Ridhi Komtireddy was the quintessential, protected only child till last year. Prevented by the pandemic from attending regular school, in common with children all over the world, she missed meeting her friends and taking part in extra-curricular activities. But she enjoyed the pampering she got at home. And then, suddenly, she was pulled into deep waters. Both her parents tested positive for the Novel Coronavirus, and had to go into strict quarantine. Not only would Ridhi have to manage for herself, she would also have to be responsible for her aged grandparents, who needed constant attention.
It is turbulent waters that teach sailors the real skill of keeping a ship afloat. The 14-year-old rose to the occasion. Not only did she manage really well for herself, she also took good care of her grandparents and kept in touch with her anxious parents over mobile phone throughout the day. The transformation of their daughter left Ridhi’s parents speechless.
The pandemic and subsequent lockdown were stressful for all. But many children, who may have progressed in academics at school to keep pace with the competitive world, learnt some of the most valuable life lessons during this period. They matured enough to understand the situation, became more responsible and sensitive than ever, and above all, learnt to deal with challenges.
“The pandemic has given children opportunities to grow and develop in ways that would have been impossible in normal times,” notes Ridhi’s mother Sahitya Komtireddy.
“A curtain lifted and she went from a little girl to a matured lady,” she says, referring to her daughter’s transformation.
Ask Ridhi about that time, and she smiles, saying, “This was the first time I found myself in a situation where I had to take the lead and take care of my grandparents, as there was no one else at home. I told myself I had to be strong and calm. I realised life can throw uncertainties at us but we need to deal with them.”
life can turn topsy-turvy
Ridhi isn’t the only child for whom the pandemic proved enlightening. Top cop Shikha Goel, who has been on her toes enforcing strict lockdown in Hyderabad, and subsequently got infected with Coronavirus, says the pandemic has had a sobering effect on her children. “This has all been so crazy — trying to manage work and parenting. But this gives me hope. They have realised how life can suddenly turn topsy-turvy; they have realised the need to make adjustments and sacrifices and keep themselves busy, and more importantly, happy,” says the mother of two.
“Yutika and Tavashya (Shikha’s children) remained confined to the house — no outings, no hanging out with friends. Their love and concern for parents, siblings, grandparents and relatives has increased and their needs have come down; life became simpler,” says the Additional Commissioner of police (Crimes), Hyderabad.
SENSE OF PRIDE
Entrepreneur Sudha Reddy watched as her two sons — P.V. Pranav Reddy and P.V. Manas Reddy — figured out their own interests without constant adult input. “They have matured quite a bit. I’ve noticed the children feeling a sense of pride and ownership in being able to manage parts of their day alone, learning to set their own schedules, and finding time to take on new responsibilities. They have learnt to cook. These hard times can be the catalyst for new habits, behaviours and lessons,” she says.
The pandemic has forced people to look within. “I have seen that my two boys have bonded more with family, being at home. We do activities as a family and they play with each other more as brothers. They play with us parents and also with their grandparents too,” says Rachana Mehta, entrepreneur and mother of two teenagers — Moksh and Nirvaan.
She’s happy they are maintaining a schedule of sleeping, eating, studying and exercising. They have also learnt basic skills in the kitchen, including chopping, cleaning and simple cooking. “My younger one loves to bake. So he treated us with his goodies. My older one loves fitness, so he kept the entire family motivated and focused,” she says.
Swati Lakra, Additional Director General of Police, Women Safety, says Stuti and Pratiti, her children, know that they should be eating healthy. “So they are helping out at mealtimes with easy-to-follow recipes they find on the internet,” she shares, adding, “There is more camaraderie between them.”
“We have seen a tremendous transformation in their personalities last year,” says entrepreneur Sabina Xavier about her daughters Zara and Yana. “They have become more independent, confident and even largely self-sufficient during this time.” She recalls that during the early days of the lockdown, they had no domestic help. The children took over the laundry, sweeping and mopping. “When they missed their favourite foods, they turned chef and churned out brownies, cookies, pastas and pizzas for all of us,” she says, adding that they showed great strength of character and team spirit. “They would wake up every morning and go about their tasks without us having to remind them.”
Another change Sabina noticed was that, with no physical school and consequent lack of social interaction, the children made friends with the kids in their very small community. “Self-learning has been another huge plus during this time. We’ve been proud to see them always at class five minutes before the teacher logs in, never shutting off their video and making sure their attention is always on what’s going on. From being babies who needed to be woken up or prodded to pick up their books, today they are responsible for their own schedules and for the consequences. The pandemic has definitely had its impact on my girls and I honestly can’t say it’s been all bad,” she notes.
The pandemic has given children opportunities to grow and develop in ways that would have been impossible in normal times. A curtain lifted and she went from a little girl to a matured lady
— Sahitya Komtireddy
My younger one loves to bake. So he treated us with his goodies. My older one loves fitness, so he kept the entire family motivated and focused
— Rachana Mehta, entrepreneur
They are helping out at mealtimes with easy-to-follow recipes they find on the internet. There is more camaraderie between them
— Swati Lakra, Additional Director
General of Police, Women Safety