Monday April 27, 2020   |   Dr Mahul Brahma

Bookaholicanonymous is delighted to bring to you this exclusive interview with Dr Mahul Brahma, a luxury commentator, columnist and author of The Luxe Trilogy who moved away from his genre and has written a new book titled Quarantined: Love in the time of Corona. Exclusively available on Kindle across the globe the author’s dedication page reads…“This book is dedicated to every citizen who is bravely fighting the World War against COVID 19”


Who says lockdown is an unproductive period this book is proof enough that a creative mind never rests, never shuts. The book is a quick read; you can read it in one go. We at Bookaholicanonymous urge you to go for it.


About Dr Mahul Brahma: He is a luxury commentator, columnist and author of The Luxe Trilogy and Quarantined: Love in the time of Corona. He is an award-winning communicator and heads CSR, Communciations & Branding in a Tata group company. He is an alumni of MICA, St Xavier’s College, IIM Calcutta and University of Cambridge Judge Business School. His short films have won several awards and one was screened at Cannes Film Festival. He loves to play golf and paint. 


The interview:


Your latest book is titled ‘Quarantined: Love in the time of Corona’. Please share the thought behind it. What kind of stories are we going to find in the book? What was your inspiration?


During my quarantine, I wanted to explore lives of others who are my co-passengers in this ordeal. I wanted to know when our mechanised lives are forced to become human and we are forced to break our routines, forced to re-look at our lives as well as our relationships, and last but not the least, forced to give time to things and people who really matter, that too unlimited, what happens? And for a writer, creativity is your only trusted friend. So I created these characters, these protagonists and put them in the same premise of the quarantine and watch them respond and react to different scenarios that I toyed with as a writer. And as they say, the beauty of a short story is that you can travel to the end of the word and can be back before dinner. So I did my share of travel and made it back before dinner, literally.


So ‘Dark Love’ has been my inspiration in penning these six stories. The first story is about an affair between two office colleagues, the second explores the story of a male escort, who indulges in multiple affairs with clients. The third is about two people hooking up in an airport while the fourth is a narrative about a couple-both who indulge in an illicit affair. The fifth showcases a doctor's paternal love to a girl who reminds him of his daughter while the last explores the complexity of the relationship between three people.


Why did you move away from your genre of luxe?

Every creative person has his or her own way or medium of expressing feelings towards events that goes around. As an author I write to express myself. So, the quarantine ‘forced me’ to move away from my genre of ‘luxe’ and write on it. My readers, though they love luxury the way I do, also know that my writings are very unconventional with very fluid boundaries in terms of subject matter and genre so they will love the book. With ‘Quarantined’ I look forward to gaining more and more new readers across the globe, who are my co-passengers in this quarantined time.


Why are you calling them unconventional love stories?

The quarantine is a very unique event in our lives. Even generations who have seen the World Wars confess that it is most dangerous when the real enemy is not visible. The biggest tactical disadvantage that we have in this war against COVID 19 is that you can’t trust anyone. From a stranger to your co-passenger to your next-door-neighbour, just anyone can transmit the Corona virus to you. It is as if the virus is a shape shifter and can take any form or shape.


And thus social distancing has become the grand narrative, and the only way to break the chain of the spread of Corona.


The quarantine and lockdown has become a norm rather than an exception during this war against the killer virus. And even in these extreme times of extreme measure when the intensity of emotions and feelings are at an extreme. May be not in its conventional pristine form, but love sure blossoms in an unconventional grey or even dark form.


These six stories of unconventional love are slices of lives across different segments of the society and how the quarantine and lockdown irreversibly changed their lives forever.  The world for them is no longer the same.


But love is love, conventional or not, and has its sway even in the time of Corona!


The third of the luxe trilogy ‘Luxe Inferno’ was published in February. I believe launch of Quarantined was not planned.

Quarantined: Love in the time of Corona was not planned. You are right, my third book of The Luxe Trilogy was launched in February this year, so I was taking a well-deserved break after launching the three books of the trilogy, Decoding Luxe, Dark Luxe and finally Luxe Inferno in three consecutive years. But then, COVID 19 happened and I was locked down at home, rather quarantined. So, the idea came into my mind to write something that every person will be able to relate to. Thus I started writing the book on the second day of the lockdown with a target that I should be able to make it available to my readers while the quarantine and lockdown is still on. Thus in 10 straight days and 10 straight nights, the book was ready and on April 12th it was launched in a virtual literary festival, eLit. My wife Sabiya designed the cover. The same day the book was made available to readers across the globe on Kindle.  


Usually, I take a year to write a book, but this was an exception and with the extension of the lockdown, more and more readers can read Quarantined during their quarantine. It is hard to read a book or watch a film that exactly depicts the scenario that the reader or audience is in. Quarantined aims to provide its readers a scenario which is exactly their own, so that more and more readers can identify with the protagonists and are able to make sense of the recalibration of their minds during this lockdown in their homes, outside the comfort of their routines. 


From your stories one can make-out that you have studied the symptoms of COVID-19 and its effect on society and relationships. In a way they are a chronicle of the times we are living in. Isn't it?


These stories are indeed chronicles of the times we are living in. The protagonists and characters are the people we know, we identify with. What is unique about this time is that they all are co-passengers on the same boat. They all are stuck in this quarantine, fighting a deadly virus. It is for the first time that people across the globe are seen fighting against one, common enemy.


Life inspires me and live has inspired the stories as well. For a writer it is a pre-requisite to be more observant of human behaviour, to be more observant of how certain waves, certain crisis change the dynamics of social contracts and relationships irreversibly. 


So, from a pure literary perspective, I have been closely observing people, relationships and society at large. This quarantine was no exception. Moreover, I was a part of this extraordinary situation.


I especially liked the stories 'Ties that bind' and 'Parasite'. One tells about how society is reacting to the crisis (it is showing their negative side especially towards the poor) while the other talks about people who can think of nothing but their own benefit even during a pandemic. Did you get inspiration for these stories from somewhere?


So glad you liked them. If you watch news you will get a fair sense of how the panic is making some sections of the society respond adversely. How their own zeal to be protected is making them act in ways even they never imagined. I was shocked to see societies not allowing doctors and nurses to come back to their own apartments in their fear of getting infected. This is unbelievable and inhuman to be treated in such a way against your commitment to treat patients and serve the same people during the crisis. This incident shook me to the core and forced me to write ‘Ties that Bind’.


The characters of ‘Parasite’ are not hard to find either, it is just that they are not very apparent, they remain in hiding and only show they true faces when greed forces them to.


With the observations of dynamics of relationships and the society as the raw materials, I let my imagination take the stories forward.


The book is a work of fiction, but not limited by it. 


What has been your takeaway from this pandemic as a writer and observer?


It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. After the French Revolution, these immortal words have found a new meaning in today’s war against a killer virus, Corona. This war is shaping up a whole new world – new Superpowers will emerge and new mega trends will evolve.


Usually while writing fiction I keep a distance from my story and act more like an observer, let the story weave itself. However, this pandemic was different as I am also a part of a part of it. I share the inherent emotions, mostly fears of my characters. 


The pandemic has been able to recalibrate the minds towards survival, heightening instincts, emotions as well as suspicion. Soon the world economy as well as relationships will become unrecognisable.


This new world order is here is stay.


We at Bookaholicanonymous thank Dr Mahul Brahma for taking out time for this interview. With a promise to bring you another interview with him about his Luxe Trilogy, an interesting genre on its own soon!

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