Sanjeev Kotnala: Review of ‘Here Today-Here Tomorrow’

07 Sep,2020

By Sanjeev Kotnala


Unlock 4.0, the latest version been announced. May be we will never again live the way we did before the lockdown. What if the chase of the promised solution – the vaccine is long drawn. What if there are other waves of such viruses.


How grim can the situation be? How bad can life be?


The book, ‘Here Today, Here Tomorrow: Short tales from a Pandemic Future’ is about the possible future scenarios in the Covid-19 era. It is a result of scenario build-up by a team of marketing and advertising professionals and a guest contributor.


A strategy paper titled ‘As India unlocks, six ways our lives have changed forever’,  written by the team was published in Mint. The team was  Prabhakar Mundkur, Priyadarshini Narendra, Sanjeev Roy and Mythili Chandrasekar. After an excellent response to the article, the team had an option to attempt another paper on the future. However, they decided to use storytelling, to write short stories and share the possible alternative futures.


Will there be a cure? When? Who will discover it? Will India have access? At what cost? What about the Virus – how will it mutate? How will it manifest, spread? What will it respond to? How will that impact vaccine development timelines? How long will the government intervene to drive people behaviour? With what degree of control or success? How will the balance health and economy play out to its conclusion? How many waves of lockdowns? Some of the questions we have been asking. And there has been- no clear answers.


Good or bad news, none of the questions gets answered in the book ‘Here Today, Here Tomorrow’.


As no one can answer. No one can predict. Hence storytelling becomes an apt tool in painting the possibilities.


Each of the five stories works on different assumptions on Covid-19 and where it could lead. ‘Nirmalay’s News’ by Priyadarshini Narendra, ‘Sheena’s Good Deed’ by Prabhakar Mundkur, ‘Mrs. Kumar’s Day Of Remembrance’ by Sanjeev Roy, ‘ The Big Idea’ by Priyadarshini Narendra and The Divide By Aiyana Menezes; A 16-year-old sci-fi writer and aspiring biotechnologist.


In my view, ‘UNMASKED; Stories from inside a PPE kit’ by Mythili Chandrasekar is not a story but another preface identifying the questions impacting us today and will define the possible future.


When you read, you realise that the possibilities echoing in the stories have every chance to be the next reality, if not with Covid-19 then some new virus entering the system. The authors have primarily picked a scenario that the cure or the solution is long to come. So, they have more of a doomsday scenario with a possible escape hatch.


The stories are engaging. There is an exciting playoff between human emotions, desires, needs and the way they can get impacted. The authors are very creative in scenario build-up, and each of the short stories in itself is an example of good storytelling. The stories are fast-paced and easy to read.


My only grouse is that all scenarios in the book are gloomy. Each author has only worked on one possibility – not finding an early cure for Covid-19, its mutants and variants in the near future. Is that because fear sells better. Or hope is what keeps the human working. Or because if the cure is found and easily manageable, there is no need for ‘Here Today, Here Tomorrow: Short tales from a Pandemic Future’. I hope none of the scenarios plays out in any part of the planet.


Prabhakar Mundkar, one of the contributor says, to make it more easily palatable to everyone, from an academic-oriented reader to the man on the street, the team chose storytelling to communicate possible scenario build-up, so


The book reiterates that it is not an attempt to predict because no-one can. It is instead an attempt to identify a spectrum of possible futures. These are emerging human stories about emotions and relationships. It is to make the readers think about families, careers, fears, anxieties, hopes and how the dreams might look like in the future.


Here Today, Here Tomorrow’ is not about guidelines, but about provocation.


The Kindle version of ‘Here Today, Here Tomorrow’, with its five short stories is priced at Rs 222. It is costly for the Indian market. But, here is the good news. The proceeds go to Akshaya Patra, where one child can be fed for a whole month at just 1£. Now, enjoy reading the five short stories with their very possible scenarios. Go pick the book and pay for 2-3 kids monthly meal. Mayb e that’s why this book promotion has an interesting line ‘To Feed a child for a month, devour this book’.


Here Today, Here Tomorrow: Short tales from a Pandemic Future. Mundkur, Prabhakar; Narendra, Priyadarshini; Roy, Sanjeev; Menezes, Aiyana. 


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