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Joint Family System

A Long Lost Tradition


Man is a social animal; and a lonely man can rarely be happy or
healthy. It is human nature to seek company of others and family was
the first social institution created by mankind.
Sadly this ancient pillar of civilisation has gradually dissipated in the
last few decades, and a particular notion of individual’s sanctity has
taken over any shared sense of community. South Asia is perhaps the
only part of the world which is still struggling to maintain a unique
family system with its esteemed values along with some outlandish
customs, but the recent cultural invasion by West has rendered even
this last remnant of our traditions vulnerable to threats of modernity.
Fashionable terms such as ‘rationality’ and ‘privacy’ have turned traditional values of courtesy, greeting,
respect, deference, euphemism and politeness into passé and dated conventions. Nobody bothers to follow
tradition anymore because in our fast modern life they have begun to feel severe and cumbersome. Life is
faster than it has been ever before and lifestyles are altered to cope with its speed and demands. Everyone is
engaged in a rat race to make ends meet. Limited space and accommodation is available at unbelievably
high costs. A high percentage of individuals now prefer living in miniscule apartments just because they are
easily accessible, convenient, and more secured as compared to separate houses.
Formerly individuals lived under the umbrella of large family mansions and joint-family-systems in South
Asia as well as in old Europe under one head of the family. His decisions could not be questioned, his
command remained supreme, his wisdom respected and lauded, everyone had to conform to his firm rules
and principles. This notion of the family system prevailed in the Sub-Continent until the recent times.
Living in big cities means limited time, tough competition and plenty of work-load, and when combined, it
all exerts pressure on the mind which eventually leads to frustration and lack of tolerance and acceptance.
The idea of a joint family system is ebbing away from our society. There are many reasons of its breakdown,
though it has been beneficial in many ways and its advantages are apparently stronger than that its
disadvantages. Lifestyles and mindsets have altered to a great extent after the advent of the new world order,
liberalism, system of democracy etc. Some people feel that joint family system under one head of the family
is more like a marshal law dictatorship and could be as oppressive as totalitarianism with no space for
dissent.
Though it is true that each individual is born free and deserves to live life the way he/she prefers but it is
humanly impossible for a person never to err in his personal decisions. Elders, who have already
experienced all the flows and ebbs of life, can always be relied upon to proffer better guidance and make
better decisions than a youngster’s inexperienced mind. One should always seek elders to consult, if not on
minor steps, then at least before taking crucial decisions of life. It is recommended to acquire the company
of those who attained knowledge and wisdom through experience. Nowadays young people are rarely seen
engaged in a healthy and constructive activity or a discussion. Our fast paced lives rarely allow us to ponder
over things other than monetary benefits resulting in tired and constantly stressed minds.
It has become a norm to ape western culture and to prefer it over one’s own. Change is in the air but a
positive change is barely observed anywhere. It seems as if the world is shrinking down though the fact is
that the cosmos is expanding every minute. Contrary to the axiom, “nature does not change” human nature
seems to be devolving toward narcissism, and human mind inconspicuously deforming into a shallow object.
We refuse to accept anyone’s involvement in our lives, and instead take it as an insult to our fragile egos
even if it later turns out in our favour. Elders don’t do justice to their highly responsible and dignified status
and become so austere and inflexible in their demands that they fail to realise that the other person might
also be a human. The present generation is ambitious but knows nothing about patience, respect or courtesy.
Most of them are more comfortable with bohemian lifestyles and do not want to be interrupted or objected
by anyone at all. This is how the time and trend of nana nani, dada dadi, their pariyon, shehzadon ki
kahaniyan, fables and parables, and thus the whole age of innocence is gradually disappearing from our
lives.
Nothing is entirely good or bad, in fact some good is inherent in every system of life. Despite its loopholes
we cannot claim that the joint family system is a worse idea. It is still probably best due to its protective
environment.
We get different views and opinions from people who have been part of both joint and singular family
systems. Maha thinks, “It is good to live in a big and extremely supportive community if the family
members are sensible and understanding. We enjoy nice companions and attention of our elders, we learn to
trust and handle different family matters, and it is indeed a big help when we finally have our own family. It
spares us the feeling of being isolated and alone but you also have to be very careful while sharing your
happiness, sorrows and secrets in a joint family”. Another friend of mine has an entirely different perception,
she said, “In a joint family, most of the people are always on the receiving end and expects a lot from you.
Things are taken for granted and it gets exasperating at times to live up to everyone’s impossible
expectations.”
Single families have their own unique pleasures but also a few concerns especially when both parents are
working. You get to enjoy your privacy, there is no one to intervene in your personal life, and you are free to
make your own decisions. You are permitted to enjoy what is your due right and you are answerable to no
one but yourself only. But such parents are left with no other options but to search for baby sitters and day-
care-centers and none of them are actually beneficial for a child’s emotional and intellectual growth. On the
other hand, it has been observed that children raised in large families are more confident, have a balanced
personality, are emotionally mature and are good at public dealing. But again there is no universal truth, we
need to prioritise our lives, choose how do we want our futures along with our children’s, always select what
is best in the interest of the whole family, and always maintain balance, no matter where we live and how we
might like to live

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