It has almost been seven months since India went into one of the harshest lockdowns of the world in an attempt to prevent the spread of Covid-19. Even as many sectors are beginning to open up, schools and colleges have mainly moved online, with little indication of when they might resume.
As a consequence, the almost 472 million Indians who are under the age of 18 – 39% of the country’s population – are cooped up indoors.
When lockdown started, I wanted to see how India’s younger citizens were coping. I began to photograph children in my Delhi neighbourhood of Arjangarh, close to the Delhi-Gurgaon border. I sought their families permission to shoot these children and the photographs were taken in the presence of the parents and family members.
Many kids, it became clear, were helping their families with household chores. One phenomenon became apparent. More often than not, it was the daughters who were more likely to be burdened with the housework. Sons were given tasks like running errands outside the home.
There could be no clearer signal to boys that gender disparities are acceptable.
Before lockdown, Abhilasha had taken an open book examination for her Bachelors of Commerce degree. But with the coronavirus restrictions, she was struggling to concentrate on studying for tests she hopes to take soon.
“I had a clear schedule for my studies along with preparing for post-graduation entrance tests,” she said. “However, during the lockdown, when I am at home, I have to help my mother in cleaning, cooking and other chores. And after that I’d get so tired that I skip studies and it just goes on like this.”
As the sun began to set, Deepu and Prince spent their evening talking and catching up with other boys on the terrace. They said nothing has changed for them during lockdown – and they were enjoying their free time, without many chores.
Khushi was playing Ludo by herself. She is not allowed to go over to her friend’s terrace, even though it adjoins her home. Khushi has been given the task of cleaning the terrace, while her elder sister does the rest of the housework.
Saurabh and his brother play cricket all day in the small corridor outside their rented house.
Varsha sits in her balcony after completing the household chorus.
Behavioural scientists have suggested that excluding boys from housework reinforces ideas of male privilege and signals to them that they are superior to their sisters. It may be too late for the fathers. But getting the sons into the kitchen may help correct the imbalance.
Even brothers and sisters are made to spend their time doing different tasks, there is one trait they are developing in common: many are growing addicted to screens – both mobile phone and television. A survey carried by physicians at JK Lone Hospital in Jaipur found that around 65% children have become addicted to devices in recent months and are unable to stay away from their smartphone even for half an hour.
After a heavy burst of rain, a boy sits on the stairs of a a mobile shop to play PUBG on his smartphone.
Since it is unsafe to go out to play, Sonu is glued to the television almost the whole day.
A boy sneaks in a phone call as a friend watches.
A girl watches the world go by in the evening.
Jyoti Thakur is a final year journalism student at Delhi University’s Kalindi College.