I grew up in a very small nuclear family and till date haven't even met some of my cousins who live overseas. As a child I didn't have any opinions about whether it was good to be so removed from the interactions with relatives, but when I became a parent myself I wanted my child to have multiple influences delivered and received, through love and attention.
In Mithun's life his grandparents were integral to his everyday life. Between his Ammama and Dada he learnt a vast spectrum of things but above all delighted in the love that was showered upon him. From hide and seek, to cricket and scrabble, arguments and lectures; the gambit of sharing opened up his world to receive and know he belonged. But other than my parents, he did not have any significant contact with any other relatives.
Maybe it's because I grew up in the shadows of the 70's where living in a commune represented an alternative family structure, or perhaps I related to the stories of good management through the convenience of joint family establishments, or is it because as classmates in college we chose to be like family for each other. It could be all this or just that I yearned for what I myself personally had never had, because I consciously over the years assimilated an alternative family structure. I have invested my emotional energy and structured a framework of relationships and today it is this alternative family tree that holds the actual rooting of my own moorings in life more strongly, and which I know I can turn to for love and protection.
This "family" is spread far and wide, and I have spiritual "children" who are sometimes only a few years younger than me, and in other instances receive wisdom and guidance from those half my age....! The beauty of this collective of energies is that there is an interdependence which does not negate the independence of each individual, but which in fact celebrates it with fierce pride.
I continuously urge people to open themselves up to letting people into their lives and to not be too afraid to say "I need you". A world bereft of interdependence is a false world, because nobody can be an island. I believe that if you give and receive knowingly, it will bring so much more into your life that is good and positive. I lived in New York for six months in 1990 and was astonished to see the fear that isolation can breed. In Asia we still have a "buzz" within relationships; a healthy "I want to know" attitude. Let's keep this alive in the best ways possible, and take it along with us as a value of concern to nurture us.