Hi, my name is Alisha and I was born and brought up in a joint family. My family tree consisted of dada, dadi at the top, followed by mom dad, both my chachas and chachis and finally, us, the kids. I was the eldest child in the house, and including myself, my two younger siblings and four cousins, there were seven kids in the house. A house with fifteen members was surely the battleground of a great deal of hustle bustle. And this hustle bustle was, in fact, normalcy for me. Most of the year was celebratory with birthdays, anniversaries, weddings and family gatherings. Even the smallest accomplishments within family members were cherished, from the falling of my first tooth to Dadaji becoming the President of the Senior Citizens Society. I had never felt the need to make friends, given that my family commitments took up most of my time and my cousin brothers and sisters were my closest confidants. And as for boredom...that word didn’t quite exist in my dictionary.
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This was my life for the first 26 years of my life. After that, I got married to my long-term boyfriend, Karan. All these years, I had known that he had been living alone in Delhi, away from his family, who lived in his hometown, Agra. It had never dawned on me that I’d be moving out from a joint family (a.k.a. crazy madhouse) of fifteen members to go live with just one person, Karan. Maybe it was because his apartment had offered us a lot of privacy, the years we were dating and we enjoyed that so much that this thought never came to my mind! But to be honest, the transition of learning to live all almost alone, with just one person, was not easy.
It wasn’t like I didn’t love him enough, but just that I was accustomed to always having someone or the other around all the time. In his apartment, it was either both of us or just me on the days he was working late or travelling. This used to make me feel very down and low quite often. The loneliness and plain walls, slowly, started to get to the happy-go-lucky girl that I had always been. I dearly missed the noise, the hustle bustle and the never-ending social events, as taxing as they could sometimes be. I missed being taken care of, and being pampered by every single member at home every time I fell ill and the feeling of sharing the littlest of joys by celebrating together.
I realized that now I had greater autonomy, since it was just us, making all decisions, big or small, from buying a new car to what colour nail paint suited me. And to be very honest, it was a relief to not require the entire family’s approval before taking any decision and the constant pressure of keeping everyone pleased, all the time. But on the flipside, I did get very lonely at times and the additional burden of doing absolutely everything at home, on my own was definitely taxing. While my joint family upbringing had taught me to be responsible in certain ways like knowing how to share everything, from toys to candies to my first salary, there was still a lot I did not know. Things like buying the groceries, paying the bills, locking the house every time I went out, managing my finances…these were things that were always taken care of, by one or the other of the elders in the family earlier. Now I had to do it all on my own.
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Over time, I came to accept the fact that this is my new life and I am married to the man I love and always wanted to end up with. So, I wholeheartedly embraced all the responsibilities that came with being in a nuclear family. I overcame the loneliness and boredom, by getting in touch with and spending more time with my childhood friends and made an effort to hang out with my neighbours during evening jogs. Plus, Karan and I made it a point to visit my family and his parents in Agra every other weekend. Slowly, I came around loving my life once again, as I carved out new ways of finding happiness in my new life. This also involved me making a conscious effort to focus on the pros of being in a nuclear family rather than the cons. The very obvious ones being autonomy and privacy and, not to forget, the particularly amazing perk of being able to have crazy loud sex with no fear of embarrassing ourselves with family members at home.
And that’s how my journey from being a part of a joint family to a nuclear family was - a hell of a rollercoaster ride. Was it easy? No! Was it worth it? Definitely yes! It helped me grow as a person and grow even more in love with Karan, who was oh-so supportive during this transition phase for me!
* Names changed to protect privacy.
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Published on Aug 01, 2016