As the number of reported coronavirus cases mounts, “social distancing” and “work from home” have become catchphrases across the globe. To give people cooped up in their homes some relief, musicians, writers and chefs are taking to the internet to remind us that there really is a brighter side – and are giving their work away for free.
One such initiative has come from the group of Indian children’s literature writers. The #ThodaReadingCorona project is driven by Bijal Vachharajani, who has written four children’s books and is a senior editor at Pratham Books.
“The idea is that every day, one of us will read our book and put it [up on social media],” said Vachharajani. “Schools were the first to be shut and we wanted to make sure that if children aren’t going [to school and] want access to stories, they do [get it].”
The videos are posted online by the individual authors and collected on the Reading Raccoons group.
A similar move was made by the popular comic book series Amar Chitra Katha and Tinkle, which on Tuesday made their entire catalog free for one month from the date of signing up. “Initially we wanted to do something around coronavirus to boost awareness,” said Preeti Vyas, President at Amar Chitra Katha. “But on second thought, we said there is already so much information – and misinformation – out there. We are not really experts.”
The move comes as a respite not just for children but also working parents, she said. “For parents trying to work from home, to be able to get work done [with kids around] is chaos,” she said.
With schools shutting down, the education-technology sector has also stepped up. Coursera has given colleges open access to 95% of its catalog till July 31 and Banglaore-based BYJU’S has made its material available till the end of April.
The show must go on
Around the world, many artists are doing their bit to lift the gloom. Jazz guitar John McLaughlin’s album Is That So, which was released in January and features vocalist Shankar Mahadevan and table maestro Ustad Zakir Hussain, is now available for free download till the end of April.
Then there are others. Philharmonie Berlin is streaming over 600 orchestral concerts for free for a month on its Digital Concert Hall. The Detroit Symphony Orchestra’s streaming service DSO Replay, traditionally open only to donors, is now open to all. In New York, The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center and The Metropolitan Opera have done the same thing.
For lovers of popular music, there is the Global Citizen Festival’s “Solidarity Sessions: Together, At Home”. As part of this, Coldplay frontman Chris Martin conducted an Instagram live session and took song requests from those self-isolating at home. Following suit were Charlie Pluth and John Legend, who indicated that others – including Camilla Cabello and Shawn Mendes – would also join in the days to come.
Spirit of giving
There’s also food for the body. Celebrated Italian chef Massimo Bottura, who runs the Michelin-star Osteria Francescana in Italy and Gucci’s Osteria da Massimo Bottura in Los Angeles, has launched “KitchenQuarantine”, where he is dispensing free cooking lessons on Instagram.
“I think it’s necessary to inject some positivity and calm in the environment,” said Preeti Vyas of Amar Chitra Katha. “[The situation is] crazy. I don’t think any of us have faced this in our lifetimes, and we don’t even know the extent of the seriousness…But [we must look at] what is in our control and what is not.”
Bijal Vachharajani of the #ThodaReadingCorona project echoed the sentiment: “All of us are cooped at home, but just knowing that there’s this community that I can reach out to has made a huge difference to me. And I think they also feel the same.”