Opinion

Why the Indian family is a great institution

Venkaiah Naidu | Updated on May 14, 2018

Family values: There is an increasing trend towards nuclearisation of the Indian families

We must cherish the role played by our joint family system in nurturing and preserving our cultural and social values

If there is one cohesive, cementing force at the heart of traditional Indian society — a single, powerful strand which for centuries, has woven the tapestry of our rich, social fabric replete with diversity, into a whole — it is our family system.

The family, in Indian society, is an institution by itself and a typical symbol of the collectivist culture of India right from the ancient times. The joint family system or an extended family has been an important feature of Indian culture, till a blend of urbanisation and western influence, began to affect in home and hearth. This is especially true of urban areas, where nuclear families have become the order of the day. There is no denying the fact that socio-economic factors have played their role in the joint family system getting diluted.

Women’s emancipation

With a tinge of sadness, I feel that the present-day lifestyle is causing serious damage to the critical role played by a joint or an extended family system in preserving cultural values, traditions and customs, which have been passed on from generation to generation. However, at the same time, we, Indians must consider ourselves to be better placed than others because the concept of ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’ (world is one family) is ingrained in our DNA. It is our duty to pass on the collective age-old wisdom to our succeeding generations.

Today’s youngsters probably think that they are caught between two conflicting worlds and might also feel confused at times. Clearly, much can be said on the advantages and demerits of both — the joint family system and nuclear families.

Societies evolve with changing times and any process that brings in progressive customs and practices should be welcomed by one and all. For instance, emancipation of women through education is essential to break the shackles of regressive social problems like child marriages, dowry menace, violence against women and superstitious customs. Women should not only be empowered through education, but they should be encouraged to be in the forefront of the battle against blind beliefs and customs, even if there is resistance from male-dominated patriarchal societies.

As has been very aptly said educating a woman amounts to educating an entire family and a society, which is the fundamental requirement for the growth and progress of a nation.

Advantages of joint family

One of the main advantages of a joint family system is the strong bonding it creates among siblings and other members of the family even while providing a sense of security to the children. It is believed that children who grow up in an extended family with grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins will imbibe the qualities of sharing, caring, empathy and understanding.

This might not always be the case of children who grow up in a nuclear family, although one cannot simply generalise. The bonding and bonhomie one finds in close knit joint families has a positive impact on the emotional quotient of children. Of course, I do not mean to say that everything will be hunkydory in extended families. They too have their share of conflict situations, quarrels and misunderstandings.

Family values play an important role in shaping the outlook of people. Respect and care for elders are among the central principles in Indian family system. It is saddening to know that the trend of the elderly being admitted into old age homes is increasing. There could be many reasons, including lack of adequate residential space in nuclear families, or in a globalised world, overseas location of children, for such a situation.

Neglect of the elderly

However, without being judgmental, I feel that it is not good in the long run either for the country or the society to neglect the elderly. That is when they become most vulnerable and need family support, particularly from their children. I also get disturbed when I come across news reports relating to the abuse of the aged. The government, of course, has enacted laws to deal with such instances, but every effort should be made by all to ensure that the value system of respecting the elderly is not eroded.

Another major advantage of a joint family system is the fact that grandparents or other members like aunts will take care of children when both the parents are employed. Living with close family members rather than spending time in a crèche or play school will immensely contribute towards making the childhood memorable and happier, a crucial factor to the overall personality development of an individual.

It should also be remembered that the family system creates a strong bond of unity at an early age, paves the way for social cohesion and in a broader sense promotes national unity. The qualities of sharing and caring by senior family members automatically lead them to think of a secure future for their children by making savings. This is in turn helps in strengthening national economy. Another interesting facet of family system in India is that even a rickshaw puller thinks of getting his sister married before he ties the nuptial knot.

Imbibing values

Children who grow up in an extended family not only imbibe qualities of tolerance, patience, democratic attitude of accepting others’ viewpoints, but also develop sportsman’s spirit while playing with siblings and cousins.Various age-old traditions, customs and ways of living are all products of family system. In fact, the family system lays the seeds for social cohesion and democratic thinking.

Families play an important role in preserving and promoting the cultural and social values in a society. In a resolution adopted in December 1989, the UN General Assembly had proclaimed ‘The International Year of the Family’. In another resolution in 1993, the General Assembly decided that May 15 of every year should be observed as ‘The International Day of Families’. This day, according to the UN, provides an opportunity to promote awareness of issues relating to families and to increase the knowledge of the social, economic and demographic processes affecting families.

This year’s theme, “Families and inclusive societies” is meant to highlight the pivotal role families and family policies can play in promoting peaceful and inclusive societies and in advancing Sustainable Development Goals. In fact, the crucial role that families can play in the creation of healthy and happy societies has been recognised in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the United Nations in 1948.

Adopting our age-old philosophy of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam, which embodies the spirit of humanism, compassion, magnanimity and tolerance, family becomes the basic building block of a harmonious, inclusive society. Family can shape the world view, foster and reinforce the value system of the individuals and therefore, consequently, be the warp and weft of a sustainable, peaceful, inclusive, prosperous world.

The writer is the Vice-President of India

Published on May 14, 2018

Follow us on Telegram, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Linkedin. You can also download our Android App or IOS App.

This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

You May Also Like