In late November, my sister set up a small library in the building for all the kids that lived here. Ever since then, the children in the building would come to the library to sit and read; colour and paint; play board games or just chat in the safety of this new space that was theirs. This built a bond between us and all of them. So often they would be found seated in our home, where the library is housed. Just last week, Momo, a seven-year-old from this group, knocked on our front door at around noon. Most of the children usually came to hang out in the evenings after school, so I asked him if he was okay. He made a sad face and told me he was very bored. He asked if I would play with him. I told him I had work to do but he could come in and read if he wants. He left and said he would return when I was free. This routine was repeated for many days. The sudden and drastic change in their schedules, the disruption of where and when they have school and what to do with the remaining hours of their day was very real for Momo, and for so many other children.
This shift in how time felt, or how to spend their time also featured in the writings by children on the COVID-19 pandemic in the book ‘A Bend in Time’. Archita Agarwal, a 17-year-old who lives in Bangalore, says the pandemic has led to us rethinking how we spend time. She says in her essay, “Somewhere life was moving at such a fast pace that people no longer had time for each other.” In another essay, 18-year-old Ishaan Ghosh turns to science, the universe and asks us to “keep our humanness alive” as we save our pale blue dot in the universe.
These stories and experiences of children and young adults gave me a peak into the minds of a generation affected differently by this pandemic. The idea of school, play and fun have all changed. However, these stories were not the only ones around us of children. Childline, India’s exclusive emergency helpline for children, reported receiving many calls from children across the country who were in emotional distress apart from calls with regards to their medical and nutritional needs. Psychologists and pediatrics speak of the increase in stress and anxiety among children. Dr Jagdish Chinnappa, Paediatrics Consultant at Manipal Hospitals stated in an interview, “As they [children] miss the attention from parents and grandparents, limited human interaction, preoccupation with digital media, change in the way they interact with teachers and parental preoccupation with their careers are leading to depression among children these days,” he said.
What can we do to ease this time for children – as we approach a second wave of cases in this country? How can we respond and discuss the prolonged uncertainties which continue around all of us? What are they feeling around this changed routine of school, play, home and nearly everything else? How do we speak about the increased screen time and the reduced outdoor time with them?
What are some of the conversations you are having with children and young adults in your family and around you?
We would always love to hear from you.