India is constantly changing. With the urban populace in the country embracing the western culture, the joint family system slowly got replaced. However, there has been a shift of late, towards the joint family structure. As reported by The Times of India, urban Indians are now tilting back towards living under one roof with their extended family. This makes one wonder: Why are joint families such an inseparable part of the Indian culture?
Business mogul Sanjay Dalmia has some very interesting views in this regard. According to him, living together with extended families has been one of the basic values of Indian culture, professed by the ancient epics the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. These epics hold great religious and philosophical value since they teach us the right way of living – respecting the elders and valuing family above all.
According to Sanjay Dalmia, joint family system has several merits over the nuclear family system of the West. “The joint family system preserves culture and customs, which are passed on from one generation to generation. In times of celebration as well as in times of despair, the members stand with each other in support. Children grow up together not like cousins but as siblings, giving and receiving unconditional love and care,” he says.
“On the contrary, in nuclear families, children are obsessed with their toys in order to keep themselves occupied. They sit on the couch like a couch potato all day long and play video games. This not only affect they physical development, but mental development as well. In case both parents are working, the children live under a constant feeling of loneliness,” Dalmia adds.
He also emphasizes upon the moral and cultural significance of the joint family system. Sanjay Dalmia quips that while both men and women have the freedom to pursue desired career options, the absence of grandparents in the household often leaves children at the mercy of the domestic help. This in turn causes lack of moral and ethical values that children should’ve been learning from their parents and grandparents.
The increase in failed marriages is also one of the demerits of nuclear family system, since it lacks the guidance and counsel of experienced elders. Joint families, on the other hand, usually suffer no such problem due to the presence of the older generation that can help a married couple overcome the hurdles presented by life.
The love and affection in a joint family is also extended to the aged members, who are often left neglected and alone under nuclear family system. A joint family repays them for all the hard work and sacrifices they made for their parents and children. However, nuclear families frequently turn out to be a curse for the elderly as none of their children turn out to be willing to let their parents intrude their privacy.
“Only a few people are interested in making adjustments and share their things with other family members today. The word ‘privacy’ is given greater importance. The love and respect towards others, especially elders, is decreasing day by day. People are too busy to care for each other. This is strictly contradictory to what Indian values stand for – unity, mutual respect and care,” quips Sanjay Dalmia.
He adds, “Despite all the freedom and privacy the system provides, it lacks something quite basic and essential to a family – the guidance and experience of the elders. Under Western influence, the joint family system had taken a backseat. However, I am pleased to see that people are now preferring living in a joint family over a nuclear family.”
An old proverb goes: “Unity is strength.” A joint family is a perfect place where children can learn that.