What does a lockdown mean to people who already work from home, and now have to share their space with family through the day
“Leftovers are not enough any more!” A wailing emoji accompanies this on WhatsApp. It is nearing lunchtime and Chitra Andrade has just realised that the remains of last night’s dinner (which she normally has for lunch) are not going to cut it because the three men in her life, her husband and two strapping sons are home and hungry.
It is not very different at the home of Priya Narasimhan who says she has been a homemaker since the age of 24. The 53 year old from Mumbai, says shes been forced into the Superwoman cape. “My day routinely begins at 4.45 am. We are six of us at home. But usually, by 8.00 am most have left home for office, college, and school. After this, time is my own to do as I will. Not any more,” she sighs. “My dear husband who is now working from home bathes, has breakfast, takes his tab and phone and disappears upstairs.” She does cherish that half hour they are together at lunch as a family, but says, “ After lunch he works from home again till 8.00 pm, then comes down declaring, aaj ka office ho gaya (done for the day). At 5.00 pm sharp, just like he does at office, he gets his cup of hot filter coffee.”
Chitra grumbles, “Nothing has changed for them. Each of them is in his room working or on online classes. I have no access to any of the rooms except the living room and the kitchen! Have you tried restricting your mixer use to the time they are not on a phone call? I am the one who is displaced.” For now, Chitra has found the dubious silver lining: “There is less washing as everyone is in their home clothes.”
- Mom of two girls and a school teacher Chitra R says she and her daughters have learnt from the lockdown, especially with school closing down. She says…
- Life is unhurried.
- There are moments of fear of the unknown, but we acknowledge it and have learnt to not condemn it or discount it either.
- We are learning to be aware and more mindful of our resources and plan better.
- Family time is encouraging more conversations and teaching us to consider and respect each other’s opinions and emotions. We are aware of what is happening outside and we are able to better respond to it from within.
For 51-year-old software professional Trivikram Prasad who works from his Bengaluru home, as a routine, says things are ‘interesting’ now that his wife and twin daughters are with him too. “Vaishnavi (his wife) and I compete for the office room. But I am happy to retire for a nap,” he says. “Vaishnavi cooks daily now, which is amazing for me and the kids. But I know she misses going out. She gets bored if she does not have office work.” Trivikram is taking online courses, teaching his kids math and physics, and composing songs. “Vaishnavi and I now take the dogs for a walk every night which we never used to, and sometimes the kids too when they are up for it.”
But having them all home makes him feel just that teeny bit restricted. “I feel more accountable for my time now since we’re all cooped up.” And streaming shows has become a challenge as “none of us can agree on what to watch as a family.” But irrelevant conversations and debates abound as there is a lot of free time. “We video called with six other friends around the world and fought over the right to send forwards on WhatsApp and had a discussion on the plus and minuses of gomutra.”
Vaishnavi, who is India Head for an American financial services company, admits it is taking her some time to get used to working from home. “My first week working from home was unstructured and chaotic. I ended up working almost 14 hours and got a back pain for my efforts.” The second week has been kinder, she says. “I reverted to my office routine of workout, shower, dress up and then login in to work.” But she is discovering the joys of cooking for family. “I take the time to try out new recipes (I had a full time cook before),” she says and adds that she has increased her workout time too. But she absolutely loves being with her teenage twins.”They will soon leave for college and these are precious times for us. We have not eaten meals together in many many years and now we do, with my father-in-law joining in too.” But she confesses she does get anxious about the future. Also, “I am a social person, so I miss going out and meeting friends and family.”
The new routine is challenging, admits D Prashanth, a Yoga Instructor, “Kids are definitely feeling hemmed in,” he says. He and his wife Sapna are designing activities for the children so that they do not end up in front of the TV all day. They ensure the kids’ timetable includes household chores, studies, mealtimes, play and TV times too. He is also finding out that bonding is a double-edged sword. There are conflicts of interest and arguments. “But it is all going towards building healthy relationships. I am convinced families will come out stronger and happier after this lockdown.”
Priya is pleasantly surprised that her kids are volunteering with chores and have developed an interest in cooking and house work. “We giggle over WhatsApp jokes and, to my surprise, I find time to nap. There is no rush to meet deadlines.”
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