Simashree is an Assistant Professor at the Department of Sociology, Cotton University, Guwahati, Assam. She received her PhD from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. She also taught at Jyoti Dalal School of Liberal Arts, Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies (Mumbai) and Maharashtra National Law University Mumbai. Her research involves gender studies, sociology of religion, environmental and ecological studies. Some of her research articles have been published in the Indian Journal of Gender Studies, Zubaan, Indian Anthropologists etc. Her keen interests lie in gender discourse and Neo-Vaishnavism in Assam. Her ongoing research project looks at ‘Feminizing Indian Higher Judiciary and Possible Objectivity’.
(Un)Masking Pandemic Tales
The COVID -19 pandemic offers to ask several significant questions about the domestic sphere and neighbourhood spaces. Numerous social media visuals (videos, memes, photographs) circulated during the lockdown period showcase humour of a gendered domestic space. What lies underneath this humour is a visual imagination of renegotiating the terms of household work and domestic spaces. These visuals also try to capture the essence of time and transformation yet without considering the changing dynamics of relationships within the domestic and the neighbourhood spaces. It is significant to note of women in rural settings and their ways of dealing with everyday challenges. Beyond their domestic duties, women are involved in small scale economic activities to run the household while the male members are occupied with agricultural activities. Women seem to be navigating between the mundane and the new challenges posed by the pandemic. Confined at home and being under restrictions, women and children are finding new ways of interaction. Mask is the signifier of a new form of interaction.
The photographs are taken in and around my parent’s house and the immediate neighbourhood to understand involvement and movements of women and children during the lockdown period and the way in which they are coming in terms of a new world.
Sapna Saikia, a primary school teacher started making masks from Gamusa, a traditional Assamese item of significance since lockdown was placed. With her past experiences of working as a small scale independent entrepreneur, she has been able to use her skills in making an additional livelihood as well facilitate others with the most sought after item in the market today. She has also brought in other women from her immediate neighbourhood to join hands in the venture. She has borrowed a sewing machine from her sister-in-law. She produces 20 -25 masks every day
Pranati Saikia, a homemaker is making masks from ordinary cotton fabric. Prior to joining hands with Sapna, Pranati was commissioned by the Panchayat (under the Block) to prepare masks for which she received five rupees per item. Now both Sapna and Pranati are working together for the last one and half months. Sapna’s elder son takes the bulk of masks to the market.