Interesting interview of author Gitanjali Prasad in Rediff . She is the author of The Great Indian Family – New Roles, Old Responsibilities
I agree with the author when she says that the Indian family values are strong and will endure. Her “Get one free” philosophy hits the nail on the head – It is so true and I think the biggest stumbling block in achieving work-life balance.
Her statement ” I think choices are always made in a context. I can choose an option only in the context of what other options are open to me.” is so so true
Here are some excerpts from the interview . Can’t wait to read the book….
The family, as an evolving unit, has often been the subject of much scrutiny. Why did you think your perspective would be different? What did you hope to bring to the idea of examining the Indian family?
Actually, there has been very little scrutiny of the middle class Indian family. In my book, I quote sociologist Patricia Uberoi who talks about why this is so: ‘The reluctance to address the subject of the Indian family stems not from the unimportance of the field, but rather from its importance and sensitivity. It is as though interrogation of the family might constitute an intrusion into that private domain where the nation’s most cherished cultural values are nurtured and reproduced.’
As you point out, a readjustment of the work-home balance is necessary. In a nutshell, how would you describe this readjustment to someone reading this interview?
I think the workplace functions on what I call the ‘Buy one, get one free syndrome.’ When an organisation hires a man, it assumes there is a ‘free person’ — a woman to take care of him, his children, his parents and his home. But we are looking at a world where, not just the wife, but the mother and mother-in-law may also be working.
The workplace must allow every individual to look after both his or her professional commitments, and personal responsibilities. The book discusses various ways in which an organisation could be family-friendly as well as profitable.
You end your book with the question ‘Will the great Indian family survive?’ and say that the future is in our hands. That is not really an answer, is it?
I think it is. As I say in answer to your last question, in India, there is unqualified support for marriage and the family. And even though there are greater complexities in today’s world, where individual rights and freedom are valued much more highly and greater diversity in families is commonplace and calls for more understanding, amongst middle class families, this was not really a problem.
In the UK, there is genuine ambivalence about whether marriage and indeed the family should be supported, with several fairly important figures such as Anthony Giddens questioning this basic premise.
In India, support for marriage and the family is almost universal. The biggest challenge to the family in India comes from the way family time is being squeezed out of our lives. That is what I believe we need to address with some urgency.
Eventually, even when it comes to a social unit like a family, the choices are always individual ones. Would you agree?
No, I don’t. I think choices are always made in a context. I can choose an option only in the context of what other options are open to me. I may wish to marry, but if, by marrying, I have to say goodbye to the prospect of a career, I may decide I cannot afford to marry.
I may wish to have a child, or more than one, but again I may have second thoughts if this would mean I would then have to be a housewife, or an underemployed single woman (in the event of my marriage breaking up). I may wish to have my parents live with me, but may be unable to look after them because of my commitments at work, and the fact that there is no one at home to look after them.
Read the full interview at http://ia.rediff.com/news/2006/jul/05inter1.htm?q=tp&file=.htm.