2020 has been a year full of new experiences, life lessons and uncertainty. While some people were bound to stay at home with their families, some had to live away from their families for months. A pandemic like this has happened in many years where ‘social distancing’ turned out to be the ‘New Normal’. Amidst all the chaos, sitting at home was the last resort to survive the pandemic and this turned out of be a productive period for many people and one of those many people is Afroz Alam Sahil who utilised the time of being at home by learning and analysing several things about the pandemic and then writing a book “Lockdown Diaries” out of it.
By now, Sahil has written 7 books. He is one of the two founders of an online portal- Beyond Headlines and also writes for media houses- BBC Hindi, Arab News, Navjivan and TwoCircles.net as a Freelance Journalist.
Afroz Alam Sahil speaks to Unsa Sadath Khan.
What inspired you to write your book “Lockdown Diaries”?
Since day 1 of the ‘Janata curfew’, I used to write a daily journal which basically included the daily life events about the pandemic because it was the most peculiar time of our lives which needed to be remembered as a lifelong memory not just for the present generation but the generations-to-come too. Our children and grandchildren will know what it felt like to be stuck in pandemic and when there was no such way out. They’ll learn how terms like ‘lockdown’, ‘social distancing’, and ‘pandemic’ came to life. So, one day, my friends suggested me to write a book combining all the events that I wrote in my journal to immortalise them. So, here is where I got the idea of writing my book.
What all events does your book put light on?
This book basically highlights the issues that occurred during the lockdown period like- the steps taken by the Government to combat with the virus, the targeting and jailing down of the Muslim youth, the vilifying of the Tableeghi Jamaat over coronavirus, how the Muslim youth facing utter hatred came out to serve the needy ones during the pandemic by selling out their houses to feed poor people, by doing the last rites of those dying by chanting ‘mantras’ as per the Hindu culture.
How much time did it take to complete it?
I used to write about the everyday routine since the imposition of the lockdown and continued writing it for 68 days. My writings include every minute detail of the day for instance- ‘when actor Irfan Khan passed away, I wrote about him and my favourite movies of him and why he was my favourite actor’. The idea of turning my journal into a book came quiet lately.
What is the speciality of the book?
The most special quality of the book is that although I’ve written my life events in the book but it doesn’t necessarily revolve around my life or I’m not the ‘hero’ of the book but the happenings, mishaps and all the basic events that happened during the lockdown are the ‘main’ focus of the book.
What is that ‘one’ thing you’ve kept in mind while releasing the book?
Usually, people organise special events and call ‘well-known’ personalities to launch their books and organise huge events just so, their books get the attention that they want but I wanted to do that in a different way.
So, I made our ‘water-seller’ release the first copy of the book, whose name is Qamruddin Bhai who we lovingly call “Qamru Bhai”. Qamru Bhai has been in Delhi since the first lockdown. His daughter passed away in Bihar but he didn’t go as he was the sole breadwinner of the family and he didn’t want to leave behind of those people who are dependent on him for drinking water supply.
I made ‘Anita didi’ release the second copy of the book, who does our household chores. She belongs to Nepal and has been struggling with money ever since the pandemic happened because people fired her from work because of different reasons.
The third launch will be done by the ‘rag-picker’ of our society. Despite getting brutally beaten by police amidst strict lockdown impositions, they had to go out to work every day to run their and their families’ living and this makes them the ‘real heroes’ as well as ‘real victims of this pandemic.