What do the world’s most loved furniture brand, the nation’s highest selling mobiles and the highest on-time airlines in the country have in common?
They have all borrowed words from Anindita. Better known as Annie in the advertising circuits, she has also lent voice to hospitals, leading dailies, automobiles, fashion brands, FM channels, gender sensitive social causes alike. Her work has earned her several prestigious awards and accolades in creativity and effectiveness. An alumnus of the Indian Institute of Mass Communication, Delhi, she grew up with a love for story telling in the green city of Guwahati. This is her first attempt to write something without a client’s approval. She also giddily warns her readers that this isn’t going to be her last either.
Akhila Saroha: I would like to begin by congratulating you on the publication of “What The Pandemic Learned From Me.” How has the response to the book been so far?
Anindita Das: The response has been warm so far, but I am hoping it’s going to pick up more in the coming days. Within two days of launch, it got a top best seller rank in the humor and self-help categories of Amazon. It has also been consistently ranking in the Top 5 Hot Releases. Messages and mentions have been pouring in from many readers and bloggers letting me know that they could relate to it and they seem to have had a few good laughs.
Akhila Saroha: What led to the idea of writing “What The Pandemic Learned From Me”? Were there any events that inspired the work?
Anindita Das: Let’s just consider this – we have all given two years of our life so far to the pandemic. While for some people this has been an extremely productive phase, I felt in my case, it wasn’t so. The feeling of being stuck alone in a house, grappling with all-encompassing grief, and scrolling endless bad news on social media pushed me to do something positive. I took to writing so I could process my feelings. That’s how the idea of turning it into a book and maybe help people to anchor themselves to some positive experiences or at least derive some form of momentary entertainment during the lockdown came into being.
Akhila Saroha: How easy or difficult was it for you to write on a subject that held relevance for all and also remain objective about them despite being personal at the same time in “What The Pandemic Learned From Me”?
Anindita Das: I almost gave up on publishing when the second wave peaked, because though we all knew it would happen, nothing had prepared us for the intensity of it. It often felt crippling to keep up with the nonstop cheerful tonality of the book considering what people in the country were experiencing and I, myself was feeling. I was often riddled by doubts if my view was too frivolous and myopic, and I had to constantly work on reminding myself why this made sense not just for me but for other people also. It made sense to dig into something light and happy after many months of just doom and despair. It’s what our soul needed.
Akhila Saroha: What are your views about present-day writing? Do you think it does complete justice in depicting human nature in the light of “What The Pandemic Learned from Me”?
Anindita Das: I wouldn’t presume to comment on the state of present-day writing. I realize in recent times quite a few lockdown diaries have come out, though I personally haven’t read any of them. From what I have seen of the book blurbs, I do feel my book handles the topic in a completely different light. It’s a mix of humorous anecdotes, insightful observations and a hint of satire. It’s a peek into our collective experiences and our lockdown lives.
Akhila Saroha: “What The Pandemic Learned From Me” shows the uniqueness of your style of writing. Are there any authors that you enjoy reading or any books which are your favorites?
Anindita Das: It’s embarrassing but I have been in a bit of reading slump. But this year, I have read a few books that I quite enjoyed. I have a special soft corner for historical fiction – The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, Pachinko by Min Lee and The Forest of Enchantments by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni are the ones I have read recently. I am also fond of books by Phillipa Gregory and Indu Sundesaran.
Akhila Saroha: How would you categorize “What The Pandemic Learned From Me” as its appeal seems to be to a broad audience?
Anindita Das: This is a good question, because while this is a book in humor genre, it is also about the huge array of experiences we didn’t plan for, thanks to the pandemic. At some point, we all tried our hands in reviving an old hobby that we had to let go off or latch onto a completely new form of distraction for the sake of our sanity. Simply, because of that it is relatable to a vast number of readers but especially to girls who might be spending the lockdown days alone.
I was surprised when the book became a best seller in the self-help category and not just in the humor category on Amazon.
Akhila Saroha: “What The Pandemic Learned From Me” has given a powerful introduction to your potential as a writer. Can the readers expect more from you in the future? Please share about your future projects.
Anindita Das: I do intend to write something more in the future, a young adult romance perhaps. But the idea is really at a very nascent stage right now. Then there’s also the writing that I do as an advertising creative, hopefully there will be some good campaigns coming out soon. I have also been helping out Osmo International, a school focused on educating economically backward students through innovative mind mapping techniques back in Assam.
Akhila Saroha: What is the story behind the title of your work, “What The Pandemic Learned From Me”?
Anindita Das: We, humans as a race have hopefully learned a few lessons by virtue of the experience that we have had. But if we turn this idea on its head, the resilience that we have shown during this global emergency, the ingenuity and resourcefulness that we have shown in devising ways to keep ourselves entertained, the coping mechanism that each of us appropriated, and the relations that we rekindled and managed to keep alive, all the while staying positive despite the scary statistics is a remarkable achievement. And these are lessons that perhaps the pandemic won’t forget.
Akhila Saroha: How easy or difficult was it for you to write on something as complex as human thoughts and remain objective and concise about them at the same time in “What The Pandemic Learned From Me”?
Anindita Das: This question seems to have two parts, let me answer it part by part. Whether I have been objective in my writings on human behavior, I am not sure. Because at the end of the day, it is my personal observation of it. It was not difficult to write about the insights I experienced and perceived. What was difficult was to dissociate from the immense grief that was palpable in the country, to stop myself from spinning out in a vortex of anxiety, and like I mentioned earlier, to keep up with the happy tone of my book. There were days, when it made no sense, and there were days where I was determined that most of us needed this. It was tough to overcome these internal resistances, be single-minded and settle on the fact that writing it had comforted me and that there were many others out there who would love this. At the end of the day, it paid to go through with it, and I hope I have given people something that narrates our collective experience with as much light-heartedness as possible and gives away something worth remembering post the pandemic.
Coming to the second part of the question, about it being concise, that wasn’t a conscious attempt on my part. I owe this to all my seniors in advertising who worked hard on teaching me the basics of good writing. It is a craft that I have sharpened after writing for top brands for several years.
Akhila Saroha: If you were to describe your book “What The Pandemic Learned From Me” in a few words without giving any spoilers, what would those words be?
Anindita Das: It’s like a balm for a troubled soul. It’s like a happy tune to fill in the void of a room. It’s like a friend who has many funny stories to update. It’s like a pleasant distraction from everyday boiler-plate misery. It’s like a secret escape to dealing with the goings-on of this new life, a secret that won’t be so obviously written in words but must be discovered gradually.
Give it a read.
Akhila Saroha: What advice would you give to budding writers who may be planning to write in the same genre as “What The Pandemic Learned From Me”?
Anindita Das: The moments of true inspiration might be few, but they will come. You have to be prepared to recognize them and capitalize on them.
Also don’t be too hard on yourself, keep at it, and you will surely be able to get where you want to be. As far as humor is concerned, the only thing I will say is don’t force. Write it in your personal style, not in the style of your favorite author.
Akhils Saroha: Thank you very much for sparing your time. I look forward to reading more books from you in the future. All the best.
Anindita Das: Thank you so much for having me. I would also like to thank all my readers for giving my book a chance. And for those of you who haven’t picked it up yet, both paperback and eBook is available on Amazon. Do check it out.