While the lockdown has made life uncertain, it has also brought some families closer together, giving them time to bond like never before.

Bonding in the lockdown Kerala families share their experienceSangeetha, Manu and Tanishqa
Coronavirus Lockdown Friday, April 24, 2020 - 16:56

If she left for work before nine in the morning, Sangeetha Sikhamani used to get back home only by seven in the evening. That gave her just a few hours with 10-month-old Tanishqa, who has just begun to stand up in between all the crawling around. That’s when the COVID-19 lockdown began and Sangeetha, who works in a bank in Kozhikode, suddenly found time for activities she’d always wanted to do. Crafts, vegetable farming, and most importantly, spending time with her baby.

“I made a personalised pillow for her,” says Sangeetha on a day she doesn’t need to go to work. Employees of the bank have been working on alternate days, till 2 in the afternoon since measures became stricter during the lockdown.

Days and weeks of lockdown have brought to the world a whole lot of uncertainty – what will happen to the jobs, how will one survive, will normal life ever return. Worst of all, it has led to an increase in domestic violence across the world. 

But, on the other side, there are some families who are grateful for the time to bond. Sangeetha and her husband Manu are now recording every few waking moments of the baby and Tanishqa is enjoying childhood the old-fashioned way – spending time on the front yard of her grandparents’ place, playing with trees and butterflies and the stray animals that come by.

 

 

Ernakulam-based psychiatrist Dr CJ John says, “In the initial days at least, when it was expected to be a definite period of lockdown, a segment of the people enjoyed the time they got to spend with their families. Especially the elderly got a lot of attention during this time that’s otherwise limited. But it is important to sustain the mutual support through the difficult times that’ll follow. The economic pressures will be more as the days pass."

Getting past economic pressures

That’s a fear that comes and goes and has now settled in for good for Chithrasenan, who runs the Modern Book Centre in Thiruvananthapuram. “The first few days, it was the fear and tension of learning about this new disease that’s spread through the world, and suddenly we can’t go out any more. Once I got used to it, adjusted to the new routine, I began to enjoy the time I unexpectedly got at home. It’s the first time in my 23 years of marriage that I'm spending so much time with my wife and children,” Chithrasenan says.

The college-going children have been at home and the family of four sits down to watch movies together, play chess or get involved in domestic work like never before. “But a few days later, reality strikes again and I worry about my private business. I won't be able to earn if I can't open my shop and sell books. And if I start worrying about others less fortunate, like the daily wage labourers and how will they live, I may completely lose it,” says Chithrasenan.


Chithrasenan and family

It is perhaps the women who appreciate the togetherness more. Dr John says he gets calls from women who say that they are happy their husbands are back home. “This, despite issues of more housework falling on them with the family spending all the time at home,” he says.

Sharing responsibilities

Kamala*, who had just moved to a new rented house with her husband Kiran* and two little kids before the lockdown, says this is true. “But in some other ways, it also helps, because now if I want to take a nap, I know Kiran will look after them," she points out.

Hers is another family where the lockdown in some way brought the husband, wife and the children closer to each other. “It’s there in the way we laugh. Earlier we used to get on each other’s nerves whenever we saw each other. And he’d be mostly away for work. For months, he could be on a distant shore. I used to make all the decisions about the kids – the schooling and everything. I’d tell him that in their earliest memories, he’d be this stranger who sometimes dragged in a suitcase into the house and spoke to them.”

Now, however, they sit and talk to each other and laugh about the silly things the kids did. “We talk about the things we had kept aside for later for far too long. We talk about the past and feel good about it,” Kamala says dreamily.

Kamala’s friend Lekshmi* had been on the verge of separation from her husband. However, Lekshmi says that they have now rediscovered the feelings they once shared, during the lockdown. She attributes the marital trouble to her husband's friends who, she believes, are a bad influence on him.  “With the lockdown, none of them could spend time together and without their derogatory words about women filling his ears, he appears to have come back to his senses,” she says.

“One part of me doesn’t want the lockdown to end,” she adds, even as she realises the futility in depending on a lockdown for happiness.

Also read: How tech vs traditional workplaces are handling work from home

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