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The latest tweet from Shoojit Sircar promoting the joint family as the best solution to mental health issues, is yet another example of a grown-up Indian male who thinks the Indian joint family system is the solution to all of life’s problems.
Trust me, all of us would love to just snuggle up to our mom and dad and think that all our problems should miraculously disappear. But, alas, nothing is farther from the truth. Each one of us has to wake up, take the proverbial bull by its horns and fight it out.
Life has a way of arriving unannounced and when it does in the form of problems or challenges or choices that we can’t figure out, it’s not the time to cry for mommy. Rather, buckle down and get to work. Face the situation and deal with it. On your terms. Not on your parents’ terms, not on your uncles and aunts’ terms, not on your siblings’ terms. On your terms. So that the choices you make or do not make define you as an individual. The mistakes you make teach you a lesson.
Yes, a joint family system does have its benefits. As a child,I grew up in a family with 31 people including 14 siblings. There never was a dull moment in our home. It was always somebody’s birthday or anniversary or a puja ceremony or a doctor’s visit. You name it and we had a candidate for that event. We were a mini world unto ourselves.
The fourteen of us never got invited to any of the birthday parties in our colony. Can you imagine your guest count suddenly increasing by 14 people? Not that we missed it. We were enough ourselves. Our moms made sure us kids and the other menfolk of the house never ran out of things to eat and juice or tea to drink.
At that time I felt privileged to be among so many loving people. After all, they say, it takes a village to raise a child. But the benefits of such a family structure had its own shortcomings which I realized only with time as I grew up. We should not forget that there are always two sides toa coin.
Now it just gnaws at my heart when I think of what my mom and aunts went through to make sure we were always well-fed, well-dressed, and taken care of. I remember whenever a random guest would arrive, either my mom or aunt would prepare at least 7 to 8 cups of tea and this activity would happen at least three to four times a day. Because, well, everyonewill sit together and talk right?
The amount of food the women folk would cook everyday! You should have seen the condition of the person who used to get the job of making chapatis. The count would run into the hundreds. How many mangoes to buy…a couple of hundred. How many puris to fry? A hundred or so. All this while the children created a cacophony running up and down the stairs and the menfolk discussed with great energy which party was most likely to form the next government.
It’s not that the women of the house could not do so much work, or that they did not like it. It’s just that after a point their senses got numb and they didn’t even think it right to question the necessity of so much physical work from dawn till midnight. They remained silent and carried on with their duties as if that is what they were born to do. To top it all, if the daily chores of women arefurther spiced up by the bickering of in-laws, daily life becomes an insufferable grind for most women.
To think that such a model could work in today’s age and times is just a slap in the face of reality. The joint family system does help in taking care of the elderly and raising kids, but that in no way justifies continuing with the physical and mental strain on women of the household. It is like saying that we can lower the costof production of cotton by employing slaves, so it makes economic sense to go back to the system of slave labour. It is preposterous,tosay the leastand goes against any sense of humanity.
The joint family system must be looked at contextually. In today’s time with women also becoming a part of the workforce and having a life outside of just household chores, the stability of such a system is questionable. To prescribe it as a salve for mental illness needs a big stretch of imagination that only the ignorant can indulge in.
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I have worked in the financial sector as a banking executive and in the field
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