Our Indian culture is known for strong family systems and ideology of togetherness. Our culture believes in "Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam" (वसुधैव कुटुम्बकम) which means "the whole earth is a family". Living is a joint family here means shared values and harmonious co-existence. Everyday is a celebration when a family of 10-15 people when live under one roof. All family members value each other, care for each other and support each other. However, I don't know how this cordial living of joint families became adjustment and compromise in last few decades.
I am raised in a nuclear family. In fact, those were days of the upturn of nuclear family culture in India. Every woman had her own small world that included her spouse and kids only. Couples post-wedding started living away from their in-laws and relatives to avoid what is typically called an 'intrusion'. My mother became the part of this system after the birth of her second child. As per her, it became difficult to match the wavelength with each of the family members and everyday conflicts gave a strong reason to my father for moving in to a separate house (although the same city). My childhood had everything that a child could wish for. My parents were supportive and loving. However, I couldn't understand the actual significance of a Joint Family. Fortunately, I am married in a joint family and after joining my in-law's cheerful tribe, I realized that a joint family is more than just living together.
At my in-law's place, the life is so lively. Giggles, chuckles and temporary arguments, all these make bonding between family members even stronger. The living room is always crowded. Almost all the time someone is watching TV. Mornings are busy but evenings are a time of reunion. We all take our teacups and do our jokes and homey talks. My younger sister-in-laws and brother-in-laws never fail to make me die laughing. In the joint family, one never feels alone. Someone will always be around you to share your thoughts. Festivals are even more fun here. Performing ceremonies together and then enjoying the festival delicacies is such a delightful experience. I almost feel like a party then as I get so many options for delicious food and sweets. (My mother-in-law is an expert cook.) After my son joined the gang, he is the most loved person in the family as he is the youngest member. Call it the beauty of joint family, my 4-year-old is so attached to all his family members without any efforts from his parents.
When nuclear families were rare in India, it was common for kids to grow up in joint families, including grandparents and other family members. Slowly the trend changed and people preferred living in the nuclear system. Kids move out to other cities while parents remain staying in their hometowns. I am also one such self. I along with my husband and son live in Delhi, while our parents are in our hometown. In our case, it was our jobs that forced me and my husband to stay away from our parents. We visit our hometown on every festival and special occasions. Fortunately, my parents and my in-laws both live in the same city. So, our visits to them, give us chance to stay and have a good time both the sides.
I really believe in the strength of relationships. All healthy relationships of our lives contribute to our happiness and long living. And my belief is, even stronger after I witnessed how everyone at my in-law's side lives happily together. I find that the joint family culture fosters some amazing qualities in kids. Everyone in the family contributes to the upbringing of kids. Kids learn how to share and how to care for others. They automatically learn to respect elders and to love youngers. Team spirit is always high in kids of a joint family. Kids get affectionate grandparents and grandparents also get elderly care that is not possible in nuclear families. Disagreements happen but soon people find an amicable solution.
This does not mean families who are living in nuclear setup lose anything. Whether you stay away or close, the spirit of togetherness in a family should remain alive. And this is what our Indian culture stands for. Both institutions, joint and nuclear, come with great values and responsibilities. One cannot decide which is better. I am from a nuclear family and I don't find any issue in my upbringing. However, I am simply in awe of the system of interdependence on each other that still exists at my in-law's side. And that's why I now force on living in a joint family.
Happiness is a big, chaotic yet jolly joint family..
Shipra Trivedi is a working mother who is juggling between family and office with the support of her husband. Other then enjoying motherhood, she loves reading about culture, arts and contemporary issues. She also handles a blog call 'vibhuandme.com'.
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