I haven’t seen my parents since January, when we met up for two days to sort out a health issue my father was facing. On March 10, I came back from a three-day Goa trip with my sister and daughter, and I haven’t left my apartment since. She is living all alone in a flat that she shares with two other women in Mumbai, who have gone back home. My parents live in a town some 650 kilometres or so from Pune, where I live with my husband, in-laws and kid. And yet despite braving the lockdown away from each other these past few months, we have connected on a level that we knew was possible, but never cared much to explore.

If you are living away from your loved ones under the lockdown, a lot of you may be finding solace in long group video calls, like I am. Friends, family members, cousins who you have grown up with, we are reaching out to those we love to connect with, but not just one on one. In my own households, both matrimonial and maternal, I have observed a rise in group conversations. The family chat groups are more active than usual. People are playing games like guessing the movies and songs from a forwarded message. In one of our groups, almost every member agreed to record a song in their voice (almost, because I didn’t, being tone deaf and all that) and then sharing it with the clan. 

Being a worrywart that I am, I have no clue how I would have managed to survive all the stress of the pandemic without getting hypertension or Type 2 Diabetes, had it not been for the 6 PM video calls that I have with my sister and parents almost everyday (almost again, because someone is a slacker apart from being tone deaf). So after my sister and I finish our work we get on a group call with our parents which lasts for half an hour or so. The centre of attraction is my six-year-old naturally, being the only grandchild. We talk about how our day was, what we ate, how many new cases of coronavirus have been detected in our vicinity, if us girls need any money ( the last two questions have been patented by baba) and all the tit-bits of gossip that we are dying to share. And as I watch those smiling faces fuss over my little imp, I wonder, why was this not a weekly, if not daily ritual for us? Why did it take a pandemic for us to take our virtual family bonding time so seriously?

It might sound like I am boasting, but I share a very robust relationship with my parents and sister. We have been synchronising our leaves on Diwali for last two years so that we get to spend a week together with our parents. But as soon as we go our separate ways, the interaction and bonding happens one on one. I talk to ma, I talk to my sister, she does the same, and baba just calls up any of his daughters that he wants to speak with on a whim, there is no clear pattern.

And it is not as if we got access to video calls just under the lockdown. We could have made it a habit to be on a group call every week, if we wanted to. But why didn’t we? Why were we content chatting in the family group until a pandemic came along? Perhaps it takes a disaster for us to actually need what we may be taking for granted- in our case it was family time. We felt assured that we will be together during summer vacations, so what’s the need for family groups calls now. The uncertainty of the situation however changed all that, and honestly I am glad that it did. 

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