What did you do during the Covid-19 lockdown? Perhaps you worked from home, spent time with your family members and worked as a team. But the family we are going to talk about has their own way of spending time, which is, by documenting the pandemic lockdown through their articles and write-ups.
'Corona Tale' is, by all means, a book about what it's subhead says 'A Bangladeshi family's pen war against the pandemic.' It is a collection of 39 articles and four lectures, mostly written by six of the family members.
Ahmed Mushtaq Reza Chowdhury, his wife Neelofar Reza Chowdhury, their daughter Immita Manal Amena and son-in-law Sayedur Rahman Noman, and their son Wameq Azfar Reza and daughter-in-law Farzana Misha - are all accomplished in their respective fields. There are two kids in the family as well. Their fight against the pandemic as a family was similar to any other family in Bangladesh. But their articles here work as documentation of living history.
So what did they write? As you turn over page after page, you see a chronological journey in time, as if running on a 35mm film roll, that you want to keep reading not just because you have experienced all of these yourself but because the stories show you things you have not seen in the pandemic, and from a different perspective.
The majority of the articles in the book focus on public policies. They identify the gaps in services and policies related to health, education, food and hygiene, along with many achievable solutions.
In one of the articles, Farzana Misha and her co-authors have discussed the issues faced by the country's RMG workers and called for fact-based decision-making.
Some of the articles are written in a storytelling fashion.
"Nowadays there are more birds around. In the morning, kids get up for their online classes. But getting ready for school has changed. We do not have to prepare them or make tiffin, rather check if the wi-fi is working or the laptop is charged enough"
"People are tired of sitting at home for 3 months. So to break the monotony people are experimenting with various food preparations and sharing on social media."
This detailed story-telling almost reminds me of Vox 114, that holographic sentient librarian in the movie, The Time Machine, which tells stories to the children from the future.
The pre-pandemic scenarios are well-knitted into the articles in a way that enables readers to compare the situation very well.
Family budgeting, food intake, spending quality time with family members- all these are a bit underrated in our daily life, but the writers here did not exclude the experiences. In one of the articles, Immita Manal Amena reminisces about wintry wonders - of winter pitha, hot tea with friends and family members.
Reading through the articles gave me a glossary on the pandemic itself. This includes the donning of face masks, maintaining 'social distance', washing hands and sanitising, vapour inhalation, hot water to drink, taking medicines and vitamin C, the new normal and finally vaccination. The family took the vaccine just as vaccinations began with one of the writers recalling the feeling of being a guinea pig while receiving the vaccine.
Sadness does not escape them as well. The writers talk about how the casualties rose, how that number changed over time, how it felt to see that number change from day to day, and accepting that someone familiar was dying regularly.
The four lectures towards the end highlights BRAC's Community health workers and the challenges they faced. It was almost a synopsis of what Bangladesh has done so far in the pandemic.
And at the very end, we see colourful and vibrant family pictures, that help us readers to connect with the writers - who are both accomplished professionals as well as family members.
When you are done with reading, you take a pause and realise that the span of the volume shows the commitment and compassion of a family across three generations.
The articles were published in various dailies of the country throughout the pandemic. Finally, the collection was published by Anyaprokash publications. The book is available in their stall at the ongoing National Book Fair.