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  • Writer's pictureCamp Goldston Publishing, LLC

Changes in Traditional Indian Family Structure

From joint family to nuclear family the so-called Indian family structure changed a lot during the last three decades.  I remember growing up with my grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins in the same house. Every day, when I look back, life was a bittersweet struggle to fit in, survival and chaos with a strange love of togetherness. We had our share of fun, of course, but we never had any personal space. We would have our own football teams.   Imagine six uncles each having two kids.  We would have our own little picnic and when a fight broke out among us, it took my grandparents, mothers, aunts and servants to calm us down . But when my dad finally got his own house and we all moved in together, I sure missed my cousins. However, the sense of freedom and personal space kind of reigned over all other emotions that I could have at that time. My first room and first tape recorder made my dream come true.


Some argue that traditional India was rural India. Hence, the concept of Joint Family is a rural concept and the concept of Nuclear families in India is more of an urban characteristic. There was once an India that treasured the traditional joint family. Five brothers, their spouses, their children, their grandchildren and the dog all lived under one roof. They ate together, slept together, cried together, laughed together and prayed together in perfect harmony. Families got together in the evenings: men discussing politics, mothers-in-law gossiping, and daughters-in-law cooking, while the children played in the verandas. The families then, were a kaleidoscope of color, laughter, relationships, song, dance, food and happiness. Well, those were the days of yore, and the Indian family has moved on.

With distinctive opinions, rising double-income marriages, lucrative career opportunities, flaring tempers and the need for space, the nuclear family is now the order of the day. The quintessential working Indian couple in the metro today scrabbles for time with crazy commutes, deadlines at work, taking care of their kids and managing their household chores. Given all these pressures, the last thing they want to deal with are compromises and interference from other family members. The nuclear setup is fast becoming the next most ideal option, with the need for space being paramount.


Photo credit:, Tara, a play by Mahesh Dattani.

While independence is a big take away from a nuclear family, it brings along with it a stream of other problems. Kids are left at daycare or at the mercy of a maid while the parents are away at work. In a joint family setup, they’re looked after by a trusted family member, under whose supervision the children feel protected, loved and nurtured. When finances are on the down slide, there are always people to bail you out. But in a nuclear setup, your problems, whether financial or emotional, are yours alone. But then again, you win some and you lose some.

That said, with lives getting crazier by the minute, both set ups today strive hard to strike that perfect ‘happily ever after’ balance, which once upon a time was not such a big deal after all!


-Indrani Banerjee

Indrani is  from the “city of joy” Kolkata , India. However she has been living in the United States since 2005 and at present she is based in Las Vegas, Nevada.  She holds an MBA degree from University Of North Alabama. She is the business lead for major manufacturing company.  She is passionate about poetry and literature and other forms of arts like music and cinema . She  enjoys her happy hour with her friends and often takes on adventurous outings or vacations, which include rafting , base jump or skydiving . To sum up , her life is measured by “3 F’s namely fun, food, and friends .

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