Living apart to stay together


Lord of Penmai
Jul 5, 2011
Living apart to stay together

When Sukanya Rajesh got married a few years ago, she lived with her in-laws for a few months before she and her husband went abroad. A couple of years later, they returned to Chennai for good. But this time round, the young couple decided to set up home close to their parents rather than live with them. "It was a conscious decision," says 29-yearold Sukanya. "My parents and parents-in-law live in the same city and we could have lived with either of them but we wanted our privacy and independence."

However, they chose a place close to both sets of parents. And, while her in-laws may have had some reservations initially, the arrangement worked out well. "I can drop off my two-year-old daughter with them when I go shopping. And we help our parents, taking them to the doctor when they are ill."

Like Sukanya, more people across the city are opting for this kind of living arrangement as it helps couples care for their ageing parents while having their own space. S Krishnamurthi got his father, K Sivaraman, to move into a nearby apartment in the same complex in R A Puram after Sivaraman began falling ill frequently. "When I got married, we tried living together. But we felt we were getting into each other's space," he says.

Though Sivaraman lived in Kotturpuram on his own, as years passed, his health began to fail. "We began looking out for an apartment to rent in our complex and he moved in a few years ago," says 47-year-old Krishnamurthi.

Today, they have a comfortable living arrangement. "My father-in-law joins us for all meals," says Durga Krishnamurthi. "While we try not to impose on him, he enjoys spending time with o u r d a u g h t e r Vasundhara." For the elderly, having their children close by is a source of great moral and emotional support. "I like having my own space and usually spend my time watching TV and listening to music," says Sivaraman. "But it is nice to know that my son and family are close by. Earlier, he often had to rush home to take me to hospital. It is a good arrangement if you can afford it."

Living in close proximity helps people enjoy the benefits of a joint family while leading independent lives. In Anuradha Seshadri's house, four generations get together under one roof on weekends. She lives on the second floor of an apartment block in Alwarpet while her father lives on the first floor. "When my mother passed away last year, I asked him to live with us, but he prefers to have his space," says 62-year-old Anuradha. "But we visit each other every day and, on weekends, when my daughter visits me with her five-year-old, we have a lot of fun."

Her father, S Srinivasan, who turns 90 this December, is content to live with a housekeeper who has been with the family for 30 years. "He often tells me that you need only two things when you are old - financial and moral support. And he has both," says Anuradha.

Counsellors, however, say that while such living arrangements are getting to be common, it has its pros and cons. "It is convenient for both parties. But sometimes, aged parents feel that they spend too many hours babysitting. And couples don't like their parents interfering in the
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