The world has been battling with a pandemic since months now and there seems to be no respite from it in sight any sooner. If there is one thing that has helped us cope with these trying times, then it has to be love. Love from family, friends, loved ones, neighbours, strangers — love in any form is the band-aid which holds all our broken pieces together. One might agree, that this pandemic has also pushed artists, poets and writers to go beyond their boundaries and bring out their experiences in never seen before forms.
Award winning author Sudeep Sen, wrote a poem during the early days of the coronavirus pandemic. He says, “Things were changing so fast around us that it was viscerally affecting our society, the play of politics, the way people thought, the changing culture of ‘working from home’ for the privileged and lack of work for the dispossessed, the gruesome images of migrants walking hundreds of kilometres in the unforgiving weather riddled by hunger and pain, the quarantine, the virus — how can all these not affect you psychologically as well. And things haven’t ceased since — the climate change prompting cyclones, floods, locust attack, earthquakes, and more.”
What started as a personal response in poetic form, soon turned into something extraordinary and universal. That is the magic of good writing, it seldom goes unnoticed. Soon, novelist & editor, Raj Kamal Jha, of one of India’s leading newspaper, The Indian Express, asked Sen to contribute something on the pandemic for the editorial pages expecting a sensitive and incisive non-fiction piece from an artist’s point of view. As you might have guessed it by now, Sen sent this poem in response. Since then, the poem received an overwhelming response in the form of likes, shares, comments, forwards on every social media platform. It managed to gather a lot of love and appreciation, at both, national and international literary platforms such as newspapers, magazines and in new books on this subject.
The former U.K. poet laureate, Carol Ann Duffy, selected it for a world project ‘Write Where We Are Now’, currently hosted on the Manchester Metropolitan University’s website, and is forthcoming in The Guardian newspaper. ArtVirus magazine carried it in the US, and The Dhaka Tribune newspaper in Bangladesh. And then the slew of translations started to appear: in French by Bernard Turle in the Idees Magazine, in Spanish by Yuri Zambrano for the ‘World Festival of Poetry’, in Serbian by Milan Jovic & Gojko Bozovic in Archipelag magazine, in Persian by Fatemeh Ahmadi & Rosa Jamali in Jenzar; in Urdu by Asif Aslam Farrukhi in Pakistan’s Humsub portal, in Marathi by Sanket Mhatre in Lokmat newspaper; in Bengali by Niladri Mahajan; in Hindi by Mangalesh Dabral forthcoming in Hans magazine, and more. The poem is being anthologised in various books in India and around the world.
Closer home, feature-filmmaker, Anirban Dutta has made this poem into a short film, Love in the Time of Corona, which is now available online to be seen, heard and experienced. The cinematography, editing and sound design is by Dutta, and the poetry narration is by the poet himself.
Dutta says, “As primarily a lover of poetry, I live on passive storytelling and creative sound design. When I first read Sudeep Sen’s poem, ‘Love in the Time of Corona’, it didn’t feel like a regular poem at the outset. It came to us as our “present tense” and questioned our fragile existence. It kept humming inside me. I have never made a film without a written script, not even experimental ones. However, in this case, the poem itself was the script in front of me. I only tried to visualise and use natural motifs and phenomenon of earth to pattern its palette. It was truly a rewarding experience for me to work with one of the finest contemporary poets of India.”