In March 2020, as COVID-19 lockdowns started to engulf the world, Sunila Galappatti—a dramaturg, editor, and writer—mulled over an experiment in Colombo. The news of the lockdown made her wonder if people were at risk of shrinking into enclosed realities, shunted away in isolation. Could airing people’s experience of the pandemic amount to something? With this thought, she set up lockdownjournal.com.
Galappatti told me she had a desire to build a quiet place, where one could think “not about moments and quick-fire exchanges, but about whole days at a time.” The journal houses a collection of first-person accounts of the pandemic—musings, reflections, families reuniting or being forced to live apart, young worrying about the old, journalists working in empty newsrooms, people venturing on walks, tackling tall grocery lists, coping with loneliness, watching leaders play catch-up, deciphering guidelines and updates—all in the long, interminable breath of a year. “I wanted to find even the smallest way to reach across and hear about each others’ days in the pandemic,” she told me.
A year later, after more than two hundred entries from 22 countries, the publication, which can be best defined as a collaborative journal, has mushroomed into a digital memory bank of the ongoing pandemic.Written in an autobiographical style, the journal hopes to capture the essence “of coming together when we can’t meet, of singing at each other from distant balconies, asserting our solidarity with each other from a distance of at least two metres away.”