I recently read a New York Times article that mentioned how a large number of adults had moved back in with their parents due to the lockdown and how they are adjusting to living with parents and children in the same house. It spoke about the conflicts of co-living and gave suggestions on how to live in harmony during a lockdown.
As an Indian, please take a moment to digest this. First, for a change, the West is following India! Second, visualising someone giving us tips on co-living with families is surely enthralling. Almost like telling a butcher how to get that perfect cut (no pun intended for using butcher as a reference here). The article went on to suggest, “If it’s your in-laws, do not get involved, let your spouse manage the conflict.” Ha! I can only imagine the irresistible thoughts in the heads of all Indian sons-in-law and daughters-in-law right now.
Various studies have been conducted on living with parents after marriage, and the results usually differ. As a new, young, and urban India, millennials feel the need for space, especially after they have expanded their own family. Some parents agree, while others may not. Many a time, arrangements are made within the existing set-up to welcome new family members.
Now here’s the twist: it's 2020 and there’s nothing normal about this year. As mentioned, during the lockdown, several families in Europe and America packed their bags and moved in with their parents, or asked them to move in.
With little history of co-living with their parents (most children move out at 18 years), it would surely come with its shares of trouble. Almost like a newlywed Indian bride moving into a new house with her husband and in-laws. The first few weeks are full of uncertain and awkward moments; not just for the bride, but the parents-in-law as well (no point mentioning the husband; his say doesn’t matter anymore). However, over time, things settle in, and both parties co-habitat as one big family.
This is the majority and reality of India.
This thought takes me back to all those people who are co-living as one big family. How must they be coping, when there is already so much uncertainty in the world? Interesting stories have revealed how young adults are finding it nerve-racking and daunting to live with their parents. Adjusting to no privacy, little space, varying TV rules, food restrictions, and constant bickering, is something that is adding to the already chaotic world we are currently living in. In fact, those living with children and grandparents, are not interested in being “parented” by their own parents! Imagine being told by your mother “that’s too much coffee for one day” in front of your child. It’s that moment where you can be a role model for your child and listen to your mother, or throw a retort and storm out of the room. Tough choice to make. This time, make sure not to bang the door, to avoid spilling the coffee.
On another note, it is heartwarming to read stories of several families who couldn’t have asked for better helping hands to create a safe and comfortable environment during these uncertain times. They feel blessed to see their children and parents bonding over a prolonged period of time, at the same time, giving them an ample amount of time to work and do their chores. For those moving in with their parents, and living in their childhood house, there's a sense of nostalgia coming back. In fact, many families are considering making this a permanent feature, because they realised co-living as a big family has its share of pros, which are much more than the cons. Of course, we can get used to seeing work calls being video-bombed by inappropriately dressed family members!
This only got me thinking, how are Indians surviving this pandemic, living in the situation that people abroad are heavily debating about? Is it a boon or a bane to co-live during this pandemic?
I remember, last year, driving to a relative’s house a couple of hours away with the entire family in one car, I swore never to be stuck in that horrifying situation again. Well, it’s been four months and all of us are literally 'stuck' together at home. With three generations living in the same house, there is plenty of chatter, movements, fights, laughter, and shouting. OK, a lot more shouting. But never a dull moment!
While the entire world is talking about increasing levels of mental health and depression owing to the lockdown, loneliness, coming out of quarantine, etc, most Indians are battling their own issues because of lack of loneliness, no social distancing and too much food being cooked daily!
At a time when Ludo King, the traditional four multicolour pieces and dice, witnessed a huge jump in its active users from 1.5 crores per day pre-lockdown to 5 crores per day in June, many of us are wiping the dust off our long-forgotten board games of Tambola, Uno and Snakes and Ladders, making it a daily post-dinner ritual.
Organised chaos. That’s how the world sees India, and maybe this one time, they should experience it too.
(The author is on Instagram at @motherhood_therealstory)