This might well serve as a metaphor for the joint family of today. Yesterday it was monarchical in character, so to speak. The head of the family, perhaps the grandfather, set the tone and made the choices, and unless he took a decision that was totally eccentric or unjust, the others played ball. However, the modern temper being individual rights-oriented, yesterday’s family head may today well be relegated to the background, especially if he is retired. Don’t they say, ‘He who pays the piper calls the tune’?
The other side of the picture is that members of a well-run joint family tend to be more cooperative and adaptable to the whims and vagaries of others than their nuclear family counterparts. Being larger in number, they enjoy themselves on a grander scale on festive occasions; and have a larger support system at home.
Having said that, it must also be acknowledged that civilisation requires privacy and space for oneself to think one’s own thoughts, and a nuclear family is able to provide this far better. If one feels isolated occasionally, that is part of the deal. As one grows older, one needs some looking after, but one’s children have grown up and gone their own ways. The independence that one so prized no longer seems wonderful.
Joint families have their share of advantages and disadvantages. In the modem world where children often complain of loneliness, isolation and stress, members of a joint family might not experience these problems. A joint family ensures companionship. It also fosters a great sense of collective fun and boosts the socialising skills of the children.
It prepares the children to share and grow as a part of a larger community. Besides this, it also fosters a sense of team effort. In adverse circumstances, a joint family may expose a child to ugly family politics and it also encroaches on one’s private and personal space. Like its nuclear counterpart, it has its own share of pros and cons.
The possibility that new socio-economic and law-and-order conditions will give rise to a new kind of joint family cannot be entirely ruled out.