Wednesday 14 September 2016

Surrogacy Debate Fuels Stigma Against Infertility by Amrita Nandy

Conversations around surrogacy and other assisted reproductive technologies feed into an age-old assumption: that a woman must be a mother.

Sharda, 35, who is a first time surrogate mother, rests inside the temporary home for surrogate mothers provided by Akanksha IVF center in Anand town, about 70 km (44 miles) south from the western Indian city of Ahmedabad August 21, 2013. Credit: Reuters/Mansi Thapliyal
Representative image. Credit: Reuters/Mansi Thapliyal
The dust is settling after the storm over the commercial surrogacy Bill. Clearly, the cabinet committee got the brief quite wrong – they were meant to regulate, not strangulate, surrogacy. As a result, doctors are upset that this ‘kill bill’ will tear into their booming practice and guarded surrogate hostels. Those who desire to have children via surrogacy are anxious about finding a “close relative” after years of evading relatives. The surrogates are concerned about losing their livelihood, despite the many medical risks involved. Many are disappointed with the Bill’s unabashed heterosexism and exclusions, among others.
Yet, the recent wave of support for commercial and altruistic surrogacy has leapfrogged a fundamental issue – our denigration of infertility and its link with ARTs, or assisted reproductive technologies, such as surrogacy. It is relevant to flag this because while motherhood is every woman’s right, it cannot be allowed to make non-motherhood an indignity.
Unfortunately, debates on surrogacy, including the present one, continue to start from and orbit around everything but our meaning-making of infertility (the inability to have biological children). In tune with our deeply pro-natalist sensibilities, we associate infertility with abnormality and then unquestioningly accept it as dreadful, as if it is an awful disease we need to rid ourselves of. This pervasive understanding has a highly detrimental impact on those who are unable to procreate. Among other outcomes of infertility, heartaches happen and marriages totter, often in silence. The suffering of childless women has been the pith of ancient mythological tales, daily news and contemporary soaps and cinema.
Innumerable research studies recount childless women’s experiences of shame. Such is the sanctity and righteousness of parenthood that not only do the so-called infertile see their lack as a big failure, even the voluntarily childless can be made to feel humiliation. Of late, fears have been expressed that a ban on commercial surrogacy will encourage the illegal baby trade. However, a deeper look reveals that both the illegal baby trade as well as surrogacy are manifestations of the obsessive value we place on parenthood.
ARTs also have a direct hand in fuelling stigma against those who are unable to have biological children. The whole narrative of the ART industry is premised on the immense trauma and meaninglessness of the childless life. By tapping into and circulating these recitals of pain and desperation of the childless, the ART industry fuels demand for treatment but in the process also reinforces the slur that is childlessness. It is a stigma that often forces women into accepting physically invasive, emotionally straining and exorbitantly priced treatments.
Of course the ART industry is not alone in propagating messages of the mother as the ‘complete’ woman. Religion has been a traditional cheerleader for procreation. Of late, politicians from the ruling party have joined the bandwagon by asking women to bear as many children as possible. This reveals the criticality of the project of reproduction for the multiple stakeholders it has. By supporting the societal demand for women to be mothers and glorifying motherhood, ARTs further stoke our discomfort around infertility.
Another objectionable aspect of ARTs is their emphasis on biological and genetic parenthood. By endorsing genetic links between the parent and child as natural and ideal, they market ideas that are essentialist. The desire to have a child who carries one’s DNA, skin colour, physical features and so on and therefore belongs to the parents is a retrograde notion. ARTs exploit these dated definitions of parenthood for its own profits and boosts arguments against more humane and inclusive options such as adoption.
Against a backdrop as fraught as this, the medical community continues to project ARTs as the ideal panacea for infertility. Meanwhile, blinded by the ray of hope that ARTs offer, we fail to recognise the trauma of childlessness as a self-inflicted wound, created by our own procreative imperatives. This is an apt moment to think critically about whether ARTs are helping or harming us? They may address medical infertility, but do they not aggravate its social and cultural symptoms?
The huge success of ARTs seems to foreclose public conversations on infertility. These may help us imagine new and positive tropes that make life without children as profound as one with them, and as tied to nurturing, commitment and caring. Is it not possible that our craving for a child is a manifestation of other deeper needs? After all, rising above and beyond the moh of relationships and their promises is also part of the “cultural ethos” that external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj spoke of. Maybe that will steer us towards a nuance, so we can stop being the victims of our own narratives.
Amrita Nandy is a social scientist and writer.

Tuesday 26 April 2016

A Peek Into Censorship

We know we said previously that we will censor all comments that this blog regularly receives as they often tend to be hostile and obscene. But we realize now that this may not be completely wise. We, as Suchismita Dasgupta  said ( , after all are the new gay!! So why not also chronicle the reactions of those opposed?
Alas most of the gems were deleted in disgusted haste. Just very few managed to escape our notice and are being presented here to provide some entertainment and an insight into what kind of junk we routinely deal with. To authors whose names appear in the comments, please don't mind- or if you do please write in on and we will promptly remove the offending comment.
Have fun! surprises me when a bunch of sex crazy lazy bums feel proud and consider themselves to be of an elite league by being childless..Most of you are what you are because you are into cuckolding,partner swapping,group sex orgies and/or have impotent partners. on Childless by Divine Protection! By Kim Menier

on 03/04/16

You became mental because you indulged in too much sexual felt your sexual orgies will be affected by having a child.shame on you on Childfree by Choice- Indrani Mukherjee ((Published in Tehelka Magazine, Volume 12 Issue 40, Dated 3 October 2015)) 
Ravi Banerjee
on 01/04/16
so you want to marry just for sex.shame on you..I think you are impotent.You are trying to hide the fact by proclaiming you want to be child free. on Being CFC- A Man's Perspective - Abhishek Purohit
on 08/07/15

Most of CFC couples here are big time into swinging and cuckolding.hope you guys dont get ebola,aids,gonorrohea and syphilis on Though I am all for childfree life, at times it scares me ....
on 20/11/14

Ravi Raj
on 09/11/14

I am doing a social service for child free couples.Hi, I am Sandeep, hot, handsome, 6 feet height, athletic body with fat long cock. I am looking for girls/ladies for all kinds of sex funs. I can indulge in all kind of sex funs that females like and you will feel the orgasm that you never had in your life. Bi-sexual guys/gay/homos please stay away, dont waste your time. Contact me on 8050380357, or just mail me on rahulmj03 at gmail Thanks on Though I am all for childfree life, at times it scares me ....
on 01/11/14
The fact is female who opt for a CFC lifestyles are lazy immoral and loose character females.they should buy carrot ,radish or better drum stick than getting married on To The Women Who Choose Not To Have Kids- Abby Rosmarin
on 21/09/14
You should have really married a dog to live such a doggy life. You think she is a great intellectual but in reality her intellectual level is same as the polka 'dog' on When you get asked the same question again and again and again…..
on 08/09/14
CFC couples should be castrated with hot iron rod so that they never get the feeling to have sex.CFC couples should be fired from their jobs and they should not be allowed to own any land on To The Women Who Choose Not To Have Kids- Abby Rosmarin
on 23/08/14
I want to know what is the favorite birth control technique used by CFC couples on The Curious Case Of Vimalsha

Indian women who are choosing to be child-free by Divya Arya.


An increasing number of Indian women are choosing not to have children in a country where motherhood is revered, reports BBC Hindi's Divya Arya.
Anjana Kumar has been married for more than nine years years now and does not have a child.
But that hasn't deterred her parents from giving her traditional herbs "to help her conceive" because they still cannot believe her decision to remain childless.
Ms Kumar, 37, does not feel that the absence of a child has made her an incomplete woman.
"Frankly, I think motherhood is overrated. It may be joyous, but it's also a big long-term responsibility that I could never prepare myself for," she says.
Ms Kumar is among a growing number of women who are choosing not to have children in the world's second most populous country where motherhood is glorified in society, literature and films.
An Indian scholar once wrote that the "apotheosis of motherhood has reached a greater height in India than anywhere else".
Opting out is not easy for women in a country which, in 2011, had a total fertility rate of 2.5, only slightly higher than the replacement rate. It is also a country where more than 200 mothers also die out of every 100,000 live births ever year, and an infant accounts for every sixth death.

'Barren woman?'

Leading feminist-writer Urvashi Butalia, who is single, examined the dilemma of an Indian woman who opts out of motherhood in a searing essay earlier this year.
"How often have we heard that a couple is childless, that a woman who cannot bear a child is defined as barren. Why should this be? I did not make a choice not to have children, but that's how my life panned out.
"I don't feel a sense of loss at this, my life has been fulfilling in so many other ways. Why should I have to define it in terms of a lack? Am I a barren woman? I can't square this with what I know of myself."
Image caption Preet Rustagi says she opted out of motherhood because her schedules left her with little time to look after a child
But as Anurag Bishnoi, who runs a fertility clinic in northern India, says, "women earn respect in India by fulfilling two responsibilities - bearing children and feeding the family".
He says there has been a 30-40% increase in couples aged above 45 seeking fertility treatment at his clinic since it began in 2000.
"The desire to have one's own child is paramount and overrides everything else despite the high risks associated with late births induced through fertility treatment," he says.
So how do women like Anjana Kumar create space for themselves in a society which values motherhood so much?
She was born and brought up in a small city in the eastern state of Jharkhand. But studying and working in the cosmopolitan Indian capital, Delhi, changed everything.
"Now I am in charge of my life. I live it on my terms, and that doesn't include motherhood. And I know the decision to become a mother will change a lot of things," she says.
"I will have to quit my job, will have to curtail my travel and will probably have very little time for myself."
But such utterances can often invite ridicule and she is often described as "irresponsible".


"People get so judgmental. I take care of my parents, my career and my house. Whenever there is a crisis, I don't turn to my brother, I behave like an equal and figure things out myself. So, how can I be called irresponsible only for not wanting a child's responsibility?" she asks.
Preet Rustagi, a Delhi-based researcher with the Institute of Human Development, believes that she is being a "very responsible" woman by opting out of motherhood.
"People don't think before deciding to have children, about the kind of childhood they can provide, about how much time they can spend with the child, increasingly they just rely on helpers and maid servants to bring up their children."
Ms Rustagi, 46, says she and her economist husband were never in a situation to give a fulfilling childhood to their child, and hence decided to not have one.
"We didn't want the child to be lonely. And it wasn't like we were completely bereft of the joy of parenting. A lot of our friends are working couples like us and their children have lived with us enough for us to have a special bond with them."
Image caption Janaki Abraham adopted a two-year-old girl after eight years of marriage
Janaki Abraham, 47, married eight years ago and decided to not have a biological child. In August, she adopted a two-year-old baby girl.
A teacher of sociology at Delhi University, she says not having a biological child was a conscious decision.
"I never wanted a gun to my head in terms of missing the biological age for having a child. I wanted to have the choice to wait till I felt confident financially and professionally to raise a child."
Ms Abraham says she really likes the idea of giving a home to children who are orphaned.
"Even when I was single, I wanted to adopt, I never wanted to experience motherhood in terms of giving birth but always looked forward to the idea of watching a child grow."

'Happy with choice'

Amrita Nandy, an academic researching motherhood and choice, believes that girls in India are brought up to look up to marriage and motherhood as the big inevitable goal in life.
"Most women who decide to remain childless tend to be highly educated, urban, English-speaking professionals," she says.
Over the last three years, she has interviewed more than 50 women in Delhi who have opted out of the motherhood, and met many more.
"Traditionally, motherhood is considered to be the most fulfilling aspect of a woman's life, but class and education opens up horizons for women to see that there are many more ways of finding meaning and purpose in life."
Ms Nandy said that most women she spoke to had faced some sort of stigma or barbed comments from friends, family and acquaintances for their decision.
But the fact that they had been able to exercise that choice was because some support existed in their immediate social circle.
"Interestingly, all the women I met were happy with the choice they had made."
"They look back and tell me that their lives are more enriched, dynamic and fulfilling and that given a second chance, they will not live them any other way."

Here’s Why More And More Married Indian Women Are Choosing To Remain Child-Free by Manimanjari Sengupta

( source : Jan 07, 2016 at 22:09
The Indian society is one that is intricately woven with threads of traditions, values and culture. A culture that is impregnated with the notion of the 'ideal family'. A culture that reveres, and glorifies motherhood. 
For a majority of the female population in our country, the Indian dream amounts to finding the perfect life partner, making babies and looking after them. In India, for the longest time, a woman's worth has for the most part been determined in terms of her home-making skills and her ability to bear a heir to the family she is married into. 

Source: tumblr

The Indian society deems that motherhood is a woman's destiny, the only way a woman's being can be rendered whole.

We women have thrived in the inherently patriarchal setup for decades now, fitting into the mould of the ideal bharatiya naari. Of course, there is no denying the fulfilment that comes along with being a mother, building a beautiful, functional family. But as more and more women are becoming financially independent, with the onset of the modern-traditional dichotomy, a large number of women are breaking out from the status quo. 

Married Indian women, in harmony with their partners, are making the informed, well thought out decision of opting out of motherhood. 


Being child-free is a reality for married women in India today, and the reasons cited for this seemingly drastic measure within the Indian setup are indicators of an empowered mindset.

Child Free by Choice India is a blog that chronicles the accounts of Indians who choose to remain childless, connecting people with similar experiences, and initiating discussions on a variety of topics like "being pro-choice, the social stigma, fear of old age and even loneliness". It is a refreshing, emancipating movement that has been brewing in the nation. 
Featured on the blog is Indrani Mukherjee's account (originally published in Tehelka Magazine), where she says "For urban middle class couples, having children is no longer a must. Women are unwilling to carry the burden alone and find happiness without the patter of little feet."

Amidst the stigma, shame and raised eyebrows that this decision to remain childless draws, urban women cite a variety of reasons to steer clear of motherhood. And considering motherhood to be a hindrance of one's career is not the central reason that triggers this resolution.

Source: gulfnews

In a report published by The Hindustan Times, social scientist Amrita Nandy, who wrote a paper titled Outliers of Motherhood, broke down some of the reasons cited by women to remain childless. “Most were driven by concerns about the ecology and cultural environment, put off by high levels of pollution, consumption, materialism and crime. They all wondered why they should bring another human into this mess”, she says.
In the same report, family counsellor Gauri Dange was quoted to say “As we move towards a more individualistic society, with more nuclear families, the decision to have children is no longer made by the extended family, but by the couple. In the past few years, what it takes to raise a child has been defined,and there are enough women who just don’t want to do it.”

Source: jamiesparrothelp

“To my mind, motherhood feels like a form of bondage, in that there is so much responsibility, guilt and emotion that you are in danger of losing your logical self,” says Mumbai based marketing executive Nandita Mahadevia. 
“I want the freedom to work on myself,” she adds. “I used to sing as a child, and I would like to pursue formal vocal training. I want to learn new things, pursue a PhD in mythology, maybe eventually teach it someday. Knowing me, every time I had to give a passion up for a child, I would probably end up resenting him or her.”

What needs to be realized is the fact that these women have taken charge of their own lives, defining their own purpose and setting their own standards of fulfilment, without blindly conforming to what society deems appropriate.

Another crucial factor that comes into play when it comes to bearing a child is that it needs to be a well thought out decision. Speaking to Amrita Mukherjee for her blog AmritaSpeaks, Suchismita Dasgupta, a Calcutta-based costume designer highlighted an inherent problem associated with bearing children that modern millennial couples often face.
"Everyone should have a reason to have a child. A child should not just ‘happen’ to you because that’s the way you have known things to ‘happen’. Some of my friends and acquaintances have given birth to a ‘bandaid’ child; they gave birth because they think the child will save their relationship", she says.


It is time we widen our horizons and appreciate the fact that women have the right to exercise their choice of not having children. 

If a couple mutually decide against having kids, or a single woman chooses to opt out of motherhood, instead of writing them off as anomalies, it is pertinent we understand that motherhood is not the only means of deriving gratification in life as a woman.
In closing, Urvashi Buthalia's words as they appeared in liveMint resonate the truth of what it feels like to choose to be a child-free modern Indian woman:
"So what do we have in the end? The ‘naturalness’ of motherhood? The ‘curse’ of childlessness? A life filled with lack, with loss of what might have been? Or just another way of living?", she asks.


For these women, living their own life, without being responsible for another, is an active choice on their part to live a fulfilled life, a life of contentment, despite - or perhaps because of - being what is called ‘childless’

Going child-free: Indian women opting for lives without kids by Pankti Mehta Kadakia

( Source: Hindustan Times, New Delhi)

They call it ‘child-free’, actually. A growing number of women are opting for lives without children, despite opposition from parents and in-laws, because they want to focus on work, travel and pursuing their passions.

“To my mind, motherhood feels like a form of bondage, in that there is so much responsibility, guilt and emotion that you are in danger of losing your logical self.” Nandita Mahadevia, 28, Mumbai-based marketing professional.
“I don’t believe you have to bear a child to give it a mother’s love. We have so many nephews and nieces around that we don’t miss having a child of our own.” Manjuri Hazarika, 37, Delhi-based e-entrepreneur.
In India, where having a child has not traditionally been a matter of choice, there’s a growing number of women agreeing with Nandita and Manjuri. And, as Amrita Nandy has found, protecting their careers is often last on the women’s lists of reasons for staying childless.
Nandy, a social scientist and former Fox International Fellow at Yale University, wrote a 2013 paper titled ‘Outliers of Motherhood’, about being childfree in India. She is now in the final stages of a book on the subject. “I have spoken to scores of women, and many think of it more as being ‘childfree’ — or free to not have children,” says Nandy. “Most were driven by concerns about the ecology and cultural environment, put off by high levels of pollution, consumption, materialism and crime. They all wondered why they should bring another human into this mess.”
To varying degrees, there is still shame, stigma, awkwardness or silence around the issue of remaining child-free, Nandy says.“But as we move towards a more individualistic society, with more nuclear families, the decision to have children is no longer made by the extended family, but by the couple,” family counsellor Gouri Dange adds.
“In the past few years, what it takes to raise a child has been defined,” she adds, “and there are enough women who just don’t want to do it.”
In February, the matrimonial profile of Indhuja, a Bangalore-based interaction designer and self-professed ‘tomboy’, went viral. “My parents, concerned that I was ‘still’ unmarried, created a politically correct profile on a matrimonial site. Ticked off, I created a website of my own with the real details,” says the 24-year-old, who goes by only one name.

Indhuja Pillai, an app developer with a passion for biking, who has made a matrimonial website saying she is looking for a man who does not want children either. (Photography by Sathish V/ Hindustan Times)

‘…NOT a womanly woman… Won’t grow long hair, ever. Looking for: A man, preferably bearded, who is passionate about seeing the world. Someone who earns for himself and does NOT hate his job… NOT a family guy…’ her posting went. It has had 7.5 lakh views so far and Indhuja has meanwhile broken it to her parents that while she might marry, she will definitely not be giving them any grandchildren.
“I love biking long-distance, and I don’t want to be tied down by having a child to stay home for. I need to be able to take off for weeks, not knowing when I will come back,” she says. “If I did have a child, it wouldn’t be raised the way it was meant to be, and I don’t want that either.”
Indhuja laughingly adds that her parents, for the most part, understand and support her. “They keep asking if I’ve got any interesting suitors from the website and I tell them that if nothing works out, I can always marry my true love — my bike.”
Incidentally, the website has brought her 200 suitors but none exceptional enough to make her break her rule about not meeting guys online.
Suchismita Dasgupta, 41, is a busy costume designer who loves to travel. “I move around a lot for work, and I enjoy it. I also take at least two holidays a year — one of them at least a month long,” she says. “I socialise a lot, meeting friends for beers after work nearly every day, as I wait for my husband to get home.”

Costume designer Suchismita Dasgupta at her Kolkata office on December 30, 2015. (Photo by Samir Jana/ Hindustan Times)

Dasgupta and her husband have been married eight years and been together for ten, and through that time have periodically revisited their discussions about not having children. “It’s a decision we’ve never regretted,” Suchismita says.
They married relatively late — she was 33, he was 39 — so most of their friends and cousins had already had kids, and Suchismita says seeing the sacrifices involved in parenting cemented their decision. “I’ve always loved kids. I’m a favourite aunt. But I don’t fancy the idea of putting my life on hold,” Suchismita says. “Right now I can decide to pack my bags and go away for the weekend, or unwind after a hard day’s work with friends, without having to worry about school, homework or exams; without feeling guilty about doing what I want for myself.”
For the couple, another factor was the rising incidence of crimes against children. “I can’t imagine having to worry all the time that your children might not come home safe,” she says. “In its current form, the world doesn’t feel like a safe place for children.”
Marketing executive Nandita Mahadevia, 28, had always wondered whether she was cut out for motherhood. In early 2015 she married her boyfriend of two years, 32-year-old businessman Aditya, and the idea that she might become a mother suddenly became very real. Too real, she says.

Nandita pose in Andheri, Mumbai. (Photo by Satish Bate/ Hindustan Times)

That’s when she decided to admit to herself, her husband and her parents that it was just not something she wanted. “To my mind, motherhood feels like a form of bondage, in that there is so much responsibility, guilt and emotion that you are in danger of losing your logical self,” she says.
Mahadevia adds that she wouldn’t want to outsource parenting to grandparents. “And I want the freedom to work on myself,” she adds. “I used to sing as a child, and I would like to pursue formal vocal training. I want to learn new things, pursue a PhD in mythology, maybe eventually teach it someday. Knowing me, every time I had to give a passion up for a child, I would probably end up resenting him or her.”
It hasn’t been easy convincing her husband, she admits, but she managed by adding to her own arguments the one that the world is too complicated and dangerous — with its terrorism, sexual crimes and environmental messes — to bring a new life into.
“What really tipped the scales for Aditya was that photo in September of the dead Syrian refugee child washed ashore in Turkey,” she says. “We still haven’t discussed the subject with his parents, and my parents keep trying to coax me to change my mind. But I am clear that I don’t want kids. And my husband now says he cannot imagine bringing a new life into a world like this.”
Two years ago, we were almost bankrupt,” says Manjuri Hazarika, 37, who runs an e-commerce portal in Delhi and married a marketing manager three years ago. “We married late, and we were both still struggling with our careers. The decision to not have children has, for us, been a practical and joint one.”
Most of Manjuri’s relatives and friends are well-settled. She worries that if they had a child, the little one would not have the privileges that other children in their circle do. “We have so many nieces and nephews that we do not miss having children,” she adds. “Also, my work, with a company that is still at the fledgling stage, needs almost as much patience as raising a baby would. Eventually, we plan to sponsor the education of underprivileged children so as to do our bit — but we definitely don’t want to have any of our own.”
While Manjuri’s parents are deceased, her in-laws are not too happy with the decision. “They don’t like the idea, so we don’t discuss it. There’s always been a communication gap with them, because we are from different cultures and schools of thought,” she says. “I may not be able to explain the reasons to them, but I make my own decisions, and have a husband who supports me. My husband and I have faced many hardships together, so we can handle the pressure.”

“Why I choose to be childfree” – Suchismita Dasgupta

( Source ) Posted: August 17, 2015

“… I think that childfree by choice is the new gay. We’re the new disenfranchised group. People think we’re irresponsible, immoral sluts and that our lifestyle is up for debate.”
Suchismita Dasgupta wrote this on her Facebook wall a few days back. I was not surprised though. She is someone who has always spoken her mind and not always done exactly what society expected her to do. That is why Suchismita, though happily married, has decided not to be a mother.
In this post Suchismita, in her inimitable bold style, has penned her thoughts on being childfree in Indian society:
What’s a good reason to have a child?
Yes, it’s a bit tiring! I got married at 33 and have been hearing since I was 23 when am I going to get married? Then around 30, if I don’t get married now then when will I have kids? Then 7 years after getting married, I am still told ‘but you will make such a wonderful mother’ or ‘you will miss them when you are older’ or ‘it is so selfish not to have a child’ or ‘who will look after you when you are old?’. It has always made me wonder are these reasons good enough to have a child when you and your partner do not want one?
My masseuse came today for the first time. Yes I am 41 and till now didn’t think massage was important. Anyway coming back to the point, she asked me my age etc. and then children? When I replied that I don’t have any her next question was ‘naoni na hoyni’, literally translated it means, you haven’t taken one or it didn’t happen???!!!
How can a child just “happen”?
I find this word ‘happen’ extremely infuriating. In India everything seems to be happening to you. Marriage happens to you, child happens to you, misfortune happens to you and the list is endless. As if we are a bunch of reproduction machines, programmed to get married, consummate the same and reproduce. If you have not done any of them, then you are an irresponsible person bringing shame to the family.
Am I supposed to feel guilty for not having a maternal instinct?
I once had a conversation with a woman; she and her husband adopted a girl when she was about 40. This was soon after our marriage and she took it upon herself to tell me how important having children was. When I told her that I love children as long as they go back to someone else’s home, she said I was plain selfish, someone who doesn’t like children is not worth talking to. Now that suited me fine, I really didn’t care but it made me wonder how patriarchal and institutionalised this whole thought process was. I am sure there would be many (in my shoes) who would have felt guilty after this conversation for not having a lot of maternal instinct.
Suchismita in a Nextiles creation
Suchismita wearing her own design
It’s a well-thought out decision made by two people
In seven and a half years of marriage my husband and I both asked each other many times if the other really wanted a child and was not saying that because of the decision we took jointly and each time after a lot of discussion and deliberation the answer has remained the same. I still think to myself sometimes what if? But then I realise I am too settled in my life as it is right now; there’s no reason why I should change it! It might be for better or for worse but since I do not feel the urge to change it, I won’t do it and I don’t think I owe this to anyone either.
I think there should be a reason to have a child
Everyone should have a reason to have a child. A child should not just ‘happen’ to you because that’s the way you have known things to ‘happen’. Some of my friends and acquaintances have given birth to a ‘bandaid’ child; they gave birth because they think the child will save their relationship.
I feel instant pity for the poor child and the baggage it is born with. Added to this will be the pressure to perform and cope with the constant competition between the parents for attention.
A child is not born to fulfill dreams
Many parents want to fulfill their unfulfilled dreams through their children. I know someone who tells his two-year-old daughter that she has to become a doctor. I see parents treating their children like a talking doll. You go to their place, they call their children and ask them to show all the skills they have acquired. Who cares if the child hates to perform in front of strangers.
I am a doting aunt but can’t do this full time
I as an individual have no such personal crisis or future plans, in fact, I have no maternal instinct either (yeah go on call me a slut) and to be absolutely honest, I feel extremely settled and comfortable in the current state of being and I somehow don’t want to disturb that. My sudden motherhood rushes (like chocolate rush) are fulfilled by my absolute gorgeous nieces and nephews with whom I have a mutual adoration club. In fact, being a favourite aunt to many for the last 16 years, I realised, I cannot do it full time. So whilst being an aunt absolutely suits me, being a mother definitely doesn’t.
Why can’t a woman challenge social norms?
Our upbringing leads us to believe that women are the reproduction agents, who “must” look after children, home etc. We have enough books, films, television to support and coax you into that system. However the time has changed, we don’t think in terms of man and woman as genders anymore. It’s also about time we treat each other as individuals. I (a woman) as an individual may not want to give birth/adopt, breast feed/look after feeding, be woken up in the middle of night, or wake up the child in the morning to take to school. My choice, right?
Making a choice does not mean disregarding a system
Just like you don’t ask an individual (at least I should think you don’t), do you have a car? A bungalow? A pet dog? A Rolex watch? An M. F. Hussain painting? Don’t ask do you have a child? They are all pretty much a matter of choice and affordability.
At this point, I must apologise to some of you who might have been upset by the points I have picked up. That definitely wasn’t my intention. To me/us children have always been a matter of choice; the likes of us don’t believe that we must condone a system if we didn’t want to.
My choice comes with huge responsibility
To me this world has lost its story; and I must say I don’t think that this world deserves another new life, definitely not someone I will be bringing up. So let’s go back to the matter of choice. We all have a right to choose, like you choose to have a child, I choose not to have one. And to be honest this choice too comes with a huge responsibility. One day may be we will learn to respect that. Till then I live with hope.
About Suchismita:
If you have been raving about Sujoy Ghosh’s short film Ahalya then you should also know that Suchismita was the dress designer of the film. Not only that one she was the designer for Kahaani, and some of her designs were used in Parineeta. She was the winner of the Best Costume Award at Madrid International Film Festival 2013 for her work in the Bengali film Koyekti Meyer Galpo. Till date she was been the costume designer for more than two dozen films and one of the noted recent releases is Kadambari.

Footloose and fancy-free By Gauri Dange

(Source: The Hindu 26 Aug 2015)

Young, urban Indians are increasingly choosing not to have children. The writer talks about why this does not raise eyebrows anymore.

In the early 90s, a whole bunch of labels cropped up — from yuppies (for young, upwardly mobile professionals) and dinks (double income, no kids) to dinkers (dinks with early retirement) and dewks (dually employed with kids). But the people without children attracted a lot of judgment — they were accused of being Peter Pans, selfish, anti-family, career-obsessed, and so on.Those who had children did the judging, the ones without children did the justifying. On the other side, books like Selfish, Shallow, and Self-Absorbed: Sixteen Writers on the Decision Not to Have Kids provocatively talk about “taking the parent-centric, kid-fixated, baby-bump-patrolling culture to task”. Ironically, both thought of the other as selfish, shallow and self-absorbed.
The whole issue, particularly in the last decade or so, has emerged as a much more nuanced and layered social phenomenon rather than just another us-versus-them debate. Having children is increasingly being seen and accepted as a personal choice and choosing to not have children is not necessarily seen as odd or deviant behaviour.
Does this indicate that perhaps becoming a father or mother is not necessarily hardwired into our DNA and our psyche, as we believe? Or is it that changing social and family structures have impacted that hardwiring? Perhaps the dissolution of the joint family, the village, and the stable neighbourhood has forced some urban women to see how the complete and total responsibility for child-bearing and rearing now devolves only on them, in ways that they simply feel unequal to taking on. “I could not see myself doing it single-handedly, nor can I relate to a life where having a child means having either an entourage of maids or have your life taken over by a helpful mother or mother-in-law,” says Mrunal, a 37-year-old lawyer.
But the reasons for choosing not to have children, it emerges, are many. Rarely is the ‘I hate children’ blanket statement, ascribed to the childless-by-choice, a factor. In fact, many say that they love and respect children too much to simply bash on and have one without thinking. Anil, an academic in his 40s, says, “Quite early on, when I was 15 or so, I began to register that lots of adults around me seemed terribly unhappy with their spouses and their children. I heard so many complaints about loss of personal freedom and choices… I couldn’t understand why people put themselves through such hell if they felt this way.” Anil did marry, but he and his partner chose not to have children.
As did Pervin, a writer-editor in her early 30s. “I started really thinking about parenthood in my early 20s. The first step was the realisation that it was a choice, an option, not a default role or milestone. After that, the decision to stay childless seemed very natural and clear to me.”
Could this clarity of not wanting a child become a deal breaker if the spouse or partner wants to have children? For some people, it is something that they felt they must tell a partner upfront, as soon as the dating got serious; and it did, in fact, become a deal breaker for some. In the case of Azhar and Garima, 15 years into their marriage, Azhar began to get a nagging feeling that not having a baby was not quite the right decision and that he had been pushed into it by his partner’s vehemence on the subject. They decided to part ways, and Azhar went on to re-marry and have a child, late in life, to the criticism of some of his close family and friends. He, however, seriously asks: “If a woman wants to have children and her husband refuses, the whole world feels bad for her and talks about never denying a woman motherhood, etc. Is this not applicable to a man as well, who may feel a great urge for fatherhood at some time?”
For Pervin and her husband, the issue was discussed on and off in their dating years. “Having grown up with the standard assumption about the education-marriage-children progression, my husband hadn’t considered that parenthood was something that one might consciously stay away from. The more we talked about it though, the more he leaned towards a future without children.” Pervin clarifies, “My decision to not have children has nothing to do with my equation with children —it is about my equation with myself. In fact, instead of saying ‘I’ve decided not to have children’, it would be more appropriate to say ‘I’ve decided not to become a parent’.” Pervin works closely with children as a textbook writer and conducts workshops with them.
For software engineer Pallavi, the issue was not discussed with any seriousness when she was dating or in the early years of her marriage. She says, however, “When we watch the exhausting and demanding aspects of parenting our friends are going through, we say we just can’t put ourselves through that. And that’s how it continues till date (over eight years of marriage and over 10 since we got into a relationship). Whether I had a career or not, I would think the same way. I understand that people who are parents do still feel it is all worth it, and kudos to them. It’s just that I can’t do it.”
Young women who choose not to have children are often asked sharply, “So you think you want to just have fun forever. When will you grow up, then?” But this takes away from the fact that surely, having children is a different kind of fun too. Becoming a parent cannot be seen as a ‘grim reality’ to which we must all turn. But more than that, as Garima adds, “When you don’t have children, does that mean you are not a person who is dependable, and who commits to things? In fact, I do not have the luxury of the ‘children have exams’ or ‘need to take my child for coaching’ and similar excuses that I see parents putting up when they are required for other things. I have been there for ageing parents, an alcoholic brother’s family, and been present and willingly helpful in many friends’ crises. Does this sound like I have signed up for a life of fun and frolic by not having children?”
Madhavi, 61, is an architect and town-planner. She describes herself as being in the vanguard of the childless-by-choice movement. “In those days, it drew such sharp reactions. I remember being very defensive. If someone asked me about children, I would snap at them ‘We chose not to breed, and we are very happy, thank you, you can go ahead and have as many as you want.’ After some years, it didn't matter to me to make my position clear. Whether people thought you needed sympathy as you had not conceived, or people assumed you were just too career-minded and had ‘deprived’ your spouse of progeny, I learnt not to enter into protracted debate or clarifications.”
The surprising eye-opener for many such women is how their own mothers and other older women in the family respond in private about their decision to not have kids: “If I had had such an option, I don’t think I would have had any children either.” This is said, not with bitterness, but as a considered sentiment quietly confided.
One pro-parenting argument used to be that children would offer support in old age. As families become more nuclear and scatter far and wide, there is a growing realisation that this cannot be a deciding factor. There are enough examples all around of benign neglect by grown children of ageing parents, of active harassment, or of the sheer inability to be there for ageing parents in any active and physically present way that argues against thinking of children as a post-retirement plan. At any rate, ageing urban Indians who have children are also now planning how to live (physically, financially, emotionally) in their later years with systems that are built without their children being compulsorily involved.
At the end, though, do people who choose to remain childless have doubts or regrets sometimes? How do they deal with it? Anil perhaps explains this best when he says: “Sure, I have had regrets. But if I had children, you can be sure I would regret why I didn’t try a life without children. I regret the fact I can’t taste every kind of life there is to taste. But there is just this one life, and one must follow one’s instincts.”
The writer is a family counsellor and author of the upcoming book Always a Parent.