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Girls back from home from hostel and locked down with the family, are having to re-adjust to family routines and often, conservative norms of behaviour.
With lockdown still on in India although relaxed in some places, schools and universities have had to send their boarders home; partly because they don’t want to be accountable for anything that happens to them and partly because they believe students will be safer in their homes than they would be in a hostel.
For many girls, hostel acts as a safe haven, away from the rigid conservative environment back home. It is a place of bonding and sisterhood, where they find their feet – many women have warm memories of their hostel lives.
While this is true, hostels have their own problems and restrictions especially in the case of women; in the last few years, growing outrage at the unfairness of these restrictions led to movements such as Pinjra Tod which protested against the strict curfew hours for female students at hostels in Delhi. Yet, despite curfew restrictions and even dress codes at times, many hostellers do enjoy being more independent than they would be at home, given how conservative many Indian families are.
In this lockdown phase, many girls and young women would face adjustment issues while staying at home for so long; usually they would go home for two month long summer vacations, but now, almost 60 days have passed, and there is still uncertainty amongst all of us on when we will get back to normalcy.
In these times, adjusting back to family norms and routines has been a different experience for different people. I spoke to a few female students who are ‘locked down’ at home, to understand their experience of moving back home from the hostel.
According to a Pune based Business Studies student, adjusting back to the family structure after so many years living in hostels has been difficult.
She says, “Earlier I used to come back only for vacations and then go back to the hostel. I have been living in hostel since class 2 and now I am completing my graduation. I have grown up quite a lot in the hostels, having my own opinions, studying on my own, managing finances and becoming independent. After coming back to stay at home during this lockdown, I have had a different experience. As the days pass by, I feel like I am losing my independence. My parents keep an eye on me, my internet is restricted and I have to wake up early. I am treated as a child and sometimes I find it quite irritating. I have to dress conservatively when in company of my grandparents. It has gradually become suffocating.”
For a Delhi based Law student, staying at home has been an amazing experience.
She says, “Even though I have been living in the hostel since high school I feel at ease when I am at home. My parents, grandparents and I work together, have discussions and it’s awesome to see the whole family together. Now that my parents have to work from home, we are spending a lot of time together. I have started cooking and learning new things to pass the time. Thanks to the Internet I am constantly in touch with my friends and boyfriend. My parents know my boyfriend and they like him too.”
She attributes her experience to the fact that her parents treat her like an adult and respect her opinions. She adds, “I can dress however I want to dress up like. My parents have given me full freedom to live the way I want to and become an independent person with strong opinions. They want me to be strong, resilient and take control of my life by knowing what is right and wrong for me and making tough decisions for myself – and I have legally become an adult.”
A Bangalore based Arts student believes that after living away in the hostel, being back at home during the lockdown has changed her lifestyle quite a bit. After all, evening walks and eating out at restaurants with friends are a no-no. Yet it has been alright for her.
She explains, “At home I have had a good experience. I have to make a few compromises like watch the news channel if my father is watching it or wake up early or do a weekly cleaning of my almirah and room but overall it has been fine. It’s good that I have good Internet reception but I have to sleep early and not use the internet for more than 3 to 4 hours. I have a boyfriend but my parents think he is only a friend, so I want to keep it that way. I will tell them later on when both of us are ready to handle, it as my parents are a little conservative regarding having boyfriends.”
These experiences show us the different perspectives of people adjusting to the family structure after staying at the hostel for a long time. The type of environment you have in your home or the kind of relationship you have with your parents determines what you will experience. Key points of friction between parents and young women are usually around areas such as dressing, use of the Internet, and having a boyfriend – all of these are still seen by many parents as areas to be controlled, even for adult women.
Some girls and women do feel suffocated because they have tasted independence and don’t want to once again be put inside a box, while others decide to make a few compromises that will provide them a conflict free experience at home.
Some experiences are quite different where we get more time with busy parents who now can work from home, leading to stronger familial relationships.
With the uncertainty looming above us during the lockdown, staying at home is the only option and the best for most of us. The best way to have a better relationship with your parents is to have open communication with them and make them understand your perspective, whenever possible.
However, in families with highly patriarchal beliefs, it may help to seek help from a family member who is more amenable to hearing your point of view. If things escalate or if you fear any kind of harm, here are some of the organisations that you could reach out to for help.
Image via Unsplash
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