We need families more than families need us

Being popular and surrounded by mere strangers doesn’t matter as much as being close to a handful of people you’ve known all your lives.

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By Jagdesh Singh | OPINION |

A cursory scan of the news these days can definitely be cause for distress for any sane person. There is a pandemic threatening sections of our society with complications and even death. The global and local economies are on the brink of collapsing under tremendous pressure bearing the weight of this pandemic. There are politicians living out dramas that can give Zee TV dramas a run for their money. Aggressive Conservatism is on the rise in every civilized society in the world. Systematic rioting attacking minorities based on race and religion in Delhi, the capital of the world’s biggest democracy, is nothing but mere news snippets that you see on the news or social media.

Many of us are suffering from fatigue just trying to emotionally keep up with the news. I can’t even muster any emotions to elicit outrage on any level reacting to this news. There’s only so much that we can digest, and only so much that we can relate to because we’ve got our own problems ourselves. Quite often, we feel so lonely trying to adjust our footing in this whirlwind of emotions reacting to everything happening around us and with us. This sense of loneliness can be daunting sometimes. And apparently, detrimental to our longevity.

I had recently chanced upon a Ted Talk on this very topic – longevity. In one study, it was noted that the most single important ingredient for a healthy long life is relationships that we build and grow in our lives. This particular study had observed the lives of men since in their early teenage lives over a period of 70 years. Many have died, but the ones surviving are still providing data.

One conclusion from the study is that it’s not the number of relationships that matter, but the quality of relationships. In other words, being popular and surrounded by mere strangers doesn’t matter as much as being close to a handful of people you’ve known all your lives. I translate this to being close to your family, and having a circle of loved ones beyond the nucleus of our family.

I’m not old enough to have the wisdom that would allow me to validate the conclusion of this study. I guess I’m midway towards the age that I would categorize as the wise age. However, through fortunate circumstances, there are a few people within this age category that still impart their words of wisdom upon me whenever they get a chance. They include my father and my uncle.

I’ve observed that they’ve mellowed down considerably, and appreciate anything that propagates familial behavior. Behaviors such as meeting up for some company, celebrating life and holidays together as often as possible, or just having a phone conversation to talk about family matters. There is a genuine appreciation to keep the circle of family members close, the relationships strong and healthy, and overlook past burned bridges.

You can also see this appreciation take precedence over the more menial and depressing news. You can see them thrive from enjoying the company of their family members. Almost to the point where nothing else matters, not the politics, not the pandemic, not the economy, but making sure that their relationships with family are alive and well to sustain them in their twilight years.

Recently, the 3rd generation of my family arranged for a short prayer of thanks and a simple lunch as an excuse for us all to meet up. What was more pleasantly surprising, wasn’t so much that we cousins can have a laugh together over good food, but that the generation before us, the uncles and aunties, absolutely loved witnessing the camaraderie before their eyes. Not all families can get along, not all families are free from internal problems and arguments, but all families can provide the platform for us to having meaningful and useful relationships for our sanity. We just have to try to tolerate and celebrate amongst ourselves more, as a family.

Jagdesh Singh, a Kuala Lumpur-based executive with a US multinational company, is a father of three girls who are as opinionated as their mother

* This is the opinion of the writer, organisation or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Asia Samachar.

 

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