Yesterday, we were at home the whole day. Quite rare considering it was a Saturday and we try very hard not to stay home on the weekend! It was just as well that we did because it was a blistering hot day (90 degrees though it felt like more to me). We had one of my father-in-law's cousins and his wife visiting from Toronto. They stayed for several hours - over lunch, dessert and tea-time - and in the evening another cousin came to pick them up and take them to his house.
Ads didn't want to nap because he was afraid he would miss all the excitement and talk. He brought many of his toys to the living room and was playing/drawing there in the midst of all the noise. Someone commented on the fact that both my kids seemed to like having people around and were participating in the conversation every now and then (Y's contribution was to listen with rapt concentration to the talk, as though she understood every word). It had been the same on Friday when S had a friend from India visiting.
So anyway, when people started reminescing about how life was so different when they were kids, and how summer holidays were nothing but tons of idle fun, and how children nowadays get bored inspite of all the toys and gadgets and entertainment options that they have, I began to think (not for the first time) how nice it is for Ads to have lots of people around to talk with and play with. I guess that was the biggest advantage of the joint-family system. The multitude of people (complele lack of privacy nonwithstanding), the abundance of playmates, the excellent support system, and the rapport one developed with every member of the extended family, is unbeatable.
I know that because I live so far away from my family, I tend to crave the old familial bonds just like a lot of desis do. Not all the time, not even most of the time, but ocassionally yes I do feel it would be nice for my kids to live in a place where there were a lot of cousins and family around. It would drive me crazy after a point, but then you can't have everything :)
I'll settle for our old apartment complex in Bangalore where twenty-four kids were born in 2005, the same year that Ads was born. No more agonizing over organizing playdates and coordinating the calendars of several kids. Any time the grandparents want to see my kids (or vice versa), they are just a short train ride away. At this point, when my kids are so young, this would be my biggest motivation for going back to India.