The features of a rural family in India are as the follows:
(1)The rural family is patriarchal in character. The father, or the eldest male, is the person endowed with authority, and this authority can be rather rigid and totalitarian in nature. He will order and the rest-will obey. However, in return for their allegiance, the patriarch offers them protection and economic security; and all the intricate problems facing the family will be grappled by him so that, like a banyan tree, he offer a comfortable shade to the female, the child and other male members of the family. Their finance needs as well as the question of selecting a mate for an eligible member are looked to by the head of the family.
(2) It necessarily follows that those families remain joint and do not, as a rule, break out into nuclear units. The rural joint family is basically agricultural in its occupation and the demands of cultivation require a number of workers. All the male members together work in the fields and the training in that regard is imported even from childhood days.
The yield of crops is common property as also the abode itself and, if the day comes when the abode has to be partitioned into individual units, as it happens occasionally, the event is regarded as a very sad one not only by the tradition-minded family members, but by all villagers in general. As a rule, however, individualistic economic rights of members are not recognized and all are required to work to the common advantage of the family, lest the ancestor and the family deities be displeased.
The joint family, as Mother Teresa pointed out in one of her public statements made to the Calcutta Press, is an excellent device for ensuring economic stability to the family as a unit and, when these units are taken together, to the country as a whole. It works for the old age pension scheme, the unemployment dole, the health insurance and also as a cover to emergency distresses.
While the child in the joint family is clearly in an endearing position, and the family regards it as its sacred duty to add to itself in numbers, the woman is somewhat in a dubious position. The daughter in the family is a member in a transitory stage, for she will have to be placed in her real home, her husband’s household.
The daughter-in-law is, on the one hand, the sacred partner of the son in his procreative efforts and, on the other, a drudge in the family, whose lack of accomplishments the elder women are too ready and willing to point out. Woman is generally inferior to man in the family administration but, once she ages, she is taken into confidence by the patriarch.
If she happens to be the widowed mother, or even an aunt or a grandmother, tradition prescribes that she should be treated with all reverence and obedience even by the head of the family. However, no woman member of the family has the right to demand a separate living.
Relations are very close among such family members. Each is a helper to the other and, whatever bickerings and disputes may arise in the course of daily dealings, a feeling of association easily grows in each member and he is, by and large, ready to co-operate. Children learn religious, mythological and historical tales from elders and elders recreate and find entertainment in the company of the youngsters. Relations are primary and family control is also of a higher degree.
(3) Rural families do not provide for much of a scope for a change of occupation and as such ‘mobility’ is very low. The demands of cultivation are that the male will remain behind in the village itself and his formal education will then work only as a hindrance to his family occupation.
With the rigid class and caste system operating in Indian society, it is regarded almost as a sin for a young man to defy the ancestral traditions and to look for a place in the city. Yet some do flock to the city, but that happens mainly for reasons of poverty. Poor farmers and their boys rush to the city with the hope that they will earn a living there, and the dreams are of a better standard of living, only if one could be employed in a factory.
The results have not always been pleasing; a large number fall into wrong ways for want of sustenance in life, the men turning to delinquency and the women to shameful occupations. The crisis that the villager faces when he thinks of mobility is so awe-inspiring that one cannot but agree with the present line of thinking on the part of the Government that the rural sector must be developed at any cost.