What have you been up to since the pandemic began? Well, if your story is anything like that of most people, half the time was spent in bed – in pyjamas or other casual clothes – with a screen in front of your face. A few people, however, opted to take the high road – finding happy and motivating ways to cope with the dark cloud of the pandemic looming over us. Their goal was simple and a bit more selfless than those of the rest of us; to affect our lives in order to be able to adapt to this change, and help others around us do the same and maintain our sanity.
Since the virus first broke out in 2019, we’ve always been faced with questions of what the pandemic has taught us and how we’re coping with the new normal. But some people are daring the norm and holding their heads high in the midst of it all. Take Anindita Das, for instance. She has found a way to carve out a silver lining in this gloomy cloud. With her debut book; What the Pandemic Learned from Me, Anindita has done what most people wouldn’t even dream of – use humour to deal with the heartache the pandemic has brought. She reaffirms the role of a good, sincere hearty laugh and its therapeutic effect in dealing with a global pandemic.
The inspiration for this book came as a result of Anindita’s experiences during the lockdown and the pandemic in general. While some of us were conquering new levels on Mario Kart, she let out her creativity through the pen. “The pandemic situation made everyone’s creative juices flow. My journey into writing this book was not something deliberate, it just happened. As I searched for newer ways to keep myself distracted and engaged during the lockdown days, I was drawn towards writing.
“It comforted me and gave me a sort of normalcy. I knew there were many others like me, waking up every morning, trying to get through the day, clutching at straws, and fighting for some semblance of sanity. Having said that, I didn’t want my book to be a vacuous self-help book or anything trying to be overtly motivational, I am hardly able to help myself on most days. I wanted my book to narrate our collective experience with as much light-heartedness as possible and give away something worth remembering post the pandemic,” she chuckles.
Who doesn’t love a good bout of stress release? Anindita believes this is exactly what this book aims to achieve. She highlights several hilarious, borderline embarrassing moments in dealing with this new normal. Like the time she attempted to bake banana bread just at the beginning of the lockdown. And the outcome? Well, let’s just say baking isn’t for everyone. She also intelligently infused the book with helpful insights into her personal journey during the pandemic in a fun and uplifting way.
Anindita’s experience writing the book is an interesting story all by itself – from the very first word to publishing at the end of the journey. “I had to make time for it! That was the most important thing because it obviously would not make any sense to publish a book like this after several months or even a year, it would defeat the entire point of it. It had to be done quickly so people could make the most of it during the lockdown period or right after. So, while juggling office work and all the household chores that are part of lockdown reality, I sort of had to muster the energy and optimism for writing a book to a steep deadline.
“There were days I wished that there were more hours in a day so I could give more time to the book, and there were days it was too difficult to process all the grief around and get myself to write a single happy word. So, I deliberately stopped watching the news, gave up obsessive tracking of statistics, and cut out all toxic things, except when I needed specific information. Then came the task of educating myself about the publishing process; I soon found that opinions were divided on how to go about it. I obviously couldn’t afford to wait for 3 long months while I figured out a traditional publisher. The whole process was illuminating, to say the least,” she notes, giving off her charismatic smile.
An alumnus of the Indian Institute of Mass Communication, Delhi, Anindita is a known name in the advertising industry. It’s been more than 12 years in the same industry, and she has worked in some of the leading agencies of the country – Wunderman Thompson, Dentsu Impact, Cheil Worldwide and former M&C Saatchi. Some of the most prestigious brands she has written for include Samsung, Ikea, Maruti, Hindustan Times, AirAsia, Lifestyle Stores and more. In 2015, Anindita got the opportunity to be the lead writer on the most important campaign of the agency that year – Donate a Face, which went on to win several awards. Between 2017 and 2019, she led Dentsu Impact’s creative team for Ikea and spearheaded the brand’s first work in India after two years of rigorous research and collaboration with the Swedish team that eventually led to a phenomenal launch of the brand.
For Anindita, this book did more than she could ever imagine. Amongst the numerous moments she enjoyed during the process of writing, she relives a particularly interesting one. “With this book, I consciously wanted to work with happy memories. I think everyone has already had enough of the dark bits of the pandemic. So, I enjoyed reliving most of the things covered in the book – like the letters addressed to plants, the kitchen, the wardrobe and work from home. As the book evolved, and we were in the thick of the second wave; I was forced to re-evaluate the course of the book. Naturally, that part of the book reflected some of the anguish I was feeling at the time,” she says.
Talking about the favourite and least favourite parts of publishing, Anindita says the designing of the book, cracking the marketing campaign was the favourite part of the publishing process. Partly, because it was like a creative extension of completing the book. “Everything else I found quite strenuous. Trying to keep track of all logistics related things, understanding, and fixing the glitches of seller platforms was extremely taxing. At every point, you are questioning yourself, if there was something you could have done better,” she sighs.
Anindita has already started working on her next project. “There are a couple of ideas floating in my head and I did start working on one. But honestly, it is too early to comment on it, and I want to take it slow this time. It’s going to be a fiction novel and of course, it will be seasoned with a nice dose of humour.”
For this happy writer, the success of this book depends largely on the lives it is able to touch, and the smiles it is able to bring to our faces, reminding us that we can choose to be happy and live our best lives despite the ravaging pandemic.
The book is available on Amazon