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JOINT FAMILY: BLESSING OR BANE?

  • JWB Post
  •  February 27, 2014

 

Since the Vedic ages India has seen a well-defined system of the family set-up called “Ashram system” which comprises of Brahamcharya Ashram, Grihastha Ashram, Vanparstha Ashram and Sanyasa Ashram. In India, the joint family has been in existence since ancient times.

However, the society adapts and changes as per the need of time. The concept of nuclear family started becoming quite common. Liberty, financial freedom, equality and freedom from social customs and traditions further pushed the popularity of nuclear families. As of today, same-sex marriages and live-in or open relationships are other factors that contribute to such popularity. Nuclear families began to appear and started spreading rather quickly in India. 

One crucial, psychological and sociological advantage of a joint family is that the human interaction and bonding between all family members proves to be a great base for an individual’s growth. A person’s constitution, mind, thought process and ethics get well-shaped in such a situation. Since there are so many people to look up to and learn from, growing children become ethically strong, matured, with a powerful conscience; they learn the essential values of sharing, exercise patience to accept differences in views. 

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Mrs. Tulika Ghosh shares her story:

I came from a big Joint family in Kolkata, but when I got married I had to shift to Jaipur with my husband. In the beginning, I felt great in absence of all the elders and cousins with their suggestions on every topic, no matter how personal it was. I enjoyed togetherness with my husband, the privacy of our relationships. However, with the time I felt all alone. We talked on every topic of the world and had very good friends but still the feeling of loneliness lingered longer. The worst part started when we were blessed with a son. Till I was in Kolkata, I never realised the pressure as the baby was taken care of by everyone in the family. Even during nights, when the baby was vrying, mother-in-law or sister-in-law would be there to calm him. I felt blessed. But this blessing lasted only till we came back to Jaipur. In Jaipur it was either me or my husband taking care of our little one. Sleepless nights were showing their effect on our moods which were becoming quick-tempered. I had to call my mother, and then my mother-in-law, so we could get some rest and our nerves back in place. I now have kept a maid for my baby, and she is burning a hole in our pockets. Joint family is a blessing, and I can vouch for it.

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Ms. Maria Hasham demands for individuality to be respected, however appreciates the joint family system:

I live in Joint family with my parents, grandparents, three uncles and their families. My Nana-Nani live in the house next to ours, so we consider them to be a part of our family too, as my mother is their only daughter. It is a mixed bag of good and bad feelings to live with so many people who are so close to you. There are times when I simply love it, as I have so many cousins that I don’t need any friend outside. My cousins and I share a great rapport but there are times when we have fights too. It also annoys me when my cousins try to outsmart me. It annoys me when I want to wear a particular dress or want to eat a particular food, and elders, beside my parents, raise their eyebrows as we live in the same house and share the same kitchen, which I don’t like. I think that if more personal space is given, and the individuality is respected, then there is nothing better than a Joint family system.

There may many arguments and quarrels occur when big families live together. Also, sometimes big families don’t fit into the living space and this results into more struggles for a personal space. Mrs. Reema Hegde showed us a different side too:

I too came from a joint family. When I got married, I saw another face of this glorious system. I got married into a joint family in which my father-in-law and his brother’s family shared the same house. Soon after my marriage I started witnessing daily quarrels between their families due to one reason or another. Amid this constant tension, my mother-in-law and sister-in-law kept interfering into my personal life. It has gone to the extent that if my husband and I planned for an outing, one of them would accompany us, or if not them, then some kid from the family would. We had to even speak very slowly to each other so that other people of the house could not hear us. We could not get anything new to eat or even to decorate our room, as everything had to be shared and discussed in the family. My brother-in-laws’ wife literally became my worst rival. Interference in our personal lives increased so much that relationship between me and husband started to get affected. After the birth of my baby Anukriti, my in-laws and extended in-law family tried to force on how we should look after our baby. They spoke that my baby shouldn’t be pampered so much as she was a girl who could get a normal education, and why we decided to admit her in a Convent school. Me and my husband lost patience and decided to move out. We are now living as a Nuclear family and have been blessed by another girl. I work as an IT professional and have set my working hours so that I can be home by early evening to be with my girls. My kids are matured enough to take care of each other, and a maid is also there to help them. Thank God, I could set everything accordingly. Even if my profession hadn’t given me time, I would become a full time mommy till my kids were grown up enough to take care of themselves. However, I could never go back to the Joint family. We do often go there but only to meet parents-in-law. We are very happy in our Nuclear Family where we have space to Live, Decide and Grow.

The joint family which is highly educated and reasonably liberal by thought is a successful unit. On the other hand, a nuclear family always tends to be more successful in adapting to the unorthodox and modern values and things, owing to the fact that there are simply less minds and fewer generations that are to undergo a transition.

Joint family has its flaws, but we can’t deny that it also acts as the insurance for all members of the family at the time of crisis. It provides the social security to its members, especially to elders, kids, the sick, the unemployed/financially weak families, orphans, widowed daughters and sisters as well as physical and mentally handicapped ones. For them the joint family acts as an insurance company with premiums of Patience, Love and Respect only.

It can be said that living in a joint family can be a bit difficult, but worth.

AND WHAT IS YOUR OPINION?

By Ruby Khan,

Jaipur Women Blog Journalist

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