As a recent `widower` the one question that I face repeatedly from well wishers is “What do you do for your meals?” I tell them that it is the least of my problems because apart from my own ability to cook a decent meal, I also get to enjoy a variety of dishes cooked by my siblings and children who live nearby.
We all know how the breaking down of the joint family system and the rise of nuclear families has badly affected the senior citizens and children in the families. However, there is an idea which is beginning to provide a solution to this problem. The concept of joint and several families.
Thanks to my father’s dream, I am a part of one such J & N family now. Let me elaborate.
My sister and I had bought a plot of land in Sastri Nagar, Adyar in South Madras, a few years ago. Within the 2 ½ ground property, which was shared equally by us, we both built our independent homes, with living accommodation on the ground and first floors.
While my son’s family lives with me now on the first floor, my younger brother’s family lives above my sister’s home. Each house with an independent kitchen, separate entrance offers the members of the families, the space that they need for themselves .
There are many other advantages too. The most obvious is the guaranteed support that each family enjoys from the other families whenever they need any form of help. Including the guarantee of security of the home when any family decides to go on an outstation trip. While the elders have the advantage of getting the attention from some member of the family, the growing up children do not have the problem of coming back to an empty home when both parents are working. There is always somebody or the other in one or more of the houses to take care of them, in case of necessity. Presence of elders also help the children learn family values.
If any member falls sick, there is someone in the family to offer help. In case of hospitalization of any member for any reason, the support system ensures that members in the joint families take turns to don the role of attenders at the hospital.
If there is a problem of cooking at anyone’s house for some reason or even if the lady of a house is lazy to cook on a particular day, cooked items from other homes are sent to tide over the situation.
Similarly, any occasion for celebration in one family is celebrated by all the families. There is no question of forgetting anybody’s birthdays or wedding anniversary or any other occasion which deserves a celebration. I have been a great believer in the concept of “Celebrate life”. We practice this by having family get-togethers, at the drop of a hat in which besides the families in our compound, other relatives often join in.
I know of a few friends who practice this concept in the flats they own along with their siblings in the apartment complex built at the site of their ancestral property. If all the family members live in the same city it makes sense for them to live under one roof with different kitchens than live far away from each other.
For those nuclear families who live in apartment complexes on their own without any siblings and relatives living nearby, I have a word of advice. Cultivate your neighbours and other friends in the apartment complex to develop a support system of your own consisting of a few good friends. Remember you have to be good to them first before you expect them to return the favour. It will greatly help in countering the negative aspects of living as a nuclear family.
That is what many NRI children, who do not have the advantage of getting International Ayah Service (IAS) from their old parents do when they are living abroad! They form their support group of friends who help each other in times of crisis or even when they need someone to look after their kids when they are busy otherwise!
Every problem has a solution. Since the concept of nuclear families has come to stay. it is upto each family to find a solution to the problems created by being in a nuclear family. The joint and several family is one such solution.