He works out of the bedroom. She does conference calls from the living room. Their son does his online college work from his room. Their
, who lives with them, is also swamped with work, and also dealing with her sudden lack of space.
We’re all about loving our families, we say — but that was easy when you only saw them at the end of the day. “When confined in small city apartments, with each person doing a full day’s work from home, it’s a bit like being in the Bigg Boss house,” says Anirban Bhattacharya, a PR professional.
As middle-class Indians are social distancing from the world because of Covid-19, they’re huddling closer to family than ever before. When both couples work, they usually give over domestic duties to a cleaning lady or cook — and now, they’re dealing with it all at once.
It’s just too close for comfort for working couples
The lockdown has made us realise how our small household of two working adults, one school-going six-year-old, and one attention seeking dog, are so dependent on multiple people, says Anjalli Ravikumar, social mission director at Unilever. This includes a nanny (“who, sadly for her, is locked down with us”) and maid and driver and various ‘wallahs’ — for doodh, bread, eggs, dhobi, nariyal, gaadi ki safai and so on, she says.
Nandita Mehta (name changed), a chirpy and sociable communications professional, says she’s “already super-fried” living in lockdown. “I really miss the interaction at work, now stuck 24×7 in a small space”. She can’t work from her bedroom, her husband occupies the living room, doing his own thing very loudly, she says. Doesn’t proximity make the heart grow fonder? “No one’s getting any action in these three weeks, there won’t be any baby boom in nine months, take it from me,” she says. She’s grateful that she can still take a walk in the park outside, and find a brief sense of autonomy.
If division of labour was a prickly point before isolation, brace for serious chore wars between working couples now. Having to care for restless children while putting on a professional front for that virtual meeting can be hard. “My 12-year-old son can sit for hours with a screen, but my six-yearold daughter is a bouncing ball of energy, she just climbs up the gate and runs out” says Lalita Singh, a home-maker. “I’ve told her that if she leaves the house, she stays out. That’s done the job for now,” she says.
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“I’ve replaced my yoga time with jhadoo pocha which, to let you in on a dirty secret, only gets done every alternate day,” says Ravikumar. She is learning to cook from online recipes. “The husband is finally putting his IIT-IIM education to use and is respo