Times are tough. Work pressures are crushing. Relationships are formal. Birthday hugs are replaced with hastily typed emojis. The cultural roots are frail. Families are going nuclear. Nannies are trending.
I am missing the big Indian Joint Family. SOB! I am missing all my cousins. I am missing the melody of the constant chatter. I am missing the omnipresent grandparents, aunts and uncles. My heart is silently crying for what my kids are missing.
I am ten. I live in a house with three older cousins and two younger ones. Yes! We are six in the house. Ours is a big Indian Joint Family .It is Uttarayan today. I slept with chachi last night and I always oversleep when I am in her bed. I must gobble up the boiled egg placed in front of me. I can feel Badimama’s hawk eyes on me. I know she’s supervising all kids eating while also talking to the maharaj about the afternoon’s lunch menu. I am in a hurry. I negotiate with my cousin. If he will drink from my glass of milk, I will eat all the brinjal from his undhiya (we overheard the lunch menu). The kites have arrived. We sisters must grab them before the boys do. We girls have learnt to sieze opportunities the hard way. So while the boys are still eating, I run up to the terrace. Badepapa and in tying the kinni. He’s got his gear ready. The firkis, agarbattis and patangs await eagerly to be picked. Oh my God! I am drowning in the sea of kites. My cousin sisters trust me. I choose quickly for all the girls, tuck the kites below my arm and step out onto the terrace. The wind is beautiful. The rest of my cousins and family join soon. Oh! I love this song that’s playing on the audio player. My older cousin is not content and turns up the volume. ‘My name is Lakhan’ rips the spirited chit chat that the elders are engaged in. I now think I should get my eardrums insured. The festivities have kicked in. The guests began trickling in. Dadaji’s friends, Chacha’s friends, Papa’s friends, bhai’s friends, friends of friends! Suddenly the house is bursting at the seams. The house help whom we kids lovingly call dada offers me some peanut chikki. Suddenly my sister abandons me and darts towards my cousin. His kite is flying higher than mine. I don’t care. I have many cousins to choose from. I’ll just find someone else to hold my firki. I croon my neck to see some blue peeping through the colourful palate of kites above. Some ruckus on the terrace interrupts my search. Somewhere on the terrace, a fight has ensued. My two cousin brothers are strangling each other. This is routine in the house. I bat an eyelid. HUH! They are back to flying kites. No one has the time to sulk. And the love continues.
Such a beautiful capture of several beautiful memories.
In the present
My friends and I are busying ourselves planning Diwali parties. Our kids must experience the social and cultural joys of celebrating festivals with other kids. We need to create those opportunities so they can bond over their choice of outfits, lighting of lamps and sharing Diwali goodies. We friends pose as surrogate families to each other.
Mine is a nuclear family. It gets lonely. It gets trying. It gets depressing. We sulk longer. We brood more. Calendar dates are checked for a convenient time to provide kids grandparent times via yearly visits. The kids are getting more attached to the nannies and I am always on tender hooks speculating over what they are learning.
Two Sides Of A Story
I know I have conjured up a beautiful picture of an Indian Joint Family and a lot of people will say otherwise. Bringing up kids in a big Indian Joint Family can be a highly challenging and conflicting affair especially if it’s the patriarchal type of a setup. But the benefits of a well setup joint family are huge. I recognize that I may not get the entire drawing room to sprawl across or may not be able to kiss my husband spontaneously in front of my father-in-law, but as opposed to what my kids would gain, I would let this pass.
Benefits Of The Indian Joint Family System In The Upbringing Of Children