Saturday, October 30, 2010

Be Clannish, have Family Meets

You might be aware of the clans of Scotland. I shall deal with that briefly elsewhere in this post. But what prompted me to write this is receiving recently a memento from the Parayil Family to which I belong. The inscription on it says that I am “an inspiration to the Parayil Meets”. It was a very touching occasion for me.

A photo of the souvenir is given below:

All that I did was to suggest ten years back that all family members should try and meet together once a year. The others took it up and have been organizing the Parayil Meet (Kudumbayogam) on a grand scale all these years. The event is normally held in one of our heritage homes on the second Saturday of the month of May. This year I could not attend the function. Therefore the souvenir was delivered to me in Chennai by a family member.

What made me propose such a meet was that with nuclear families living separately and people moving to far away places for work, members of the larger family hardly get a chance to meet each other. In my family unit for instance all the six of us (4 children) meeting together is a rare event.

This is far different from the time when the male members put up houses near the tharavad (ancestral home) and the married off girls came home for at least a part of the major holidays.

That was how it was when I was young. On Saturdays and Sundays the cousins would come home or we go to their houses. Later on, when I was in the boarding houses or hostels, the weekend meetings were only possible during long holidays.

In the last fifty years so much has changed. I was the first person from the Parayil Family to go for a job. That was in 1958, after six month management training in Bombay (Mumbai). Some people were shocked that a family member was to start working for someone. To them, the fact that my uncle Jose Kallivayalil was the Chairman of Ruby Rubber Works Ltd where I started my career did not make any difference.

But Appan.(my father) was a man of foresight. He knew that land limitation laws which would curtail the size of the holdings were on the anvil. He encouraged me to take up the job. My brothers followed suit and so did several cousins, in different fields. In the next generation, a job is almost compulsory. By God’s Grace, all of them have done well in their careers.

But the family became scattered. The members are in different parts of India, Singapore, Australia, Gulf, Europe, North America, and South America. That is all fine. But think of the children. Many of them lack proper awareness of their roots, can’t recognize even close relations, don’t realize that they have people who would stand by them, and are ignorant of their traditions and culture. During the short trips to Kerala once a year or so, it is not practical to meet everyone.

In our case we find that since the date of the family meet is pre-fixed, the members plan their holiday trips to coincide with it. And the meets are really fun, with kids to old people involving actively and enjoying themselves. Also, meaningful discussions take place.

I know of some other families too who have family meets. It would be good if more families organize such get together.

Scotland is the best example of the clan spirit. The world’s largest clan meeting was held in Edinburgh on July 25, 2009. One hundred of Scotland’s clan chiefs and representatives of clans from around the world attended.

Opening the convention the Duke of Rothesay said, "It seems to me that today's event represents the stirring meeting of Scotland's history and its living heritage." The Scottish First Minister’s comment was "Obviously the Homecoming year has a visitor aspect to it. But all of these people are celebrating their heritage and roots. These are deep roots and affinities that stretch back centuries. To mobilise that wonderful diaspora to make a contribution to the future of our country is a massive thing." (From BBC report.)

India can benefit too if family attachments are sustained. No politics, no religious exploitation. Just people of the same ancestry assembling and enjoying, and making plans to help each other and others outside the family who need assistance.


Sunita Mohan said...

I agree wholeheartedly with you. Living in Mumbai, far from their roots, have turned my children into semi-strangers to the culture they were born to. They may be truly Indian in the sense that all people living in big cities are ... picking up all the best customs from communities all over Indian until they are a mixture of all. Yet, one has to be in touch with one's roots, something I don't think they will appreciate till they are grown up. They love their holidays because they get to meet the rest of the family and cousins but the Family Meets have seen them come closer to the rest of the Clan than they would have otherwise.

Unknown said...

Sunita, thank you for the comment.

Prasanth said...

What a wonderful and touching jesture from your family!!
You are truly blessed. In my childhood, the whole family used to get together in our ancestoral home during Mahanavami celebration at our "Kuladeva" temple next to the home. It used to be a funfilled 3 days full of laughter, games and bonding. That has become a nostalgic memory now - nobody turns up during the festival anymore as people are scattered all over. Some of my cousins children have not met me since they were born


It is so nice to hear that your suggestion for an annual meeting was taken up by your family and that it is held regularly.
Our family ties are strengthened by such meets, and we reinforce our relations with everyone. I am sure you are going to be an inspiration to many other families too.
Congratulations on the inscription on the memento.