I'm 27 and living in lockdown with my grandparents
Two weeks before lockdown was announced, I moved out of my Wimbledon flatshare to live with my grandparents in Hounslow.
I said goodbye to my housemates, my leafy location and my independence to save up for a deposit for my own house. I gave myself a year’s deadline before I had to move out.
Having previously lived with my grandparents when I first moved to London after university to chase my journalism dreams in 2014, I knew the risks of taking up my old room again: a sore throat from repeating myself (despite their supposedly-functioning hearing aids), the TV permanently playing Indian dramas and there being nothing in the fridge but dahl.
But there would be good things, too. My washing would be done, there’d be no rent to pay and no more arguments about whose turn it is to clean the kitchen.
I’d weighed up my options, and I felt that I could handle a year back at the place I felt was ‘home’.
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Then, on 23 March, Boris Johnson announced that the UK was going into lockdown.
Gone were my chances to get a break from Hounslow; at the age of 27 I was about to spend 24 hours a day, seven days a week with my grandparents, and I was worried.
Would I be able to withhold showing my frustration at their lack of technical knowledge? Could I handle explaining, yet again, that while I am at home, I’m still working and not on holiday?
I didn’t want to snap at the people putting a roof over my head, but the struggle would be real.
As it turns out, I’m actually glad I made the move before this all kicked off.
We’ve settled into a routine – I grab my breakfast while Granny does her morning prayers and Grandad ties his turban for the day. While I work, they garden, then we come together again at mealtimes.
I’ve become the house bouncer when my stubbornly socialable grandparents want to break the lockdown rules and go out shopping or to see friends and family.
I’m their postwoman and pharmacist, dropping off and picking up their prescriptions, and their relationship counsellor when they argue over what we’re having for dinner.
I’ve also introduced them to a whole new world of online banking (something Grandad never knew was possible) and supermarket deliveries.
‘Do all supermarkets do this?’ they asked me. ‘Can you ask them for peanuts?’
It’s not all been easy. There have been heated debates over why I think women shouldn’t be the only ones in the kitchen and why I really don’t need to ‘find a boy’ to be happy.
But despite our disagreements, we’re grateful for the opportunity this lockdown has given us to get to know each other on a deeper level. It’s like Love Island, but for families.
Newly empty diaries have given me and my grandparents evenings and weekends together, one night a week dedicated to a family quiz with my parents, based in Birmingham, over Zoom.
They try to get me into Indian comedy shows; I try and get them into intersectional feminism.
They tell me about their experiences as refugees, struggling through the partition of India and racism after arriving in the UK; I then feel bad about shouting at Granny for not recycling the yogurt pots.
These moments have allowed me to understand their stories and my history more, but also learn that my granny is a total cheat at Scrabble and has a wicked sense of humour.
Hopefully they’ve learned a bit about me, too, including why I retreat to my bedroom if I’m feeling anxious. They’re now seeing me as a young woman, not just their grandchild anymore.
When I see friends quarantining with partners and flatmates, I feel jealous about being too far out for even a socially distanced meet-up, as I don’t want to get on public transport.
But coronavirus has also given me an even more urgent appreciation of life, so I’m trying to tune out from Instagram and really listen to my grandparents’ stories, knowing that one day they won’t be here to tell them.
As lockdown and shielding eases, I’m still too scared to let them go outside until I’m sure we’ll all be safe.
My granny keeps telling me to work from home forever, while I dream about those first overpriced after-work drinks at All Bar One.
Our ideals for what life will look like after lockdown might be different, but I hope we can both think back to this time as when we became friends as well as family.
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