Oh baby, no baby!
At a get-together, all the kids huddle around Monisha and play a game which other adults find difficult to enjoy. Each child takes turns, runs around the house taking a particular route and somewhere along the journey, a shape emerges. As a child, Monisha played this game for hours. At 38, she prefers to spend her time with the children than sit around with the other women and discuss parties.
By evening all the seven children want Monisha to stay back, but she and her husband Anish Palshekar have to get home. They are both chatty during the drive. Ace of Spades, followed by some Judas Priest and Scorpions plays in the background. Meanwhile, the rest of the cousins still finishing dessert wonder why the Palshekars don't want their own children.
That decision was taken about 15 years ago, a few days before their marriage. "Neither have we regretted it, nor have we looked back," says Anish, an IAS officer with the Indian Railways. For this couple, not having a child was a basic and informed choice. "Why does everyone need to have a child of their own? There are so many children in India and people can adopt them. Also, we thought of the freedom we would have and decided not to have a child," he adds. Weekends and vacations are never quiet for the Palshekars. "We are consumed by the lineup of things that are playing in Mumbai, which we want to catch," says Monisha. "I have to say that the freedom we have is something we really cherish."
Not surprisingly, the Palshekars always stay at a show till the curtains drop or the credits roll, while most of their friends rush home to be with their children. But it would be wrong to think of them as selfish. For, Anish has given years of his life teaching street children and Monisha, even today, works with women and children in India's hinterland.
These two are part of India's rising population of DINKs (Double Income No Kids). Time was when having a kid - or three - was the norm. And a childless couple, a rarity. If at all there was a pair that didn't have a kid, friends and family were sure there was, "some problem". Not anymore. In the new India, people are childless by choice. And the stigma attached to the concept is slowly wearing off.
Forty-five year-old Dipshita Singh, a scientist, points to children running around naked in the slums and says, "When you don't have your own children, you feel every child is yours. It's not something I want to say so I sound good. But my husband and I have been able to reach out to a lot of children." For the Singhs, opting to not have children was a decision taken jointly after they realised that there were too many conflicts one had to tackle in life. "We didn't want someone to come into this world to live that tough life," she offers by way of explanation. But the Singhs rarely do things just by themselves. "Our concept of a family is not represented by a Maruti car: the husband and wife in the front and two children in the back. For us, family is about my husband and my parents and his and our brothers and sisters, and their children too."