An American friend of mine was discussing about his family.
He mentioned casually that he lost touch with his brother about 10 years ago.
Contrast this with our own recent Asian Indian family situation.
When my cousin passed away recently, his wife, children, grandchildren, cousins, aunts, nephews, nieces and the entire extended family grieved. This loss was felt personally by everyone of us. Even in the Pandemic his memorial drew an audience of close to 200 zoom viewers.
In our Asian Indian heritage, "Family" is the centerpiece.
We joke that if any of us have a fever we will get at least 100 phone calls from the family.
To us it is not intrusion, it is caring.
I cannot imagine a birthday, an Anniversary, a wedding or any major occasion in our family without full clan participation.
Growing up in India, we are used to family members dropping in and out of our houses.
We didn't expect them to set up an appointment to visit us.
In good things and bad, the Family is fully involved.
For most Indians, Family is an important institution fostering loyalty and interdependence.
Individual decisions of family members, affecting even their personal lives, are generally made with consideration of their impact on the family.
Family is where we develop our sense of pride, identity and self image.
Family makes us be comfortable with who we are.
"Upholding the Family honor" is in the minds of many Indians.
My own life was molded by examples of my grand father's sense of humor, my grand mother's patience, my mother's compassion, my father's courage under extreme adversity, my uncle's integrity, my cousin's work ethic and many other family role models. Of course, there were some bad examples in the family as well. From them, we learned the things to avoid.
Our family network is not limited just to the nuclear family.
It expanded to the entire extended family of uncles, aunts, cousins, nephews and nieces.
Family, in effect, was the nursery, educator, value builder, disciplinarian and ultimate safety net.
When my two sons chose their brides, they felt it was important that their future mates fit in our family. They held this view in spite of being born and brought up in the United States.
This was enabled by my disciplined father and my tenacious mother-in-law, who lived with us in the U.S. and taught them family values.
Few years ago, I asked my brother-in-law, late Mr. K.N. Sivaswamy,
how the Indian traditions are faring in these modern times.
Mr. Sivaswamy, a retired high ranking official in the All India Radio(AIR) and also a noted Kannada playwright, made the following profound statement,
"In spite of all the modernization, I am encouraged by three things in the Country:
First, Indians by and large are preserving their "Family" structure,
Second, the respect for "Elders" in the country has not diminished,
Third, reverence for the "Learned" continues."
I could not agree with him more.
Blame me for being self righteous, but I believe that the strong family structure in India is responsible for many of the successes of Asian Indians.
1) As a nation, India has the lowest divorce rates in the world.
2) Nurtured and mentored by supporting family environment, Asian Indians are able to be productive and law abiding citizens and immigrants everywhere in the world.
3) Being comfortable with who they are, most Asian Indians assimilate easily with other cultures and contribute to the larger society.
Asian Indians have exemplary successes in business, politics, medicine, science, literature, journalism and fine arts throughout the world. The foundation of a functional family system played no small part in this.
Luckily, the modern social media of Facebook, LinkedIn, Whats App , Skype, Zoom and others have reinforced our family ties.
With so many social problems in the world, it will be prudent for others to study and replicate the Indian example.
After all, isn't time everybody realizes that the "Family" matters?