Living in a joint family makes one rethink the idea of choice and responsibility

  • Payal Dighe Karkhanis, Hindustan Times
  • Updated: Apr 15, 2015 18:50 IST

Growing up in a household of 10-11 people – parents, aunts, uncles all under the same roof – I loved the concept of a joint family. I’d proudly tell my friends that my house exactly like the Home Alone family, with lots of people (thankfully no one ever left me behind at Christmas!).

So marrying into another joint family wasn’t much of a worry for me. This time I’d be joining a household of only six. Easy right?

Wrong! Adjusting to a family of any number of people anywhere is a long process. You have to consider the needs of everyone before making a decision, there’s less time to think about yourself. Your everyday responsibilities, office work and family functions means less time to visit your parents. You have to skip events on your family’s side because you now have attend celebrations on your in-laws’ side.

It also makes you see your own mother differently. How did she adjust to so many people living together, so many likes, dislikes, temperaments and quirks? My own mother in law has designated separate cooking days for her two working daughters in law, which I felt was one of the best thing she has done since no daughter should feel she’s being treated unfairly.

Still somewhere at the back of my mind, there are questions: Why are only the women expected to cook? Why aren’t mothers or mothers-in-law asking their working sons to cook as well? After all, we’re working the same hours as them. We commute the same punishing distances. We even contribute much the same! But daughters-in-law (and daughters everywhere) are always given more responsibilities. Somewhere, I’ve realised, that it’s possible to disagree with what society expects of us.

But society itself is so unprepared for women who disagree. I was watching Deepika's My Choice ad and I wondered it would ever be possible for society to accept a woman who lives by her choices. It certainly doesn’t right now.

And what happens to a woman who moves from one joint family to another by choice? Whose choices does she then live by? Whose choices does she choose to adjust to? And when you’re surrounded by love, haven’t you made a choice to adjust to be happy? And isn’t that the bigger goal?

It has to be, because I’m not interested in eating my husband’s cooking!

Payal Dighe Karkhanis' blog 'Joint Accounts' is about marrying a man, but living (and loving and learning) with his entire joint family

From HT Brunch, April 15
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