‘Jhanjat (mess)!’ is how Akash, a 35-year-old Delhiite, described his family-living composition. He was narrating his rigmarole family life, which went from being a joint family to a nuclear family, then back to a joint family, which broke up to become a neo-joint family; his brother’s home then turned into an extended nuclear family.
Akash’s father was in the railways. His mother joined government service in Delhi where Akash grew up with his younger sister, brother and grandparents. Ten years ago, they arranged his marriage to Sunita, who was from a large joint family. She fitted in like a glove in his family, managing the home under directions from her mother-in-law. His sister subsequently got married and left the home, while Akash’s unmarried brother started to earn. That’s when Akash’s office transferred him to Mumbai.
Initially, Sunita was extremely hesitant. Who will cook, clean and look after the joint family she was managing? Moreover, she was nervous about the unknown Mumbai city; she had never lived alone before. What would she do when Akash would travel for work, as he frequently does? She procrastinated for a year and then joined him. Within eight months, she started enjoying her nuclear living style. A son was born and she passed four happy years in Mumbai. When Akash was transferred back to Delhi, it was somehow obvious that they would return to Akash’s joint family home. In the meantime, Akash’s brother had married; his wife worked in a travel company. Akash’s father asked his first-floor tenant to leave, so that Akash could move in. In a few years, Akash’s brother was blessed with two children.
So theirs became a big joint family, two married brothers with wives, children, parents and grandparents under one roof, one kitchen. Having lived independently for a while, Akash and Sunita had become used to Mumbai’s lifestyle with late-night outings. Sunita was now pre-occupied with her child’s welfare and meeting her friends at daytime kitty parties. This seemed to upset Akash’s mother, who expected the same docile service from her older, non-working daughter-in-law. The younger daughter-in-law evoked different expectations, as she was career-oriented. Moreover, she had entered their home when the parents had become used to managing the home without Sunita. So the younger couple lived resourcefully and displayed no untoward ways that his parents found unacceptable.
Returning home at untimely hours was starting to become a loosened hinge, especially as