By Shabbir Aariz

Family is a blessing and it is more so if it is a joint family. This can only be realized while one has the experience of growing up in an extended family where aunts, uncles and cousins livid together sharing the same home and hearth. Where respect for the elder and love for the young was not selective. It never meant merely living under one roof but under a single command and protection without discrimination. I am the one who of my generation that has experienced the little joys of being part of the joint family culture which is now only a nostalgia as those pleasures have become a thing of the past and those who still live in a joint family are the blessed ones. It was a bondage where separation even for right reasons was a stigma and needed to be socially justified and explained. It used to be such a circle of the strength of love which grew with every birth and union. People had houses— big or small— the crowd inside them built real homes inside with the support system of each other that was the essence of a joint family. It was always as one for all and all for one. The family was not always blood but the people in your life who wanted you in theirs. The ones who would do anything to see you smile and who loved you no matter what. It never mattered how big houses were, it mattered there was love in them. It really was the place where boys and girls first learnt how to limit their wishes, abide by rules, and consider rights and needs of others. It meant that no one got left behind or forgotten. All the members while sitting around the table for meals was not less than partying and any partying never less than a festival. Visits by distant relatives were so welcome that partings made everybody sad. In early years of life, the children sometimes wondered as to who actually their parents were in the family. Despair and depression or dementia, now very common remained unknown. Even the loner did not feel lonely. Old age homes never ever crept in one’s thoughts. Amidst these experiences and observations, we suddenly saw the joint family disintegrating equally for right and wrong reasons. Un-manageable growth, shrinking space and aversion to hard work of some within the families naturally led to creation of nuclear families on the one hand while intolerance, lack of patience and compassion for others within the family further divided families. I am not, in anyway against the nuclear or smaller families which are the product of their own need and compulsions. Yet much of it is seen as maximizing the benefits of the resources for one’s pleasures or for one’s immediate family and not sharing those beyond. With the families disintegrating, the total social fabric also has fallen apart. We find people socialize more digitally than actually. Children leave their parents or the luckier one’s are deposited in old age homes to be occasionally visited or never visited at all while mansions are built to be enjoyed by the watchmen and their families but remain out of bound for even the ones born to the same mother and father as that of the owner. Now hardly anybody looks towards one’s own kith and kin in times of need.
All of this is against the gregarious attribute of the human nature and fighting the same has made life miserable for him which he realizes but strangely remains shy of admitting at a time when without exaggeration, husband and wife living together may be described a joint family. Sooner or later, reversion of man to the old family system is imperative for healthy survival and to retrieve the society from the unhappy state that it has gone into. And blood remains thicker than water as we have seen a few days back that the iconic business family of India has demonstrated when the richest Mukesh Ambani helped his younger brother Anil Ambani stay out of jail by helping him pay Ericsson the five hundred and fifty crores he owed the Swedish telecommunication firm. Anil Ambani’s Reliance Communications made the payment to Ericsson one day before the deadline set by the Supreme Court which was March, 19 this year. Anil’s business in telecom and power sector ran into heavy debt. The rivalry between the brothers had started immediately after the death of their father, Derubhai Ambani and their rivalry went public and ugly that even was discussed in the Indian parliament. But ultimately an intense family relationship that brought them closer at a critical hour has undoubtedly brought to the fore sanctity of the phrase that blood is thicker than water. It was even between estranged relatives, the pain was felt, compassion aroused and hearts throbbed. The act that bailed out Anil must have given far more greater a sense of fulfilment to Mukesh his brother. Greater satisfaction definitely comes from sharing what you have.
(A leading lawyer and eminent poet, author contributes a weekly column. He can be reached at: [email protected])

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