Gonda (Uttar Pradesh): Large families have a problem maintaining social distancing in small houses in these corona times.
But one family with 50 members that lives together in a house that has 12 rooms in a village in the Sadar tehsil in the Gonda district, makes sure that they follow safety protocols these days.
The family cannot practice social distancing, but all of them do wear masks and wash their hands at frequent intervals.
“No one goes out of the house and we do not go to crowded places or meet outsiders,” Chunnilal Raidas, 90, who is the head of the family.
Chunnilal Raidas has six sons, including Ramnath, Nandlal, Mehilal and Nand Kumar. Two of his sons, Swaminath and Nanmoon, are no longer alive. His wife, Bachchi Devi, is 86 years-old.
The family includes six daughters-in-law, their children and grandchildren too.
“We are four generations in this house. We are poor, but we are happy to be together. Since lockdown, there is scarcity of employment.
My sons work as porters but their income has stopped since lockdown though they still manage to get some work,” said Chunnilal Raidas.
Chunnilal sings ‘bhajans’ at a nearby Durga temple on the Station road and he continues to do so even though the temple has been closed during lockdown.
“It is a matter of faith, not money,” he said.
For the old man, the lockdown has brought more happiness than misery for his family.
“In normal days, the men would go to work, the women would be busy with household chores and the children would be away at school. We never had an opportunity to sit together as a family but now everyone is at home. The daughters-in-law do the cooking, the children play and the men also help in various chores,” he said.
Chunnilal further said, “After several years, we are talking all day with each other, recalling old anecdotes, telling children about the family. There is a lot of nostalgia – ‘purane saal waapis aa gaye (old times are back0’.”
The family, interestingly does not own a television set and no one in the family has a smartphone. The family does not have even a single motorbike though they have eight cycles which is shared between the school-going children and the men in the family.
Grandson, Kuldeep, who works in Panipat, is the only member with a smartphone.
“The family is happy within its limited means. No one in the family drinks and we are strict vegetarians. The children never make any demands and there are no fights. If there is any dispute between the women, it is amicably resolved before we go to bed,” said one of the grandsons, Suraj.
The women, meanwhile, spend all their time cooking for this unusually large family.
“We start early by making tea for everyone and then begins the preparations for breakfast and then lunch. After lunch is over, we begin preparing for dinner,” said Sunita, a daughter-in-law, and added that they have three buffaloes which ensures that milk is always in sufficient supply.
The family daily requirement is for 15 kilograms of flour and three kilograms of pulses. During lockdown, several local outfits have been helping the family with ration kits though Chunnilal is reluctant to admit it.
The sons have now started working in adjoining farms to keeping the earnings stable.
Chunnilal said that he was fortunate because none of his sons – or their sons – had ever asked for a division of property. “This is a blessings in modern age when the family gets divided with every marriage,” he said.
The family also organizes the ‘Akhand Ramayana’ recitation every year and then there is, invariably, a marriage or some celebration in the family every year.