The first time I saw my father cry was in the back of a car, right after my grandfather’s cremation 12 years ago. It stunned me; I had believed that my appa was a rock, stoic and brave. The frailty of human life hit me as never before. And then it came to me as a flash…he lost his appa, the man who raised him from infancy and adulthood.
Family: When I was growing up, it was the one constant in my life. My amma, appa and my grandparents. Bullies at school, unpleasant neighbours… none of it mattered because the home was a sanctuary. It was an edifice I took for granted. And drew upon for support and strength time and time again.
Now I’m a mother, and have my own family. I can’t give my two-year-old daughter the valuable gift of grandparents living at home with her; so she is denied much of what I had access to while growing up. Like mythological tales, family anecdotes, love and tenderness that a parent often forgets to give a small child, caught up in the daily grind. We try and visit both sets of grandparents often, and have them over. I show her pictures of them all, tell her things about them. But it’s not the same.
We all lose out in this breakdown of the age-old joint family system. Sure there is no interference, no ego clashes, but there is no feeling of community either in a nuclear family. The learning of valuable traits like adjustment and adaptation is lost. As is an appreciation for one’s heritage, elders, mores and customs. And joint families aren’t as retrograde as they’re made out to be either. Having one’s in-laws living with you means young mothers, in fact, can go to work earlier, not having to worry about unknown babysitters and childcare issues.
But the changing nature of today’s world and the natural progression of society have made joint families a rare sight nowadays. It’s a little sad. Whenever I think about it, I hug Karuna, my daughter, a little closer. And think of my father in the back of the car.
About the Author: This is a guest post by Sandhya. Sandhya is an alumni of the Manipal Institute of Jewellery Management, Manipal.