Prof. Madhur Anand

In times of crisis and distress, art – both its enjoyment and creation – can nourish the soul and offer comfort, according to a U of G ecology professor, author and poet.

Madhur Anand, professor in the School of Environmental Sciences and director of the Guelph Institute for Environmental Research, is a published poet and the author of a new memoir, This Red Line Goes Straight to Your Heart.

She said for her and many other writers, artists and filmmakers, art is playing an important role amid the COVID-19 pandemic. While art itself doesn’t change during times of upheaval, our reaction to it often does.

“It’s we who change during crises. We tend to turn more to art for understanding, for inspiration, for solace, for whatever it is we can’t find elsewhere. That is the power of art. That is why works of art survive beyond individual lifetimes, for centuries,” she said.

Prof. Madhur Anand’s new memoir is entitled This Red Line Goes Straight to Your Heart

How art finds an audience during a pandemic was part of a discussion Anand took part in Thursday on TVO’s The Agenda With Steve Paikin along with other artists for a segment examining the fate of authors, filmmakers and artists whose works were pushed back, cancelled or put on hold by the pandemic.

Anand’s own memoir was supposed to be released last month, amid the lockdowns. The book tells the stories of Anand’s parents, including their tale of immigration after the partition of Pakistan from India and their experiences afterward. The release date is now June 30.

It’s a work she felt compelled to write after she heard her parents’ story and realized how valuable writing about it could be for second-generation, South Asian diaspora like her.

“If our generation didn’t write them down, the material memory of Partition would be lost forever. If I didn’t write down my parents’ stories, they would be forgotten in one generation,” she said.

It’s been difficult to consider creating new work amid the pandemic, she said, when so many are in pain or fighting for their livelihoods and there seem to be more important things to do. Instead, she has become more grateful for art, looking for both solace and inspiration.

“I myself have been reading even more than usual during the pandemic — poetry and fiction in particular. It’s not simply distraction for me though because I am a writer. It’s like oxygen for my mind and soul. It gives me hope.”