“Nobody, including the parents, can interfere in the couple’s married life if the two individuals are of legal age” – Allahabad High Court
All change is gradual, but when it comes to societal norms in India, it can be glacial. Take the question of progeny, for instance. It is still somewhat rare for married couples to actually stop and ask themselves (and each other) if they actually want kids. For most of them, the ‘yes’ is very obvious, almost a no-brainer. As such, any opinions to the contrary may almost seem too radical. Slow as it may be, however, change is coming.
Sudhir (name changed), a 36-year-old working professional, said, “I was 29 when I knew that I did not want kids. When my mother started forcing me to go on matrimonial meetups, I decided to be upfront about my ‘no kids’ philosophy with the girls I was meeting. More often than not, the interactions would stop right there. They would feel shocked that I did not want to be a father. The point I’m trying to underline here is not that they disagreed with me, but how it was a total deal-breaker for them. Till I met my wife, I thought my unwillingness to have children would be a permanent obstacle in my quest for a life partner.”
Glacial though it may be, the change is actually happening. At the stage where most couples are thinking of family planning, some are actually questioning the very premise of having children. And this brings us to the real question: is the previous generation ready to see the writing on the wall? Are they willing to accept that grandkids may not be an obvious and logical next step to seeing their kids get married and settle down? The answer to that may not be very encouraging to many.
The truth is that the influence of parents cannot be underestimated in Indian society, where they continue to play an important role in the lives of their offspring, well into adulthood and continuing post-marriage. Therefore, the real question is: will the couples who wish to remain childless actually be able to exercise this choice? If the recent media reports are any indication, that may prove to be a complicated endeavor.
A lawsuit was filed in Uttarakhand against a married couple, by the husband’s parents. The parents accused their son and daughter-in-law of denying them the joy of grandchildren, even after six years of marriage. The plaintiff Mr. S R Prasad (father) and his wife are not demanding compensation of INR 5 crores if the couple fails to produce an offspring within a year.
Arranged marriages are still more the norm in India, which may often result in an initial disconnect between the couple. For the previous generation, the most obvious solution is to have children, the theory being that the child will bring them closer. However, there is an uglier side to this: it is quite common for couples to be stuck in loveless marriages simply for the sake of the children.
“We’ve been blissfully married for the last five years and have a small, close-knit family. One of us would have to give up our career to raise the child at least for the initial years of the baby’s upbringing. This would force us to compromise on our way of life and the career milestone we hope to reach in the upcoming years,” says Sakshi.
The lifestyle adjustment that is needed to make a place for a child is something that most young couples are not willing to make, at least not right away. The challenge of convincing the families and finding acceptance in society is very real for most couples. But In recent times we have seen a change in this mentality of having kids immediately after marriage. Bollywood couple Saif Ali Khan and Kareena Kapoor planned not to have kids for the first 4 years of their marriage.
In addition to financial constraints, high levels of responsibility, and lack of family support, there are a lot of other reasons for choosing not to have children. Jatin and Reet, a working couple, have decided for the same reason not to have children after marriage.
“Today’s children are smarter than their parents (due to technology), so parenting is undoubtedly challenging. We already have busy lives and are devoted to our individual careers. We don’t believe we’ll be able to devote the necessary amount of time to our child ” says Reet.
Recently, actor Ranveer Singh posted his 2nd-anniversary photo on Instagram on which a random guy commented “Bacha Kaha hai?” And this was just a total stranger on the internet. It becomes worse for common Indian couples who have to bear the brunt of neighborhood gossip when they don’t have kids soon after marriage. The theories that make the rounds range from infidelity to infertility and everything else in between: they are limited only by their imagination.
“Perhaps the only thing worse than the vicious gossip,” reveals Sakshi, “are the well-meaning elders who come with less than helpful suggestions on how to overcome our perceived fertility issues. This is the sad reality of Indian society: if you don’t have kids soon after marriage, you’re labelled as infertile.”
So what do you do when your views, your thoughts, and your dilemmas are simply too ‘radical’ to be shared with parents, relatives, or even peers your own age? When simply expressing these views is enough for people to judge you, the only way you can share is by being anonymous. This is where Hood comes in: a pseudonymous social media network where people can connect about the things that truly matter, without worrying about how it will make them look to the rest of the world.