To each, its own! Now I would say!
During one of those days feeling the blues of being out of home (away from parents) from class VI till today, when I should be taking care of my parents, something someone said startled me.One of my friends (much younger to me) made a hardcore comment that "I want to get married to a joint family."
WHAT? I thought. She continued, "We need someone to guide us on how to run a home and how to become a successful home-maker. I just hope I get a good mother-in-law"Till then, I was so surrounded by thoughts of today's modern women being independent, knowing how to balance personal & professional life (in Mumbai you would hardly find a husband who wont want his wife to contribute to the kitty), that I never thought this aspect of a woman's perspective to a joint family.
It was a time when I always felt guilty about seriously wanting to give the comforts of a young intelligent bahu to my aging parents. In my heart I was convinced that they deserved to relax now. My mom and dad worked, borrowed and foregone every luxury to make their 3 sons have the best of education. Today we are all migrant labourers earning very well and they are alone.
I felt that I should be with them but how do I say that to my wife who is not going through these dilemna and who cant understand my need for a joint family with her supporting me. So I felt guilt both ways...
Now armed with what my friend said, I started questionning my guilt, my guilt for thinking about a bahu for my parents... It is ultimately a mutually beneficial relationship corrupted by hyped up saas-bahu serials. Its not that bad when I see my life and my growing up years.
I started talking to many of my other friends about their concept of joint family. I clearly see a particular pschylogical profile opting for joint family. Its primarily the perceived (or real) lack of independent will in a joint family that a girl is scared of. Almost all wives of love marriages opted clearly for nuclear families.
I understand that with a culture of individual choices engulfing India, everyone wants to lead an independent life without interference. We seek independence in terms of our actions - what we wear, what time we sleep, what do we eat, drink etc. That is understandably not possible in a joint family. A tinge of conventionalism do creep in a joint family, the degree of which, again depends on the education and awareness levels of the family. Independence of thought is however possible. I have led a very independent life from class X and today I discover that independence of thought rather than independence of action is what I should crave for.
So I started observing joint families closely.
I found that joint family has critical economic significance too. As an effective support system, joint families can resolve the problems of modern-day housing, domestic labor (how many murders in Mumbai !!), baby-sitters (I remember seeing one video where the baby sitter was slapping the baby because she was crying) and destitute homes for women and children. China, for instance, encourages joint famies to solve the problem of housing.
Quite interestingly, one of the reason why our Indian economy could survive the economic crisis was ample domestic savings. Domestic savings is led by the concept of joint family. In the west, there is no motivation to save and individualistic consumerism has lead to national debt like that of what the US is facing today.
On a personal level, my quest took me to my childhood. I used to love going to my mama's house. A joint family with 3 mamas, mamis, kids and koka-aita (grandfather-mother). It was so much fun with the VCD player, story sessions, games, food, hide & seek and so much more... Kids surely love joint families and learn so much.
I remembered my grandfather and grandmother getting sicker by the day and the way the joint family tackled those times. My grand father and mother were a lucky couple. I miss them a lot.
What a support system! It supports everyone. No one's lonely and no one's overworked. I have heard of wives being loaded with work (unfairly) but I have not seen unreasonable expectations. Saas is older and so may get to relax a bit more. I have seen my grandmother going hand-in-hand with my mamis, and my mami used to tell her to take some rest.
When a couple can fight, how do you expect a saas & bahu not to... But i realised that all the fights stay in check in a joint family. First of all there is an authority, secondly there are enough distractions for a fighting pair - be it a couple or saas-bahu. And there are kids that bring the best out of everyone.
There was privacy too. I remember having this unsaid rule (don't remember who gave it to my head) that we were not supposed to get into any of the bedrooms (Ya, we had the luxury of quite a few bedrooms) while playing hide & seek.
Joint family is also a very potent bed of learning your roots. You get to know the relations and culturally you are given a good foundation. I would have hated to have a situation to learn only from my parents. Perspectives are many and strengths are multiple. You just absorb all. I am sure, weaknesses will also be many. Luckily I was, and am always a positive child, boy and man. It is anyway not a good thing to think bad about elders - again a learning from being with all of us.
Joint family as a concept has been our tradition and is the reason of our Indian-ness. It is the symbol of 'unity in diversity' and acts as a classroom for team spirit.
Today as I understand more about life, I am getting converted. Although I won't impose my thoughts, yet I wanted to lay down my thoughts for everyone to read, introspect and decide for themselves.