What are some of the biggest challenges you have been faced with while working during this time?

The lack of exercise, interactions with fellow human beings and lack of travel are some of the biggest issues I have faced. Over the years, I had developed certain habits. The home imprisonment has thrown everything into haywire. I know it is necessary to stay put inside my home at these trying times, but it has been difficult. The only time I stand with my feet firm on the ground is when I take my pet, Jackie for a walk. Else, I have my head in the clouds.

How difficult has it been to adjust to this new reality?

Nothing is totally devoid of benefits. On a positive side, I am getting a lot of time to be with my family. I am catching up with my reading, binge-watching films and shows, learning a lot, writing a lot and eating a lot. Ok, the last one is not that good.

[Anand Neelakantan: ‘One should be atrociously ambitious’]

From the window of my writing room, I can see the spring has arrived and nature has rejuvenated herself. She is young again and alluring too. Miracles are happening. In Mumbai skies, I have started seeing stars and since I have nothing much to do, I have started counting them too. It is fun.

How are you and your family spending time? Favourite activities that you enjoy doing together. Exercise routine?

My daughter Ananya and I have challenged each other on how many books we would complete. She is an avid reader and we have made a list of 100 books to finish in 2020. She was leading me, as she loves to read anything except her textbooks, but now I am catching up. With my wife, Aparna, and son, Abhinav, who are film buffs, we have a challenge to see maximum number of great films and every night, we sit together and watch our favourite films. All four of us play carroms or board games. Exercise must be done indoors, and I have discovered that 362 laps from my bedroom to front door will give me a walk of 5km. I use this time to listen to audio books. 

What are you and your family doing to manage the anxiety that is stemming from the pandemic?

For the initial few days, corona had mentally invaded us. The news was depressing. We snapped out of the strange fascination the human mind has for death. It is why everyone stares at an accident scene. Now, corona talk is banned at home. Corona forwards are deleted before they infect our brain. A game we follow is to see how many WhatsApp messages we don’t read. But secretly, I think everyone is checking the corona numbers. I have cheated a few times. But we don’t talk about it now. It is necessary to keep the sanity.

What are some of the things you miss the most from your life when Covid-19 had still not affected us?

Swimming, travel, meeting people, wandering in the crowd, sitting in a coffee shop and pretending to read a book, while observing people – I miss all these. I don’t miss the traffic and the pollution, though.

What will be the first thing you’d like to do once this scare of Covid-19 is over?

Travel in a Mumbai suburban train.

What have you learnt about yourself during this trying time?

That I am not as brave as I thought. Nor am I as compassionate as I thought. The middle-class privilege of easing one’s guilt by writing a cheque for a charity – that is the only thing I have done in this crisis. There are many who don’t have the luxury of sitting at home and churning out stories. The health workers, the municipal workers, the police – there are heroes everywhere. I am not one of them. I am just a member of the chattering class. Maybe, after the crisis is over, one of the writers may spin out a yarn – Love in time of Corona or one hundred days of solitude. When the crisis is blooming, there is nothing much a writer can do, except crawl back to his hole and write. I am doing that, and I have discovered that I have more stories to tell than I can possibly tell in one life.

What will be your favourite memory from this experience, something you’d perhaps like to share with your grandkids one day?

I finished two children’s book in this period, completed a collection of essays on different Ramayanas and I have started working on the screenplay of a film and put up more weight than I had lost by one year of dedicated swimming. That is the truth. Writers are born to lie, and grandparents exaggerate. A combination of both can produce interesting results. Now, what I would tell my grandkids – hmm, I think my tale may look like some Hollywood film climax with some remarkable special effects.

One lesson you think the world should remember from this experience.

That humans aren’t so important. For mother earth, a tiny virus and the arrogant man are the same. We need the earth. The reverse is not true.

The book(s) you are reading at this time

1. Beloved by Tony Morrison, 2. The collected short stories of Uroob 3. Walden by Thoreau.

How other celebrities and public figures are keeping busy while in isolation