The Definition of Family in India


The word means something different to all of us doesn’t it?

In India the family is so much more than the basic, nuclear family.  In India, cousins are considered siblings, biological aunts and uncles are like parents and strangers are referred to as auntie and uncle.

And the living situations for most families are a bit more extensive than any American family I know.  As I mentioned in the marriage blogs, (which you can read here and here) the bride now belongs to the groom’s family.  She hasn’t been disinherited or anything, but she will live, more often than not, with his family.  Even in modern India, most newlyweds live with the guy’s family.

Two people we know right now live in large joint family households.  The first is our landlord Anoop.  He lives with his wife and kids; his parents and two of his brothers and their families.  There are six kids total in this extended situation.  They have a large home and he was telling me that each family had three separate, private rooms to themselves.  This includes a kitchen so each family can make their own meals if they desire alone-time.  Because of the current living arrangement, they rented out this home to us.  They had bought this house thinking they could move out on their own, but his parents were not ready to let them leave with his young daughter (the only granddaughter) as they would miss her too much.

The other person we know in a larger mixed-family household is younger and unmarried.  His family lives with his dad’s brothers and all the children of each family.  To him
the cousins are brothers and sisters; there is no distinction or difference between his biological siblings and his cousins.  He has told me that when he does marry, he
will bring her into this home, this living situation.  I’m not sure how they will manage things once the cousins start to marry off, as there are quite a few, but I don’t think any
of them are ready to move out to their own homes.  Should get to be an interesting situation; one that requires a new and bigger house!

A close friend of ours has a completely different scenario playing out in his family .  He is now an only child due to a tragic accident that took his brother a few years ago.  He has since gotten married and had a baby who is now 18 months.  He and his family still live with his parents and his younger sister.  However, not only do they live with his parents, but the parents, particularly the father, control when he takes his little family out, where he can go and what hours they can spend alone in their own room.  He has a job, albeit at his dads company, but he is an adult, a husband and a father, yet he can’t spend quiet time with his wife and child without his dad’s permission.  And the thing is it will more than likely be this way for the rest of their lives.

Another friend of ours is the only boy out of three sisters. The two older girls are married and it is just him and his younger sister at home.  The younger sister will probably get married first since girls get married younger, and then it will be his turn.  He will more than likely, live with his parents after his wedding.  He is the only boy and it is his
responsibility to take care for his parents.  That is his job, the expectation of the family that he is always around to care for them as they get older.

This will be roughly the same story for Raj, my brother-in-law.  Their oldest brother is gone, and my husband having married me will probably never live at home so it is Raj’s
responsibility to live there and take care of the parents.

Personally I wouldn’t mind living with his family, but their home is currently not accessible for me.  There are plans in the works to expand and change the home to
accommodate me, and eventually Raj’s family as well, but that is in the future.  Besides all that, there is a large probability that my husband and I will be in the states for large chunks of time.  Therefore Raj is responsible for mummy and papa.  Although actually, I
don’t think he would have it any other way.  He is a pretty traditional guy so I don’t see an international wedding in his future!

As for grandparents, they tend to end up living with the family as well once they get older.  My husband’s grandfather lived with his family up until his death last March.  He and his wife, grandmother of my husband, moved in with my in-laws after my husband’s oldest brother died.  They were particularly close to him and his death at the age of 23 shattered them.  They gave up their lives and home in the village town and stayed to be closer to everyone.

What is your idea of family?  Do you consider cousins as siblings or just those folks you see once a year at the holidays?  Would you live with your parents or in-laws?


About Hindiprincess

I am a white, American woman who came to India to follow a dream. That dream has become reality now as I have married my Indian prince. However, life in a different country can be a bit difficult, crazy, amazing and always one GIANT learning experience!! I enjoy the differences India has to offer, am grateful for the basics I once had back in the states and want to share my experiences with the folks who may never get a chance to see what I am seeing. So I hope you come back and enjoy this ride with me!
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4 Responses to The Definition of Family in India

  1. Carolyn says:

    I don’t know if I would like so much closeness, I do like my time alone but I do not live well alone all the time and would like to have a relationship again sometime in my life. But to have the whole family move in with me or me with them at this age. That would take some major adjusting on my part. How do they keep from fighting all the time? I would think the lack of privacy especially with the younger married couples would damage a relationship?

    • vikki says:

      i know it is hard to imagine a joint family from that end unless u come down to these countries to experience.
      there is a very great bonding between members, fights do happen and members do have difference of opinion at times but they are handled at the family level esp by the head.
      members here co-operate each other and family progress as a whole
      as far as privacy is concerned : yes it is compromised to some extent esp in houses having lack of room for each couple. but this is often overcome by the bonding , love and affection between the members.
      members share the sorrow as well as the happiness of the members and family as a whole.

  2. Pingback: family | signedviolet

  3. Pingback: Family Titles and Lineage all in one Convenient Package | Hindiprincess

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