This article first appeared on the Learning & Creativity website. It has been reposted with Ramendra Kumar’s permission.
“Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” Leo Tolstoy’s immortal classic Anna Karenina begins with these unforgettable words – words which ricochet in my mind whenever anyone talks of happy or unhappy families.
So what makes a happy family? A number of aspects, but one feature that is common to all families which are happy and hence effective is the bonding between the parents. If the mother and father share a relationship of love, respect, trust and mutual concern the family unit is sure to be a contented one. One the other hand if the home is a battle ground of egos and mistrust you can be certain that the family is going to be unhappy and the children emotionally bruised.
I speak from personal experience. My parents were very good looking (the ideal made for each other types), highly educated and with a liberal outlook. My father was a professor and my mother a talented writer. On the outside ours was a ‘happy family’. But in actuality it was anything but that. Every few days there were skirmishes and every few months a full scale war.
My sister and I would be either reading or chatting in our room at night when suddenly we would hear raised voices.
“I think they have started again,” my sister, who was older, would mumble. The slanging match would morph into screaming and yelling and breaking of stuff. This would continue late in the night as the two of us would sit huddled together, hoping and praying for a truce – since peace was an outlandish fantasy. These battles would be followed by a long period of silence and our house (I could never dare call it a home) would resemble a mausoleum. The eerie calm before the next storm was as agonizing as the full scale war itself.
One evening I returned home and found my parents and my sister sitting in the garden joking and laughing, like ‘normal families’ – I just stood there, soaking in the scene, imploring almighty to freeze time. This scene remained etched in my memory for a long, long time and I would often revisit it in my reveries.
I remember my sister once telling my parents, “Both of you are charismatic and brilliant – My friend Beena envies me so much. Her father is a pot bellied business man who is not even a graduate and her mother is a house-wife who can’t speak a word of English. Beena is even ashamed to call them for PTA meetings. But I would any day exchange them for you two. At least they love and respect each other. Their house is like a home unlike our place which resembles a battle field.”