Stories for allFear, frustration, uncertainty, and tragedy run through the 24 stories. Sex (in De’s inimitable style) plays a large part too — a woman contemplating seducing her brother-in-law, another fending off her husband’s unwanted attention, and a man stuck with a mistress he barely knows. “Most of the characters, like most of us, are still coming to terms with the tumultuous emotional and financial changes brought on by a lethal virus that has paralyzed the world. Everyone is obsessed with just one thing, survival! I have tried to capture these mixed feelings through the different characters,” she says. The first-person narratives, structured as internal monologues, are mostly set among the urban, well-to-do segment. But the occasional one delves into the lives of people from other stratum of society, such as a migrant worker leaving for his village or a Benarasi weaver and his silent loom. “The book shows a great range and [Shobhaa’s] connection with people at all levels,” actor Lillete Dubey said during a performative reading of the final e-book. “Obviously, she was not sitting inside a migrant’s house, but she was sitting inside his head. Each character speaks distinctly; they even construct their sentences differently.” Dubey is now eyeing a few stories for the stage.
Rediscovering prioritiesWhile switching between characters — “occupying their skins, their minds, their hearts, their lives” — was challenging for De, the short story format wasn’t. “I have written a volume of short stories in the past for Hay House, titled Small Betrayals. I love the format and strongly believe this neglected genre is poised to stage a major comeback in publishing. It has to do with ADS [Attention Deficit Syndrome]. Readers are searching for something that provides food for thought in small, delicious bites!”
Up next, we can expect a new novel, Srilaaji - Diary of a Marwari Matriarch (published by Simon & Schuster). It is slated for a Diwali launch.In the meantime, she is keen on spending more time with her family. “I have been reaching out to long-lost friends and investing more time in relationships that matter,” says De, who has been watching Aarya and Indian Matchmaking on Netflix of late. “I have rediscovered my priorities: family and writing.” Lockdown Liaisons, published by Simon & Schuster, is priced at ₹350. Available at leading book stores and on e-commerce platforms like amazon.in.