“How do you differentiate between an Indian joint family and an extended nuclear family when both family units have the grandparents living with them?”
This was the query made by the head of human resources of a company that belongs to one of my clients. We had advised the client that family living style is an important criterion to gauge a candidate’s ability to take responsibility at work.
I’d written about India’s heterogeneous family units three weeks ago; how it connects to business because multi-social elements and living styles impact work life. Let me illustrate with different flavours of family structures.
Joint family: Simi grew up in Nainital, Uttarakhand. Between May and August, her family hotel sees the most business as tourists flock to the state. Her grandparents, parents and father’s younger brother run the business. After her uncle married, things went topsy-turvy. It was an arranged marriage — her aunt was from a joint family too — but as she was the only daughter, she was a demanding, spoilt person. Simi’s mother would cook breakfast and lunch from their single kitchen for the 11 family members before beginning with her hotel duties. Pouting through the day, her aunt would intermittently keep her word about cooking dinner. Total unpredictability reigned about household basics as nobody could gauge what would upset her aunt when, or how she would react. When she threatened to break up the joint family, the family gave her the money to start a beauty parlour. She selfishly pocketed the revenue, but that was no issue as the family split had been avoided — not because of finances — but for the “What would we tell the relatives and neighbours?” After Simi’s grandfather died, her aunt created a scene. She announced that she’d return to her parents’ home if Simi’s parents did not move out of the house. The aunt finally got her way.
How did such brawls at home impact the children? Simi says that compared to her friends from nuclear families, she feels more mature. She learned how to keep the peace, to steer clear of rocking the boat, uphold family honour, anticipate, be patient, consider consequences before acting, shun pettiness in achieving the bigger objective, and look after the vulnerable. In short, she understands the value of intangibles and of building and preserving relationships as the bedrock for the future. If you look at these characteristics with a business perspective, they are desirable. The counter argument that joint family children cannot take decisions because the elders run the home, is negated by this aunt who wanted her own way.
Living with his grandparents, parents and his father’s four married brothers, Hemant has seen continued…
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