Friday, June 01, 2007

South Indian families and politics....

For a long time, Hum Aapke Hain Koun represented a cultural watershed for me in a personal sense. It came out while I was in 10th grade and my friends were crazy about it! Apart from Madhuri Dixit's beauty, the haunting songs and the romance that it offered, the movie fascinated me because it glorified the extended family concept -- doting aunts, loving uncles, friendly cousins, one big happy family. Till I saw the movie, I'd not even realized that an extended family could really get along together! :)

My paternal family is quite big. When I was a kid and my grandma was alive, we used to have those annual familial gatherings. All my grandma's sons, daughters, in-laws, grandchildren used to get together under one roof. I used to look forward to those meets as it gave me a sense of family. But as I grew up, I realized that these gatherings were turning out to be less and less about family and more about personal egos. Politics was rife in the air and there was always tension. There were always a few members who couldn't stop gloating, taunting, insulting etc...And the rest of the family usually put up with this due to a myriad reasons, chief among them being my grandmother. I think that in a lot of ways, she was the glue that held the family together and when she passed away, everything disintegrated.

Almost all South Indian families I know are fraught with politics. This might sound like a sweeping generalization but this has been my experience. The relatives barely want to see each other and there's no love lost. Like I said, I'd taken this to be the norm until I saw HAHK. It seemed utopia to me! Later on, I found that most of my North Indian friends really did have loving extended families. 

What is it about South Indian families that make them so rife with politics? Why do we not get along? Is it our upbringing? Is it our competitive culture? Is it because we're too formal and take offense at the slightest instance? I am not sure but I guess the child in me will always keep yearning for the utopian HAHK family.. :)


viswajith.k.n said...

It is our ego and competitive culture! Nothing else...

Sridhar said...

honestly, i dont exactly know the answer, for if i had known i could have tried to be good (yeah i believe having extended family to be good rather than having "nuclear" family).

my sis' father in law says its combination of most or all of the below:
1) selfishness

2) ego

3) laziness

4) the fathers/mothers/uncles generation had to undergo a non-smooth struggle during their upbring times (including family as well as non-family reasons). now when they come to a settled state they want it to be independent/isolated (a kind of enjoying the relief).

5) the next generation, us, have settled well at the beginning itself and we want to be more-than-needed-independent. this clubbed with natural reasons like physically separated apart (but still not using the technological advancements like communication devices to earnestly get-together in a good sense.

even though i said i do not exactly know the answer still i feel that i have my percentage of all of those 5 factors in me..... hell with me.

Anonymous said...

I think its only natural for people to want their space, maybe south indians are more individualistic (relatively speaking) and northies are collectivistic. And their closeness sometimes borders on the insane.

prabukarthik said...

Those days more members of the south indian family lived together and earned their livelyhood together. "Hindu Undivided family', karta etc...

any average ramasamy can build a rapport with another Subban just by virtue of being together for sometime.. how else can u explain train friendships aka rayil snegam.

The critical factor is time together..

one cant expect a good rapport if one does not know the other person and if one has not invested time to figure out a person no matter how close a relative he or she is.

The further we r from each other the harder it is to foster trust and build a rapport..

unlike friendships, we inherit relationships.

so we may not know what sort of a person our father's chithi's daughter is and how to deal with her. inevitably we ruffle feathers in some way without being aware of it.

if u r in US, u might not be able to attend your onnu vitta cousins' wedding in tanjore, by which you might not get to know your cousins' spouse. the fact that u did not attend the wedding reduces 10 points for u in their marks system. soon enough there will be retaliation of some sort in the other end. And then such minor skirmishes goes on before it reaches a flashpoint at some stage.

since we live far away, we have our own friends circle and we do not depend on our relatives, so one thing feeds the other and here we are...

northies, i guess more northies rely on trade and family business for their living than south indians.. so naturally they had to depend on the family to provide the support system as a necessity..

once they start moving further from their family seeking greener pastures, this has to set in, gradually but eventually...

needless to say idhu ennoda half baked theory :)

Hellboy said...

HAHKs and DDLJs are nothing but fairy tales, I wouldn't put too much weight on what those movies show us. You should watch or think about Baghban to even out the HAHK influence :)

I don't know how North Indian families divide their ancestral properties. I guess they keep it together and stay together as one big happy family. May be the concept of Ram and Lakshman plays a role in their togetherness.

In South India, at least in Tamilnadu, the property gets divided progressively through the generations. By the time the siblings grow up they don't consider themselves as brothers and cousins(anna thambi) but rather as shareholders (Pangali) of the property.

Right from Mahabaratha to Ponnyin Selvan to the Ambanis, Bajajs and the recent war in the DMK family you can always trace all the animosity to how and who gets the property. In each case the property is somewhat different, it might be a kingdom or a business empire or a political party or even a couple of acres by the river bed.

I also think the family feud is not just a South Indian thing. May be the couple of North Indian families you know are pretty tight but that might not be the norm. The Ambanis, Bajajs and Pramod Mahajan getting killed by his own brother all tells us a different story. They are no different from us.

Subha said...

Viswajith, partly true..


I am not sure if South Indians, as a race, suffered more in the last generation or had more problems. The current generation of North Indian kids are as independent as we are. I find it difficult to accept this argument.

andha trade connection part of the theory, I agree..probably. :)


HAHK is not what I am basing my opinions on..:) And I am definitely not talking about the weirdos who murder fathers, brothers etc..Where money and power are concerned, all those things will follow.

I am talking about normal, ordinary families. Even when we meet once a year, we have this penchant to make politics, blame each other for some obscure thing that happened 10 years ago, crib about how Pattu maami didn't give the second cousin a silk saree at her second daughter's wedding 5 years ago etc etc... More than having affection for one's nephews, nieces, grandchildren etc.., I find we are more concerned with tearing people to bits. And I definitely hold firm in my opinion that due to some climactic, cultural or other reasons, South Indians are more prone to do this than any other clan in India.

Zeppelin said...

hmm..ennatha solla.. i do agree partly.. it is very evident that southies are not too-together.. but I am not really sure about the observation that Northies are. as always, there are exceptions, and in such human-behaviour discussions it is often very difficult to reach an objective conclusion.. that, again, is just my opinion. :)

as a side, though i'd still say, from my experience with northies, we are much more adaptive, generally...maybe all the spicy food and the variety has got to do with all the PASSION and thus the feud and fights.. :)

Viji said...

"South Indian families and politics.... "- err.. I give up!

IBH said...

now that was very well written if u just pulled all the feelings from my heart about the 'POLOITICS' always amazes me how people act differently with different set in my family...and in my family..the concept of 'Aadu pagai kutti oravu' is very predominant :) if u know what i mean

coolgal said...

That was very well written. That's the thought running into my mind always. "The truth is bitter" but hey u gotto face the reality.

The place I am living right now has more North-Indian crowd and a very few South-Indian families. Even within the very few families they formed sub-groups as Telugu group, Kannada group and left with just two tamil speaking families.

One fact truly amazes me is the hindi speaking people's unity. I say hindi speaking because my place consists of people from different provinces like Gujarat, Punjab, Delhi and other hindi speaking provinces who are very united as a single group. Though they themselves have lot of clashes, they always stand by each other during difficulties which is quite the other way around with south indians.

My personal experience with families made me to say the politics is due to ego, not easy going, too formal, more independent rather self-centered and lots 'n' lots more. I personally experienced when I had been to India last time. I thought things would've been changed in time but unfortunately none. As "ibh" said the concept of "Aadu pagai kutty uravu" exists predominantly in every family, guess. "Let bygones by bygones" that's what needed to change the situation, guess.

Sara said...

There is no such thing as southindians are more towards nuclear family concept and northies are tied together.

Just like us, they too gather on occasions meet say hi hellos and chalthe bano! There are rifes even among them! Just becoz they belong to "North of India" does not mean they are not having all the traits listed for southies in the feature. It is just that we dont have that good a inside look into their way of being and get as much feedback as we have for southies. The prime reason being, audience here is predominantly southindi, second we are are able to relate more easily with south indian temperament as we are ourselves brought up in that.

Gayatri said...

It's not just south India - it's just human nature. Sure, it seems like a simplistic explanation - but the point is we have seen all types everywhere. There are north Indian families that went nuclear a long time ago and can't see eye to eye. Then there are those south indian families who have politics but deal and manage the undercurrents in a more mature fashion! Anyway, it all seemed better when we were younger because we never understood the undercurrents!!
My 2 cents :)

Badhri said...

Contrary to being a generalization, I would say that your post takes a narrow view of "politics". Do you have any instance of any other Indian family, or for that matter, any other human entity that doesn't have any thing to do with politics? I simply don't.

I live with about 4 roomies from Orissa, Mumbai, AP. Guess what, they have their own story, which are in someways scarier that the traditional South Indian story. The 4th guy is a new addition, so no info.

South Indian families are in two minds. They neither want to further the relationship, nor break it. That's difference I see from the other stories. That apart, its the law. So, chear up!

Arvind said...

oh my !!! - it is not sweeping generalization, it is flooding generalization.

Politics and families go together as well as Paris and ... never mind.

It runs all over the world including american families, case evidenced by personal columns in newspapers like washington post etc....

they classic being, a daughter asking a question... her perimma now wants some china that she had gifted her mom (for mom's wedding). Mom is now no more. what shd i do ? is it ok to ask for some gift back, shd i have to give ?

now - where were we ? :)

முகிலினி said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
முகிலினி said...

They have family names while most of the south indian families dont have one. May be the family name unites them. Dont you feel good when you say My India. Its like that. I asked my Gujju friend and she told me that yea, the family name means a lot for them.

P.S: can u remove the word verification pls