Procreation was the purpose of male-female bonding, and what kept the world going. Now, increasingly, having kids is not a priority. So, what’s going on?
Over a lazy winter afternoon last month, I was having a chat with one of Delhi’s most adored fashion designers, famous for très chic couture and tantalising conversations. The topic was children and our society’s unending obsession with ensuring married couples get to work soon enough and it slowly meandered into lamenting how this obsession somehow hasn’t evolved into telling those couples what to expect when they’re expecting. “It’s quite a sight to see hapless parents trying to handle a crying baby in a public place. Neither of them has a clue and the child just doesn’t stop howling. That’s why, perhaps, so many couples are choosing to not have children!”
His matter-of-fact comment was so surprising, I had to take a moment to process it. After all, we the people are obsessed with hum do, humaare do: it’s the perfect Indian family picture — husband and wife standing proud with their two kids — to which we’ve all been taught to aspire.
So when did these hum do decide they’re happy staying just that? Turns out, the signs were there for a while; just that some of us didn’t pay close attention.
India’s fertility rate is steadily declining. 5.2 children per woman in 1971 it was down to 2.2 in 2017. And the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, in its 2020 report, has already predicted that India will see one of the most dramatic declines in population in the coming years. Clearly, young Indians don’t see the point of procreating. On the other hand, an ASSOCHAM study, “Changing Consumption Patterns of Delhi”, revealed that child-free couples were actually high spenders when it comes to eating out, shopping, travelling, and so on.
“Why bother having kids? We’re both already struggling to manage our daily expenses!” I got this staunch reaction from Aditi (name changed), one half of a DINK (Double Income, No Kids) couple who works as a lifestyle editor with a fashion magazine in Mumbai. Married for over five years, she’s in no mood to give up the boardroom for babies and her husband is on the same page. It’s the same case with Ankur (name changed) and his wife, both lawyers in Bengaluru who’ve been married for 11 years and have never even bothered trying for a baby. “Just the school fees alone can ensure you never have money for much else. We’ve never been ready to bid goodbye to our lifestyle for 18 years!”
Those who have money seem to be interested in spending it only on themselves. Siddhant and Aayushi (names changed), both in their mid-thirties, are two of the most successful investment bankers in Mumbai and have never cared about having children. Their Instagram is filled
with exotic vacations, booze and brunches and a unique kind of bliss which comes, as Siddhant puts it, from being “free to stroll along without having to stroll a baby!”
Another key factor, believe it or not, is climate change. A lot of young couples fear leaving their kids behind in a world wreaked with environmental havoc. There are also those who fear the rapidly altering political climate as not conducive enough to raise a child. My friend, Surabhi (name changed), a marketing expert based in Delhi, has sworn to not have children. “Who knows what the world would look like in 20 years? I feel it’s selfish of adults to procreate at a time when nature and religion are both causing so much damage across the world.”
What about social and parental pressure, then? Or, feeling alienated among other couples with kids? One search on the internet and you’ll find plenty of groups arguing for a child-free life, if you’re looking for support or validation. Take, for instance, Childfree India. Launched in February 2019 by three Bengaluru-based anti-natalists, the group has amassed over 2,000 members.
An interesting irony, isn’t it? On the one hand, couples are resorting to IVF and surrogacy when they’re unable to conceive naturally, and there are the singles and homosexual couples who’d like to adopt or have kids through other means. And on the other hand, there are those perfectly- capable couples who’d rather drink champagne in Capri than have a child and pay for their education. The times we live in!
Thanks to the youth of today, New Delhi is now akin to New York. Packed with thriving careers and raging hormones with everyone doing their own thing and no rules applicable anymore. Don’t let that neighbourhood aunty or your nosey relative fool you — to procreate or not to procreate is entirely your call. Just keep your crying baby away from me on a flight, will you?
As for those of you who aren’t having kids because you stopped having sex with your spouse a while ago, well, I hear you but that’s for another time, right?
Who Am I?
Think of me as someone who knows the minds, hearts and bedrooms of the young Indian today. I have a social life across cities that allows me access to coveted parties, people and positions (pun absolutely intended!). Through this column, I aim to keep you abreast of how the young people of India go about their personal lives. I promise to keep it honest and to-the-point. No judgements, no prudishness.