Tuesday, August 18, 2009


Industrialization had brought in its wake many societal changes over the last 5-6 decades due to increased urbanization and high aspirational goals of younger generation. Hindu Undivided Family (HUF)system which was prevalent during the early part of the last century started disintegrating as agriculture was not bringing sufficient returns for maintaining large families forcing the members to seek their fortunes in developing urban areas like towns and cities. The old concept of producing and raising children for helping the agricultural operations in the field is fast disappearing though in many communities female child is detested because of the liability they are supposed to carry with them. Modern India has been experiencing a sea change during the last 3 decades with massive expansion of education and girls out performing boys in many fields. Equality of sex enshrined in our constitution confers on them every right that boys enjoy and the results are there to see in every sphere of human endeavor.

HUF with a titular head called patriarch can have many members belonging to 3 or more generations and have several features that include: all members live under one roof, they share same kitchen under the control of the matriarchh, the senior most female in the family who also takes care of child rearing responsibilities, income and expenditure shared among the members, a common place of daily worship and all decisions taken by the patriarch. The wisdom that comes with years of experience is shared by all the members in facing the uncertainties of life. Or is it a case of blind leading the blind in a world where senior members have very little formal education, probably forcing their views and opinions on the younger generation which is more keen to break new grounds?

Advent of television and computers enabled younger generation to look outside their environment and learn from others' experience rather than that of the family head. Divorces, never heard of in olden days, have become common place after the disintegration of HUF as adequate opportunities are not available for new couples to adjust to the new world of conjugal life. Counseling moderation and patience is not available these days to guide the youngsters and the ability to discriminate between good and bad is on the decline. Access to Internet does not train new mothers as to how best the pregnancy has to be managed or the right way of bringing up the kids. Traditional foods, recipes and their preparation methods are gradually forgotten and new eating cultures are imbibed, not necessarily for good. One of the reasons for the fast extinction of our traditional food culture is the disintegration of the joint family system due to modern education, vast employment opportunities created by the industrial development and exposure to so called 'modern' foods with high caloric density.

Having said this, what is the option left to recapture the old values and strength of the society of the bygone era? Obviously joint family system may never be resurrected, at least in the urban areas because of real estate constraints as big houses cost a fortune to establish for nurturing a large family. But can the builders give a thought to designing radically new dwelling places where multiple nuclear families with common kitchen and some shared facilities can live symbiotically and derive benefits of experience each one is endowed with? Can GOI evolve enlightened supportive policies for such a movement through its economic incentive system? One may call it clannish but it makes lot of sense when one realizes the benefits of such a transformation on mental, societal and physical health of the population. Probably this may be the only way to preserve and nurture the rich moral, ethical, cultural and food traditions for which Indian civilization was admired across the world.


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