Episode 1 | A college student practising social distancing in 2025
Reflections and feedback
1- I wanted to get the first episode out- and a lot of things were happening in my life at the moments, so I didn't follow a structure of writing. I wrote the story intuitively in a short timed sprint, which is a great way of writing when you are having a creative block- the story- for better or for worse will always raise questions and give insights regarding what can be done better in terms of both writing and thinking about the present- so the sprint method, in my opinion, is not entirely futile. The following structure was recommended by N Chandrasekhar Ramanujan when the brief was set. Feel free to attempt writing the story yourself as an exercise and share it with us!
2- The “2025" ness wasn't reflected in the story. Felt more like the very near future. The story didn't realise how the events of the present could change the world 5 years from now. Rather, it showed an alternate reality, that seemed to exist in a parallel world at the same time as ours.
3- There is a need to share more relevant theories and discussions on speculative fiction and design for people alien to the subject. Of course, This will be good learning for me as well. I think this section needs to be constant in every podcast as well so that listeners have more to gain from it.
4- There need to be more visual anchors in the writing of the story: artefacts, things people can relate to or something that acts as a reference point for them.
5- Good graphics piqued peoples interest and they actually listened to the whole thing! I received lots of useful feedback.
7- This podcast probably needs its own social media account since I imagine it to be run by more people, as a collective.
Episode 1 Transcript:
“ Hello and welcome to the Future fiction Podcast. Live, from India, I Shreya, a designer and futurist bring to you stories and conversations about in the realm of fiction that takes you to the future- sometimes written by me or my peers in the design community. Allow this podcast to nudge you into thinking more deeply about the now by envisioning the tomorrows.
I will always start my podcast with a quote from fiction. Todays’s quote is from ― The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams.
“The Answer to the Great Question… Of Life, the Universe and Everything… Is… Forty-two,’ said Deep Thought, with infinite majesty and calm.”
Today I will read out a brief my good friend N Chandrasekhar Ramanujanndra gave as a speculative fiction writing exercise. So, this was the brief:
Imagine you are a college student in 2025. A vaccine is not available yet widely. In order to combat COVID19, a new artefact is introduced in college classrooms to enforce social distancing. Write a 500 word story about a student, teacher or any other person in the college, and how this artefact affects their life.
And here goes my attempt at writing a story:
“There she stood in the doorway
I heard the mission bell..”
Nikita paused her music and took off her earphones as she prepared to get off the city bus and walk to the college. She was a bit early today. She went to AB college. It is always a good practice to show up early to places these days. That way you don’t have to deal with stricter sanitation policing everywhere. Hari anna, the security guard stood at the gate, wearing his AB college mask and face shield. “I wonder if he washes it everyday”, Nikita wondered as he took her temperature before entering the gate and directed her to the hand wash station.
Classroom time in AB college was divided into two sections: one was Synchronous Physical distanced interactive sessions (or SIS PD) and its opposite was the Synchronous Remote interactive sessions (or SIS R). SIS PDs were held every alternate day from 8 am to 1 pm and SIS Rs were a mandatory daily affair scheduled in the evenings between 3–5:30 pm. In addition to increased installation of Sulabh sauchalayas across the city, “solo” cyber cafe booths were set up across the city as well as part of the safety and digital access programme (or the SIDA programme) launched by the state in 2022. They are essentially one room cyber cafes that can be used for 20 rupees per hour for the general public and 5 rupees per hour for students with a valid student id. Nikita never used these booths because of primarily two reasons: A- she had a macbook pro 2021 and B- the booths required users to show a one time password generated by the aarogya setu app.
You see, Nikita was a 18 year old rebel. She hated social media and thought it was too mainstream. She hated rules and she hated anyone telling her to do anything. In order to attend SIS PDs or Synchronous Physical distanced interactive sessions, it was mandatory to install the Aarogya Setu app on your phone. However, there was a large majority of people including NIkita that were not ok with the several nosy and cryptic features of the app. This non compliance did not go unnoticed.
“Nikita, did you see the email the dean sent us today? We will be having a Aarogya Roomba bot taking rounds in all the classrooms to sanitise them every day!” Nikita scoffed at the idea of a bot making the rounds and weird as she sat down in her seat equidistant from every other seat by 3 metres. Only 8 students were allowed to attend a class physically at a time as per the guidelines. Face mask and face shield on, the students got their notebooks out and scrambled to think of answers to yesterday’s assignment at the last minute. “Santosh sir is always late to class. Thank god for that, I can finish solving this assignment till then… “ thought Nikita.
Halfway through Santosh sir’s class, the Aarogya Roomba made an entrance, going to every corner of the room, sanitizing the entire room and backpack racks with UV rays. “Just ignore it, it will be a routine thing now.”, said Santosh sir. The roomba then peculiarly stopped next to Nikita for a while before leaving and then left the room.
“Welcome to the Hotel California
Such a lovely place (such a lovely place)
Such a lovely face!!”
Nikita mouthed as she headed towards the school exit. Hari anna stopped her and said that she had been called by the dean. He said she had been reported for not installing the Aarogya setu app and will have to pay a fine. Over the next few weeks, since Aarogya Roomba made the rounds, several students were seen paying the fine.
As AB college prepared to invite new applications for the next academic year, their website declared: “We are now a 100 % Aarogya setu compliant school”.
Hope you enjoyed this podcast! If you would like to share other versions of the story and attempt your own speculative fiction writing exercise, drop me a dm on instagram at 11shreyachopra11 or email me at shreyachopra711@gmail,com.
In the next episode of the future fiction podcast, I will talk a bit about, foresight, the cone of plausible futures and of course share a piece of speculative fiction as well! Stay tuned.”