Cloud 9 Minus One

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Joint Family? – There’s No Such Thing February 3, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — sangeetamall @ 6:17 am
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Families, like any organisation, have a chain of command, in the absence of which anarchy reigns. In the movie The Descendants, George Clooney or Papa, finds himself at sea when his command is threatened and there’s almost a mutiny in the ranks, ie, the kids. His chief operating officer, or Mama, is in a coma, and he, ie the chief executive officer, must take over charge of Mama’s duties as well. In a typical family, there’s a CEO, usually the dad, who also doubles as the Chief Financial officer, and the COO, or the mom. Most of the times the ranks report only to the COO, the CEO coming into the picture only when strategic decisions on education, marriage and so on are required. The family jogs along because these roles are clear and well defined.
The problem happens when boundaries are blurred. In a joint family that is usually what happens. A joint family is like a disguised martial state, where there’s ostensibly a democratically elected Prime Minister, aka mom and dad, but all veto rests with the army, aka the grandparents. As in any martial state, there’s always simmering discontent beneath the surface. But since the army controls the treasury, nothing much can be done to overset this arrangement.
Like many other traditions which have evolved due to force of circumstance, and not because of any active intervention on our part, the institution of joint family is also something we all claim with pride, even though most agrarian societies continue with this tradition. It is done out of necessity, to keep land together, not out of the goodness of one’s heart. If India had a thriving welfare society, not many people would choose to keep their parents with them. As families prosper, and the offspring find means to live and earn on their own, they let go of their parents, for on a good ship, there can be only one captain, and it can’t be the same man for fifty years, depriving the ones below of any hope of advancement.
Joint families, therefore, should be renamed as compulsory families, as opposed to optional families, the ones where husbands and wives live together out of choice, in love, with willingness to bring up children born in their own image.

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