Sunday, February 03, 2008

Joint family 2.0

Some years back at a none too distant point in time, the joint family was supposed to be the source of all our ills. The nuclear family was heralded as the next best thing in the world since communism and everybody set out on their own. It had none of the ills of the joint family - which included parasitic family members, lazy family members. It also brought questions like who will cook and who will eat and what will they cook and when will they eat and who will wash the vessels into a manageable level - not necessarily to be resolved across 14 members.

But look around you today and you will see that the joint family is there, thankfully, as many will say. Regardless of what the social pundits may say, it will be around for a long time. It has evolved into something different from what it was. So, from a tightly controlled federal government style joint family, now it is a loose confederacy held together by certain basic canons.

Why did this happen? For one, no nuclear family can survive on their own without help. Imagine a working husband and working wife and two kids. No aged parents can survive without help. Imagine an empty nest with nobody to help - not just physically, but even emotionally. So, it was inevitable, given "Indias grand tradition" (whether you call it helping the elders or helping yourself or depending on your kids or helping your kids).

But there is a change. The change is that instead of all these people living under one roof, they live very near each other in a simple ecosystem. So, instead of living in one big house, they live across the street or in the same building next to each other so that they can support each other. And the joint family has expanded in definition. In this case it is usually two families including their offspring, their spouses, spouses family creating a big ecosystem. Add in more relatives and friends and it is quite a decent working model. More and people are living with their parents or to put it correctly more and more parents are living with their kids - migrating from their land into the cities (including abroad). In either case the broad trend is live closer to each other rather than far away, thus creating a loose joint family where each one has their own space, financial freedom, culinary freedom, TV shows yet bound together by "relationship".

Whether it is a great idea or not is an immaterial point to discuss, it is more of a trend for marketeers and sociologists alike. What bubbles up in this manner is not an externally imposed order, but a way of convenience, so it exists regardless of the debate.

(PS: This is not a new trend, except that I got around to writing it now.)

It has interesting implications for gadget manufacturers (the DVD player and the vaccum cleaner among other things may be shared) and for real estate (how about selling a whole floor to a family with a common space) or even small items of furniture (I want it to be a desk when the little comes in after school).

1 comment:

Kavi said...

That was interesting. You have the benefits of the family combined with independence of nuclear living !! hmm..interesting observatioon !