The families who dine together, stay together

Updated: Feb 03, 2019, 10:43 IST | Aastha Atray Banan

In an age when meals are consumed in front of the TV, four families that dine together share what it takes to eat and converse - even if it means Skyping a member

The families who dine together, stay together
Pic/Sayyed Sameer Abedi

In a world where Netflix, phones and diets take precedence over family, eating even one meal together has become a rare occurrence. Taking out that time to talk about the day, sharing your problems and seeking solutions has been reduced to WhatsApp family groups, most active for sending memes. The two reasons eating by your self could be considered negative are, because firstly it's lonely and alienating, and secondly, you could be eating less healthy when not sharing a meal.

In fact, research into the subject has shown that children who ate meals with their parents, were less likely to have problems with drugs and alcohol, would eat healthier, and show better academic performance. But, even in the time of constant availability of technology, some families are managing to keep the tradition of a meal together alive. We manage to find four, who not just tell us how they do it, but also how this one habit can change their life for good.

Pic/Sameer Markande
Pic/Sameer Markande

'It's a time to listen to our daughter'
Family: Shradha Singh, Pankaj Dubey and Saanvi
Meal Time: Post-dinner milk meal
Both Shradha Singh, a media professional, and her husband, writer Pankaj Dubey, are on diets that make sure they have eaten their last meal much before 8.30 pm, the time they finally meet their 10-year-old daughter Saanvi after a long day. And so, they share glasses of milk and dry fruits before she goes to sleep at 9.30 pm at their Andheri home. "Since we need that 'us' time, we have created this little pocket for ourselves. We catch up on the day - our daughter tells us what happened at school and Pankaj and I try and offer solutions to any problems she faced. This is 'listening' time," says Singh. Dubey and Singh picked up this habit from their own parents growing up, who insisted that meal times were together. "You know in Mumbai, time just goes by, and it's important to pause it. These 45 minutes do that for us."

Mahendra, Hetal, Jaya and Akshal

'Sometimes, mom entices me with pizza'
Family: The Choksis -Mahendra, Hetal, Jaya and Akshal
Meal Time: Dinner
For 20-year-old Akshal Choksi, dinner serves as a time when everyone talks about the day. "Mostly, we share our problems and then others on the table try and offer solutions," he says. Dad Mahendra, who works in the jewellery sector, talks about even small things such as who came over to the office, while mother Hetal talks of the goings on at the temple she frequents. As he has grown up now, he misses the meal twice a week as he may be going out with his friends. "I hate dal-roti, so my mother and granny entice me with homemade pizza."

'We even fight on table'
Family: The Talims - Madhuri, Dipti, Gauri, Rekha, Anitkumar and Henry
Meal Time: Dinner
Dinner time is extremely important to Chembur resident Madhuri Talim and her family - mother Dipti, father Anitkumar, elder sister Gauri, grandmother Rekha and dog Henry - because it's the only time that all the members get together and talk to each other peacefully. "This is also the only time that we get to spend with my grandmother and make our presence felt to her since all of us are out the whole day. We also try to video call my elder sister who is working in the States during this time, so that the whole family gets a chance to be together. I think my dog Henry also enjoys this because he gets to interact with all of us," says Talim.

The family has its WhatsApp group but feels real communication is necessary, where they discuss issues they have wanted to tell each other throughout the day. Topics include career, the importance of living a good life, and even heavier subjects like being morally correct. "We even fight on the table, as there are times when one or more of us are extremely drained after a long day at work, and this leads to silly quarrels. But sometimes, these arguments are just healthy discussions where we get to understand every family member's point of view," she says. Ask them what their favourite meal, which everyone looks forward to is, and the answer comes swiftly. "We love authentic Maharashtrian non-vegetarian food (mutton biryani, prawn curry, prawn rice, etc.) which mom makes. I would also like to add that as my parents have been working since my sister and I were kids, and that's why dinner time forms a crucial part of our lives. It's only while answering these questions do I realise its immense importance!"

Pic/Sayyed Sameer Abedi
Pic/Sayyed Sameer Abedi

'Eating together has helped me bond with my mom-in-law'
Family: The Modis - Jawahar, Leena, Takshila and Nikhil
Meal Time: Dinner
Before her wedding a year ago, Takshila Modi was not accustomed to eating a proper meal on a table. "In my house, if you were hungry, you cooked and ate yourself," she says. But at her Gujarati sasural, it's a more busy affair. Dentist husband Nikhil, sonologist father-in-law Jawahar and mother-in-law Leena have lunches together as well, as the men troop home to King's Circle, Matunga. But Takshila only sees them at dinner time and on weekends. "The meals are proper thalis - there will be dal, chawal, sabji, salad... the works. For dinners, we also try and have dosas and uttapams. Sometimes everyone has different things. I may have soup and salad, and my father-in-law eats everything without spice. My mom-in-law asks us our preference every morning." The only time they fight is when uttapams are made, and one person is not on the table as they are preparing it in the kitchen so that they are served hot. "My husband hates it, as everyone is not together. He gets up to make it for me and my mom-in-law," she smiles. These dinners have to be attended even if members of the family are fighting. "There are times when my husband and mom-in-law are not even talking, as they have had an argument, but still everyone sits together. For me, it has helped me bond with my mother-in-law, even though I have only been in the house for one year."

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