writers, the team is offering a small honorarium for published material.
Praveena believes that the written word is crucial, despite the importance we give to visuals and videos today. “You spend time thinking before writing, and this distilled thought process is important when it comes to something as big as the pandemic. I tell all my writers that they are part of history and have got the opportunity to pen down experiences that might never occur at a later stage.”
Though the lockdown is technically over in the city, the team behind the Journal hopes to keep it up and running. “We are not sure how its tone will change, but we are looking at it as a platform for good writing in Chennai,” signs off Vincent.