Arindam Chaudhuri
The Great Indian Family...
[August, 2007]


KABHI KHUSHI KABHI GAM . . . TA RA RUM PUM PUM . . . You have sung the song and seen both the films and enjoyed the underlying spirit. It's all about having a happy family and becoming good human beings, isn't it? Yes, that's what being Indian is all about. Writing about a happy family takes me back to my childhood.  Two brothers and a sister, a set of loving parents and two sets of grandparents! Wow! When I look back, I feel privileged.
The variety of emotions we experienced as children growing up in a middle class family were just amazing. The times spent under my father's family quilt (he had ordered an extra large quilt, so that on winter nights, we could all fit inside it and have a hell of a time having fun together, till it was time to go to bed). I remember my grandmother reading out poems and stories to us till we slept  and sowing the seeds of finer sensibilities early in life. I remember sleeping together with my brother, sharing our deepest secrets and growing up. I remember fighting with my loved ones and I remember falling in love and forgetting the world and I remember the day  a few months after my marriage  when my mother gave me a call as I was lazily watching a movie, to tearfully inform me that she just got a call that my brother, Aurobindo, had passed away in an accident. I hoped against hell that it wasn't him and the news was wrong, but reality left me with the realisation that we are a microcosm of this huge universe, mere invisible creatures and never for a second should we lose our heads and be arrogant, for the next moment could be full of emptiness. It taught me never to take things for granted, especially with relationships and your most loved ones. Life is about family and relationships and its important to squeeze every extra moment out of life, before it's too late.
As I worked harder to fill the emptiness up and nurtured my entrepreneurial ambitions, I remember my dad perpetually engaged in this conversation with my grandmother, of how he believed extra money in my hands will destroy my emotions. I remember my Professor, Joy Mitra, now the Dean of FMS, telling me that if I wanted to remain socially committed, I should be careful about my business plans, as the more it would grow the more I would drift from my ideological thoughts. Then between the more material pursuits of life, Che, our son happened and our world changed. Suddenly our family again saw life, my grandmother (whose favourite was Aurobindo) had reason to feel alive again. I was praying she lives for a very long time and Che gets to spend maximum time with her at home, because being with her and playing with her was the best learning he could've had. Five years later, when she was no more, I couldn't thank her enough for leaving us after sowing the seeds of sensitivity and humanity (at the most impressionable and important age in a human being's life) inside the next generation, inside the mind of a boy, who is most certainly destined to spent the rest of his life in an increasingly alienated world devoid of happy families and deep emotional attachments.
As he now bonds ever more with his dada, dadi, nana and nani, and remembers his great grandmother fondly, I feel more confident that he is getting the right dosage of relationships to make him a good human being. For, I realise that this is what life is about. And as Che grows up, I only worry about giving him enough of a family environment, because as I look back, I don't see anything else including my formal education, playing half as much an important role in my life as my family. Family is stability, ethics, education and sanity. Take the family away and we are left with an emotionless moron, who may have a high IQ, maybe largely built, maybe rich in material terms, but who is zero in his ability to make this world a better place... as so clearly shown recently by the Virginia Tech mass murderer.
When I see friends of my son, from nuclear families with very successful parents but with barely any time for their children or single parent families, being brought up by their maids (under the influence of T.V's instead of books), I feel scared. I foresee many of them taking the wrong path very early in life, if not given an adequate dose of the most effective medicine for the best upbringing  a happy family life. Children are not just our responsibility, but they are what we make of the future world. The choice is ours. When my close friend had a daughter, I made him force his dad to start staying with them. A grandfather was the ideal gift I could think of giving the new born. Life will be kabhi khushi kabhi gam... tara rum pum pum … and we will achieve our Great Indian Dream. If only we value our families, and keep our families intact and well-knit.
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