Why I’m okay with leaving joint families in the past
Joint families (read: chaos) have been irreplaceably woven into the yarns of Bangladeshi culture, intertwining familial lives across the subcontinent with threads of love and warmth.
Every form of Bengali media, from our rich literature to the feverish Zee Bangla serials, has solidified that a family is incomplete without grandparents, uncles, aunties, and cousins residing together. Yet, joint families are slowly vanishing in the urban parts of the country. Nevertheless, as someone living in a semi-joint family, I can say that joint families dying out may not entirely be a bad thing.
First and foremost, joint families tend to engage in altruistic behaviour. The family's head gets too much of a say in everyone's life. In many cases, individual decisions are superseded in favour of collective ones. Correspondingly, you feel restrained, become hesitant, and start questioning your own beliefs and opinions.
As clichéd as it sounds, Bangladeshi families represent more of Game of Thrones than Modern Family. There's always going to be bickering going on in some shape or form. Everyone has a different opinion, and in very few cases, are they willing to agree with an alternative point of view. Simple matters on sharing the kitchen and dining table can escalate into full-blown arguments and fights. Turns out Star Plus and The Kardashians were warning us of this all along.
Then we have matters of privacy and personal space. In a joint family, privacy is arguably non-existent, as personal issues find a way to become the whole family's business. Aunts, uncles, and screaming children will barge in, unannounced. People will appear out of thin air and stream Facebook videos or watch Sultan Suleiman on full volume the night before an exam. The constant inflow of relatives and random people can feel suffocating at times, no matter how much your love your family.
A staple of deshi culture is to make comparisons. Unsurprisingly, joint families take it to a whole other level. Constant comparison on justifiable and trivial matters can turn your cousins into combatants instead of friends, resulting in a lot of unhealthy competition and resentment, which in many cases sours relationships and creates distance. Not to mention how stressful and damaging it can be to a teen's self-worth.
Don't get me wrong, growing up in a joint family isn't all bad. Living together with your family can teach you important life lessons. Furthermore, they are a great support system and will be there for you when things get bad. Additionally, the joy of holidays gets amplified in these households.
Nevertheless, opinions regarding joint families are subjective. I'm sure many people love living with their extended families in a supportive and safe space. On the flip side, the problems you face living with your family are genuine and shouldn't be discounted.
From my experience living in a joint family, I can say that it isn't for me, and I wouldn't mind leaving the concept in the past.
Turns out Taaseen Mohammed Islam can write semi-decently at the expense of being able to do basic math. Send him pointers at email@example.com