Unlike several Indian families of today, I live in a joint family. The term means that there are several smaller family units that live together in combination. There are grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins. Most people nowadays opt out of this system because of career moves, space restriction or incessant interference. While the first two are valid enough as reasons, usually they are used as an excuse because of the third factor. Most families are intolerant of other’s lifestyle and expect everyone to conform to the rules of the family. Kind of like the Godfather, there is always someone who would want to dominate and lead everyone else. Age, rather than wisdom or experience, becomes the governing factor in everything.
For those of you who have yet to experience the pleasures of living such a life, here’s a gist of it all. The first line is the commonly held belief that ideally formed the basis of joint families. The ones in italics is the reality that exists.
Five together to form a fist, only together can you resist.
One for all but not all for one -work hard to be the favored one.
Respect and love will you receive, when you learn to forget and forgive.
It doesn’t matter how much you give, it only matters what others believe.
Know your limits, know your bounds. Everyone stands on the same fair grounds.
Everyone errs, take it in your stride. What really matters is who’s on your side.
Systems and protocols need to be heeded. No matter how many sacrifices are needed.
You will learn only by painful experience that rules can be bent as per convenience.
I know I’ve painted a pretty grim picture of this style of living, however, I am happy to share that while such families exist aplenty, there are also those that still believe in the “live and let live” philosophy. In such families only love, happiness and well-being prosper. There is always someone to watch out for you, someone to cover your back. No one is ever left alone (in a good sense). Culture and values are passed on from one generation to the next.Festivals and joyous occasions seem brighter because everyone is together. There is always a reason to celebrate.
Instead of being a confining shackle, living in such a family affords more freedom than living by yourself. Instead of just being bonded by blood, the people are bound by love. And that is utopia.