These people moved back in with their parents in 2020; what have they learned?

For many, the lockdowns of 2020 meant moving back in with families. As we march towards the first anniversary of lockdown, we look back on a year that changed the idea of relationships, personal space and gratitude

Riya Sarkar had some reservations about moving back home ahead of the nationwide lockdown in 2020. Having lived on her own in Mumbai for the past three years, pursuing a career in public relations, it was a big step for the 28-year-old to return to her roots in Kolkata.

She recalls how her mother, during her quarantine at another flat in Kolkata, one day asked her to come to the window just so she could get a glimpse of her daughter, as she stood downstairs.

The pandemic catalysed a great deal of human reshuffling, and not in the way many people wanted. Rent, other living expenses and loneliness during a time of uncertainty saw many people moving back in with their parents. When the pandemic hit, the conversation interestingly switched to: ‘you’re so lucky to be living at home!’ Ahead of the pandemic anniversary (now-called ‘panni anni’ on social media), MetroPlus speaks to people as they look at the year that was not, spending time with their families.

Riya Sarkar and her family at their home 

“That first hug after the 15-day quarantine was special. I woke up that morning with so much excitement,” says Riya, “and I had not packed up my things to go from the quarantine flat to my home. I just ran home to see everyone who were all still eating breakfast!” Riya slept next to her mom who would put her to bed every night, like when she was a child.

Rediscovering relationships

For Vishakha Agrawal, it had been 10 years since she last lived with her parents. She is now with them and her younger sister in Ahmedabad, as she looks back at 2020 with a lot of love. “I had been with a mindset of making it on my own in Mumbai. Now, living at home has actually been a blessing and makes so much sense. I had no routine before…now I am having breakfast and lunch with my family. I have realised it makes one more empathetic towards others. After all, they spent their entire lives building our lives.”

Riya agrees, adding, “When you stay alone, you live your life with bare essentials, and over the past year, I was reminded of how much parents really do for us: like remembering we like some dishes more than others, going the extra mile to make sure we are really at home, the transport logistics of getting picked up. These were things I took for granted for too long.”

Heera Selvakumar and her mother 

A recent Masters graduate, Heera Selvakumar, 22, was prepared to take on the world. Working as a content executive, she just secured a job at a prestigious ed-tech platform. Then the lockdown hit and she had to move from Bengaluru back home to Chennai, where she lives with her mother.

“My mom had been through a lot in the past year and my grandmother was living with us under special care. She passed away. It was tough on my mom who had been so strong taking care of everything. I am glad I was there for her. We don’t realise how much our parents need us, even though they do not say it.”

Not everything is rainbows and daisies; boundaries were tested to their limit over the past year. Often, arguments would break out about who would do the dishes, or who deserved priority with the better bandwidth at a given time .

Vishakha agrees, “At home, there have been ‘rules’, such as everyone going to bed at a certain hour. But these responsibilities and differences helped me get through the last year, which would have otherwise been very depressing.”

For many of us living with parents or elder relatives, there is the constant — almost instinctual — reminder to ask, “do you have your mask?” before they go out. For Riya, this was definitely the case, constantly reminding her family and herself to wear a mask. “Parents always think they’re know-it-all’s! But when they forget the masks, it turns into a discussion as to why it is important, all over again,” she laughs.

The sibling equation

While the lockdowns brought new closeness, they also ushered in old tensions but new understandings. Siblings under the same roof agree that 2020 was a true test of endurance and understanding. Vishakha says the house-bound period impacted her relationship with her younger sister, adding she is grateful for it.

Vishakha Agrawal and her family 

“When we moved back to live with our parents on March 21, 2020, it was initially a little difficult to understand each other. We used to have arguments on miniscule things. Our parents witnessed them as the days passed and eventually had to intervene to address the issue. I realised that being the elder one, I have to understand where my sister is coming from, I would have to take it slow and make her feel loved. I spent time with her during the weekends and reminisced about our childhood by playing games from the 90s. Everyone’s efforts did help to get things back to normal.”

Riya, however, points out she and her older brother have gotten closer. “We were always close, but this lockdown helped us figure out our differences, and be each other’s workout buddies. When sorting out problems in person — when you see the body language and expression, and hear the tone of the voice — you are able to see how they really feel.”

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