This Is My Family: Flatmates Turn Sisters During Quarantine
In This Is My Family, we explore alternative family structures and the institution of marriage in India.
We’re a group of three women living in a tiny 2BHK in Mumbai. I’m a freelance journalist, one of my flatmates works in the sales department of a firm, and the third one is a hairdresser. It’s only been three months since we started living together.
I’m used to working from home, but the other two are always out in the field and at the salon. I’m close to the hairdresser flatmate, but the third one is a very private person and before this, always had her fiance over and spent very little time with us.
When the lockdown was announced, we were a little confused — none of us knew how to cook, and we never had to clean anything, we had our house help doing all that for us.
With flatmates, it’s not easy to divide housework, because someone always thinks they get the biggest share of work. It’s not like we’re very close, but we don’t have conflicts either. We had to decide who cleans what, and at what time of the day. We all have our own way of doing things — one of them is obsessed with having the house clean in the morning, the other one said it’s better to do it at the end of the day once office work was over. It was these little things we had to navigate. And the biggest question was, who cooks and how do we cook?
We started making a list of things we needed to do in the house, and tried to divide it equally. There are two bedrooms and one living room, so three of us had one room each to clean and as far as cooking was concerned, it was something we decided on doing together, and that has definitely brought us closer.
For the first time in our lives, we chopped vegetables, made rotis, and discovered making rice was so easy. So many days into the lockdown, we’ve not repeated a single recipe and cooked up a new dish for all three meals of the day. We’ve never felt so accomplished before and honestly, we don’t miss being home or our parents that much.
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I do miss having the house to myself and how peaceful it would be when the other two were out because it was peaceful to write. Since I live in the living room, I don’t get it to myself as I would earlier, because one of them would always want to watch TV. It’s also the only room with an AC, so it’s understandable that they want to be there but I can’t concentrate on writing or getting work done and it’s not easy to ask someone to leave.
It was the sales girl’s birthday last week, and we knew her fiance would not be able to make it or plan anything for her. My other flatmate and I decided to bake a cake which turned out to be a disaster. We ended up making one out of biscuits, yogurt, and fruits and she said she regrets not having spent enough time with us because her fiance was over almost every day. She even said she’d reduce meeting him and be more involved in our plans.
This quarantine has got us to talk so much more, know things we didn’t know before and realize we have so many things in common. We didn’t know one of us had lost one of our parents, one of us was fired from our job or that one of us had recently gone through a bad break-up. These things have definitely gotten us closer and our flatmate, who never spent time with us before, now said, she doesn’t miss her fiance anymore. Every day, we find ourselves planning their wedding, and before this, we had no clue about the wedding, or if she was even going to invite us. Now, she says, she’s considering including us in her gang of bridesmaids.
From someone we weren’t close to, to feeling bad that she’ll leave soon after her wedding, which is a year from now, is already making us sad, that’s what living in quarantine has done to us — given us sisters we never had.
This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity. As told to Anubhuti Matta.