November 4th – 5th, 2017
To understand the need and role of the family in the cause of Nation-Building, Vision India Foundation organized a two-day workshop on the theme of “Family for Change” in Haridwar on 4th-5th November. Families came from Haryana, Hyderabad, Roorkee, Gujarat, and Delhi to discuss and deliberate on the importance of family as an institution and nurture it as a Change Agent.
The discussion started on the Indic-view of Family and its relevance in our culture. Indian thought always tries to learn from nature and is informed by nature. In its design of society, the base unit for which is family, it can be compared to the human body which is a microcosm of Nature. Just as in nature, in the body as well, different organs contribute by performing their function towards the effective running of the body as a whole. This relationship is neither transactional nor one-sided as the organs themselves benefit from the overall functioning of the body. So, it is an organic fusion based on individual parts doing their job or dharma. In the Indic thought, family structure is also imagined this way, each member of the family doing his/her job according to svabhava and gaining from the whole. Our pursuit is harmonious integration.
Unlike in the individual, every societal aspect can be easily mirrored in the family – let it be cultural, social or political. There are five functions of the family: a) facilitates societal growth, b) ensures the professional and economic growth of society and individual, c) foundation to emotional and spiritual growth, d) keeps alive various religious practices and e) takes care of aspirations of every individual. In a family, we think about refinement than survival.
On the question of how does family grow, everyone held a consensus that family grows when it works for the society just as an individual. When family misses the connection with the society, it creates trouble for individual, family, and society at large. Society needs service and community are living and organic. It is important that the family understands the need for contributing to the larger cause by involving themselves in work that helps them and the entire nature. All of us understood the practical aspects of sudden indulgence of a family for the social cause. Thus, we discussed the initial steps of contributing to society. One example is celebrating birthdays in the Gokul Theme – this included Tulsi Plant as a return gift, cake as a matki and playing Krishna Bhajans. Another interesting way of celebrating an occasion could be organizing lunch for families of people who help us out in our day-to-day activities like Watchmen, Maid etc.
In historical times, any profession was the task of the family and not of the individual and thus, work and life were not balanced but integrated. In contemporary times, it is difficult to replicate it but it is important that we understand the principle and practice it in the current context. Social Contract Theory which says that societies are formed because individuals have personal interests and they get fulfilled when everyone comes together. Political authority is required to fulfill the expectation. Going by it, a family is also a social contract. However, Hindu dharma is based on interdependence. We derive authority from society and not any political body. Today, there is constant pressure on individual rights but what we need is a more holistic approach. It is important that we consciously reduce our consumption and teach our next generation the relevance of family. Spiritual orientation should be developed in the family with parallel alignment of our lifestyle at workplace and home. Families should revisit the significance of festivals and not consider them as an extra obligation.
Another crucial discussion was around the role of gender in the family. There is a significant change in work, the lifestyle of women than understood before. It is important that as a society, beginning from family we redefine the role of men and women. Feminine energy and masculine energy should be appreciated equally and none of them should be superimposed on another. While current discourse of feminism is pressurizing women to be in a space made for men, we vouch that women should create an independent space for themselves which celebrates their qualities and understands their concerns. Our idea of feminism is not to fight masculinity but to balance it with the changing times. Sudden change is never good for the family or society, thus, there should be enough freedom of choice for women to be able to pursue their interests. Today, when most of the women look for equality in the economic spheres, we vouched for celebrating the aesthetic value.
If a female has more of masculine energy, she should be given the space to enjoy it and if a man has more of feminine energy, he should be given the space to celebrate it. This change will take time and we as a society should come together and fight for it.