Man,I don't know $#1+ about these.
My few brushes with this institution have been during those rare occassions when we used to visit some distant relatives in the countryside.The house was large,with the staircase forming the backbone,and its inhabitants noisy in a friendly manner.I never tried to remember the exact names of the relationships i shared with them-it was too complex for me.
Therefore,I know almost as much about joint families as a child born in a nuclear family should be knowing,which is not much.But,I have those old sepia-tinted movies,and our serials to thank for my knowledge of the basics.
Generally,three generations(or more) live under the same roof,with the family patriarch's word being the last word in all decisions.The men do all the outside work,while the women stay inside and work the kitchen and their babies.All the members share the expenses jointly.In fact-there exists no single entity,they all function as a unit,which to me is commendable.
But,though this looks good on paper,it's unfeasible.Firstly,there's space.A large family cannot live in a cramped way,and free space is expensive.Secondly,the lack of privacy.It doesn't do to hide things from 'family',but not everyone can be expected to be interested in everyone's problems.Thirdly,sharing the expenses.Salaries are bound to be different, and with the feeling that maybe you're living on someone else's largesse,friction is bound to be generated.Fourthly,lack of consensus.That the elder's word is the final word is hardly followed these days.
There are pros too.A joint family is great for the chidren,as they can be taught in their childhood by the grandparents.Also,social life is enjoyable,because of the sheer number of people involved.It might also be argued that having the burden of managing the household expenses alone off one's shoulders is a great thing.The dense network of social relationships also help cushion sudden shocks and misfortunes.
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