The Day Before Today: Lockdown Stories, as the name suggests, are stories filled with and about the trepidation that all of us will relate to – being stuck at home. Gayatri Gill packs this book with short and long stories, poems and rhymes even, that showcase the shockingly suffocating feeling in each form. Every piece begins with an illustration reflecting the things to come. Most of them are written from the first-person narrative and have a sense of forcefulness and a self-fulfilling sense of apathy. This is especially noticeable in the first story titled Day One.
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The power of macabre
“That may sound insensitive but fuck you. You’re reading my story and since I’m the one writing it, you better hear it my way.”
Green is a macabre tale where a wife kills her husband. Tonally, it’s quite nonchalant but it brims with unease, like Red and Death of Videocon. They don’t give the readers the space to breathe. It draws from and takes you to the darker and sinister corners of the mind, a chaotic state that begins with the simplest form of inactivity – boredom.
“Ya…so that’s how it began. Boredom. I was bored.”
Every narrative and story revolves around women. There are very few men in the stories. And the few that are present are relatively quiet. This is potent. The role of men as simply transgressors in some of the stories also is very noticeable. It is the different versions of the woman that are portrayed in each piece in The Day Before Today: Lockdown Stories.
Mummyji and Pammi and Pandemic Blanket are two stories that strongly gave off the vibe of popular Hindi TV serials. There are very strong familial bonds that are written about in these stories which reflect the common tropes one can observe in soaps. But Gill is quite earnest in her storytelling, trying to make it more complex than your average mother-in-law and daughter-in-law fued.
“For Mummyjis had been Mummys too, once.”
One of my personal favourites from The Day Before Today: Lockdown Stories is the short piece called The Covid Cupboard. It reads as a scathing take on celebrities and Instagram influencers. The sardonic wit that Gill uses in this piece is marvellous. You feel guilty for enjoying this very pointed takedown of the celebrities that have been enjoying the lockdown period differently from the ordinary people. There is an evil satisfaction that is obtained when the Karishma Khanna that says “There will always be orphans in the world, won’t there?” meets a certain end.
Gill’s pieces weave in dystopian technological innovations and normal life practices in a way that is real, which is exactly what makes it so uncomfortable.
She very cleverly utilises the anxiety of the present and mixes it with the total lack of clarity about the future and provides her readers with a cocktail of the world that may exist.
It’s a valiant first effort by this debut writer, and a not unwelcome-addition to popular fiction in India. It will be an immersing read especially during these times.
You’re reading my story and since I’m the one writing it, you better hear it my way.