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The Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic stood every bit of received wisdom relating to the concept of socializing, on its head. These SOPs put a taboo on even the most fundamental of physical contact such as shaking of hands, let alone an enveloping bear hug. People were forced to closet themselves within the confines of their dwelling space as the concept of “Work From Home” assumed proportions of potential perpetuity. However the human spirit that is never amenable to being shackled continue to rove uninhibited and in a carefree manner. A creative bent, whose existence was hitherto unknown, reared its radiant head and lo and behold, musicians, poets, authors and vaudevillians streamed forth from the most unsuspecting of corners. The usual artistic suspects honed their skills even further by daring to experiment. One such talent in the latter category is Jaya Pillai. In a very slim albeit, engrossing collection titled “Afternoons and More”, Jaya freewheels about experiences and emotions, memories and musings as she finds herself confined to the four corners of her house.
‘Afternoons and More” steers clear from the doom and gloom of the pandemic and instead makes a foray into optimism and hope. Juxtaposing wicked wit with poignant wistfulness, Jaya concentrates on making the prosaic, pertinent. The book begins with a rollicking yet harrowing experience in trying to get an intrusive bat out of the house. “Bat and The Bold” has a seven year old protagonist who is all of four feet tall, and yet the only human being possessing the courage to drive away a bat that has all the adults cowering in mortal fear. ‘Anagapesis’ (loss of love for someone who was much loved before) ruminates on how a smart phone that has almost become a natural extension of the fingers can be a material impediment.
The most appealing part of the book is its humour. The waggishness permeating the pages is for me personally, the highlight of the book. Jaya also devotes a section to gastronomic delicacies. Along with her siblings, she makes a bold and audacious attempt to replicate delicacies which until the time of her writing has been the sole preserve of her mother. The audacious plan seems to have come off splendidly going by Jaya’s claims!
The book ends on a relatively sombre note with a few poems that are reflective of spontaneous stream-of-consciousness endeavours. A tribute to the essential workers who were forced to brave an insidious virus even as it was wreaking wanton havoc, warms the cockles of the heart and also makes us realise the infinitesimal nature of the human tribe in the more grandiose scheme of things.
‘Afternoons and More” is a lively and languid tribute to resilience.