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Monday, June 01, 2020

Home is where the work is: Writers and their workstations

As the COVID-19 pandemic makes work-from-home the new normal, a look at the workspaces of people who have always functioned in isolation -- writers. For Hansda Sowvendra Shekhar, his workstation is where the writer and the doctor meet.

Written by Hansda Sowvendra Shekhar | Published: May 16, 2020 11:00:29 am
The view from the Bolero. (Source: Hansda Sowvendra Shekhar)

I think, right now, I have only one workstation where both my jobs — of a doctor and a writer — are being done. And that workstation is our office vehicle: a Mahindra Bolero.

Our office Bolero is almost 16 years old and every morning, around 10 usually (when I am not on emergency duty), or around 1 in the afternoon (when I am on emergency duty — so after seeing the general patients), I set out in the office Bolero with a colleague of mine to screen the several migrant workers who are returning to their villages in our block or to solve other issues for which I am called. I work in a place called Chandil, which is about 30 km from Jamshedpur, on the highway that connects Jamshedpur with Ranchi.

All my reading right now is being done in this Bolero. The email commissioning me to do this piece; the PDF copy of The Indian Express that I receive on WhatsApp everyday; reports, guidelines, letters, photographs, even PowerPoint presentations, all of which are being shared on office WhatsApp groups and dedicated Covid-19 WhatsApp groups being run by the district administration — I read or see them all sitting in our office Bolero. Writing? I do not really have the time right now to write anything longer or anything that might need a lot of thinking.
There are two other places where I am writing right now after returning to the hospital campus, usually after 8 pm — the doctors’ resting room and the paramedical workers’ resting room. The doctors’ resting room is where I usually wrote in the pre-Covid-19 era. One book for children, some book reviews, a long profile of an indie publishing house and its founder— they were all written in our doctors’ resting room. But now I am writing/compiling only reports there. And because I either feel sleepy (after an entire day of running around) or get distracted by several things running inside my head when I am alone in our room, I prefer to write/compile the reports in the paramedical workers’ resting room, where there are people around me. It helps me stay focussed and awake. The staff speak the Kurmali and Panch Parganiya tongues, which I find vibrant and melodic. I eat dinner with my paramedical workers (these boys are amazing cooks, deft in wielding both syringe and spatula — I still remember the finger-lickingly delicious peanut chutney they made one day), so the entire day’s hunger automatically draws me towards their resting room.

NB: This description, might not, in reality, be as upbeat as it reads but it’s the writer’s duty to make the world seem like a better place even when the doctor struggles.

A novelist and a doctor, Hansda Sowvendra Shekhar has recently published two new books for children

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