“Get married, stay independently and live your life.” – A message to all my brothers. In the 70s, such a statement was considered revolutionary, at least in our Marwari community!
Joint family structure has the advantage of members sharing each others’ responsibility. It also means that all members have equal rights on the total income made in the family, irrespective of the each one’s ability to contribute.
Gradually, with higher education, wider options of living standards, and modern lifestyle, slightest lethargy by any member wasn’t tolerated by those who contributed better to the family, especially financially. Even things like disparity in number of children and ratio of employed children, decided the status of a person in the family. With this, the ‘let go’ attitude and emotional factors started eroding to a large extent.
This created a class differentiation within a family. For some time they tried to suppress a lot of their individual desires. These suppressions accumulated and in course of time, burst into anger, frictions, and fights within the family.
Obviously, it started creating more conflicts and misunderstandings, ultimately leading to divisions in the family, with bitter arguments. The joint family concept started eroding at a fast rate. Even the large and absolutely rich brothers amongst families like Birla-Bangurs, Ambanis could not stay together.
In our own family in 1960s, two sensible, intelligent and experienced ladies would start fighting for no reason. We ultimately split but there was a surprise pleasant discovery for me. After the division, the grudges between the two women disappeared very fast. Love and affection got prime importance, once again. One wanted to help the other, even if it meant going out of way.
I learnt a lesson. It is better to keep a little distance to maintain good relations.
I was about 27 years old when my dad passed away. I have 6 brothers and 4 sisters (3 unmarried at that time). If my dad’s family stayed together, we would’ve been about 25-30 members under one roof – each, obviously with their independent opinion. Even if there were cordial relations, a divide amongst brothers would’ve been eventually, unavoidable.
The question then was if one should wait till misunderstandings develop, then fight and separate? I therefore thought, it was definitely better to stay separate from the beginning, well before frictions develop and thus retain the love and affection between the family members.
I resolved that I should take my father’s responsibility to educate, support and set-up my brothers to a stage, from where they can lead their own life. My aim was for every brother to have his independence in running his family. At the same time there should be cordial relation, love, and affection amongst us. It was a challenge for me to devise the right formula.
It was easier for rich and industrialist families to resolve this: Divide the assets; give each of them nice places to stay; allocate enough finance and provide a base to carry on business for their future. But the reality were different for me. Assets were zero, bank balance zero, properties zero and the business, a big zero too.
However I was determined to go with my philosophy to the best of my abilities.
- Accept responsibility. In the absence of my father, fulfilling my own requirements would not be my priority, till I complete my responsibilities towards educating and settling my brothers and marrying my sisters.
- Prefer a job over business. Given my situation, limited but assured income was better than having own business where income might be larger but uncertain.
- It would be in everyone’s interest that I draw a line until which I should shoulder my brothers’ responsibilities. I should support till they get married and have a house of their own. Thereafter each brother should stay independently and live their own life.
- Initially since all of them might not have enough funds to buy a house, to those who need, I would extend them financial support to the extent it was possible for me. Any financial help would be a loan. This was so that they respect the value of money and so that they and their children could say it is ‘our own house’ instead of ‘tauji’s house’.
- Since a home is an essential, to avoid undue financial burden in the initial stages of carrier, the loan would be interest free.
With the implementation of the above, every one was forced to realise his responsibility and be prepared to standby for anyone who needed help. There were hardly any arguments between brothers or their families. Every one was at liberty to decide what is best for their individual family, without any interference from others.
In today’s lifestyle, even two married brothers staying together may not be practical. When I look back today, “once married, stay independently” was the right way to go between brothers. I am happy that my decision wasn’t proven wrong.
Written: Badri Baldawa Edited: Meeta Kabra