The covid-19 pandemic will always be remembered for severely impacting human lives in not just the near future but in decades to follow. All literature born out of this phase has a uniqueness of its own. Whether it is short stories or full-fledged prose texts or poetry or even documents that record the tales of woes of the people who suffered, there is no debate that there would be a genre of “Lockdown Literature” or “Covid Literature” in the coming times. A product of the very same circumstances is Eshy Acharya’s collection of stories rooted in real incidents in her work, “Nightmare and Sunshine.” This collection bears the impressions of the dark times human beings lived through and the different changes they witnessed and became a party to.
The book begins with a beautiful cover illustration that depicts the different sides of life and how things come across when situations change. As the readers open the book and read through the “Author’s Note,” they have a fair idea of what the book is going to be about. “Nightmare and Sunshine” may not strike all readers as a title, but after reading the author’s note, they can draw the metaphorical associations of the title. Somehow, the author has placed the two words in an oxymoronic manner where one symbolizes the negative aspects of Covid, and the other gives a message of staying hopeful in these dire circumstances. The time when there was the outbreak of coronavirus was no less than a nightmarish jolt for humanity, but sunshine suggests that there is always a bright morning after a dark night. After going through the book, the readers are likely to come up with their interpretations of the title.
“Nightmare and Sunshine” has stories born out of the lives of real people, the ordinary people who were confined in their domestic spaces with no choice as their lives were at stake against an enemy they could not see. Acharya tries to bring out the domestic situations on the canvas of her work, which would otherwise be limited to closed doors without anyone being aware of them. Her stories are about what conspires in that domestic spaces and how this situation led to the implications one could have never comprehended. All the things people did in that time, whether it was assuming all household roles (“Let’s Play Ludo!”), suffering heartbreaks in their relationships (“Up Above”), discovering the importance of the people who are close to them (“Heartbeat”), or being nostalgic of the past time (“The Park”), or even passing the time by playing simple games (“Let’s Play Ludo!”). Acharya explores how the lives of people changed from normal to what they would have never imagined.
There are 11 stories that Acharya records in her collection, but they give an in-depth idea of how life had changed in those times. Since the space where most stories were set was domestic, women were naturally assumed to have larger roles. They would be responsible for keeping the home in order and taking care of additional work due to the absence of helpers and also managing their official work. Yet, the male characters do not lose significance anywhere, nor do their female counterparts overshadow them at any juncture. The male characters get their limelight whenever the situation calls for it, and in addition to ‘her-story,’ readers also get to hear ‘his-story.’ At the same time, there are other stories that show how this time turned out to be a blessing in disguise for another set of people who tried to use of this time wisely.
Acharya takes a language that is simple for all readers to understand. Her plot construction is also as per the requirement of a short-story framework. Short stories require swift plot development and quick action. All her stories have the presence of this feature. In the midst of this, the internal states of the characters are also visible. Many readers would find themselves subconsciously relating themselves with them. The presence of ordinary people from different walks of life in Acharya’s work makes sure that they become easily relatable for any reader. The absence of any power figure or someone from celebrity status or a person with an unrealistically luxurious lifestyle brings the characters closer to the readers.
All readers who feel interested in reading literary work from covid times when the nation was under lockdown and how this impacted lives of people can pick up Eshy Acharya’s “Nightmare and Sunshine” for reading. It can also be predicted that these story depictions would become a part of study for the future generations when they would want to look back and study the covid times. From a sociological or psychological standpoint, this work would be open to reading and interpretation by different readers and researchers.