An acronym for Green Inclination No Kids, GINK is the new DINK!.
Joyous, unconditional, purest, gratifying, unselfish – adjectives are aplenty for the act of rearing children. Widely accepted as one of the greatest experiences with an added advantage of multiplying happiness and of course, human species, parenthood has always been considered a rewarding adventure, a fulfiling one. But not everyone agrees. There are hundreds who live child-free, not because they are biologically unfit to have children or hate them, but have embraced non-parenthood by choice.
The 1980s saw the rise of DINKS (Dual Income No Kids) among young urban professionals aka yuppies in Britain and slowly, more started joining the club, the reasons being the Great Recession, lack of old-age social support and an inclination to focus more on career and individuality. Many others across the globe joined the ‘DINKdom’ as they started acknowledging their lack of parenting skills. Eco-conscious millennials – singles and couples – are increasingly forgoing parenthood stating that procreation is morally wrong and destructive to the earth and nature. An acronym for Green Inclination No Kids, GINK is the new DINK!
According to GINKs, one less human birth accounts to lesser pollution, lesser carbon footprint and even lesser exploitation of resources. Though their philosophies on child rearing are similar, anti-natalists think one more step ahead; they consider child-free lifestyle as an act of compassion – saving a child from suffering and not becoming responsible for the suffering of the line of descendants.
Efilists (efil is ‘life’ spelt backwards), on the other hand, think that life is worse than nothing – an idea that advocates, along with childfreedom, extinction of all sentient life.
Dubai-based entrepreneur couple Vidhya Ahamed Menon and Harfaz made the choice to lead a child-free life out of green concerns. “We want to create a lesser (negative) impact on environment. Neither do we believe that the environment is in a favourable state to sustain more people, nor is adding more people going to create any favourable impact. The symbiotic equation is non-existent,” opines Vidhya.
She feels that motherhood is overrated and parenthood is fulfilling only for those who really want to become parents. Claiming that they personally know couples who succumbed to social pressure and regret their decision to have kids, she says, “The feelings of nurture, care or selflessness can be displayed towards anyone without becoming a biological mother. Just think of Mother Teresa!”
While Vidhya and Harfaz weren’t steadfast on their decision during their earlier days of courtship, it came about quite organically. “Our first realisation was that we, as a couple, never believe in the false claims purported by society that marriage is a means to have kids and the life goal of every couple,” says Vidhya.
Being openly child-free has helped them connect with a lot of like-minded people — online and offline. Their idea of fulfilment involves being parents to their dogs, travelling the world, building businesses and indulging in hobbies. “A peaceful extended sleep-in during a weekend or a late night-out is our fulfilling little pleasures of life,” Vidhya quips.
CHUCK SOCIETAL RULES
Many are concerned about overpopulation, environmental degradation, deforestation, pollution and climate change, which are destroying earth and driving animals to extinction, like Vijay (name changed), a Bengaluru-based self-confessed GINK, who notes, “I do not want my child to live in a world where violence, heartbreak, deception, intolerance, aggression, apathy and indifference are on the rise. Plus, having a kid is a huge financial and emotional investment. And it largely curtails my freedom, which I wouldn’t want, ever. We are largely accused of ‘going against the nature’ and being ‘morally wrong’, but one doesn’t have to accept a societal norm at the cost of their happiness.”
Even as the choice includes paying no heed to society’s expectations, the biggest catch is unlimited freedom. Vouching for it, Delhiites Deepak Khatri and Trina Acharyya, who are avid travellers and run multiple businesses in Goa and NCR, say, “Happily married and child-free for 11 years, we have earned the freedom to live free, travel and have worked hard to reach where we are today. We are committed to each other and our freedom, lifestyle and dreams; we won’t trade it for others’ happiness. We don’t try to convince anyone who doesn’t understand. Why waste energy?”
Calling themselves ‘a very practical couple’, Deepak says, “Non-parenthood is a conscious and mutual decision we made before marriage. Nurturing a new life was never part of the plan.”
It’s a tough fight against societal conditioning. “Society needs to realise that not everyone is made to do a job, get married by a certain age and not everyone has parental instincts. We respond to queries with another question – We know exactly why we don’t want kids, but do you know why you had them? It’s hilarious to leave people dumbfounded and watch them wonder if they could have lived their life differently.”
ON THE RIGHT PATH
Interestingly, most Indians, especially women, have no say on their reproductive rights. It’s the people around who decide for an individual – when is the right time to get married, to have the first child, the second child and to even stop having sex! “That people have no say on their reproductive rights is ridiculous,” feels Tom Cyriac, an atheist and an anti-natalist, who runs a business in Kerala. “I don’t think our society is mature enough to have a dialogue about child-free life. It’s high time we realise that having kids is probably just the easiest way to make you feel that you have achieved something; it’s definitely not the only path to fulfilment,” he says.
Tom, however, adds that a lot of confusion exists over child-free lifestyle and anti-natalism. “The former is a choice and the latter, a philosophy. Child-free existence can be attributed to concerns over financial constraints, environment, population explosion, poor life-work balance, genetic illness, etc., whereas anti-natalism inculcates in one a moral duty to end suffering,” he clarifies.
‘Happily ever after’ is perfectly possible without procreating. Living child-free for over two decades now, Chennai-based senior consultant interventional cardiologist Dr Sanjiv Agrawal and Minal, a vegan activist who runs a private cat shelter, vouches for it. “Parenthood is an irreversible process; there’s a dire need of awareness on jumping the gun. I have seen many regretting having kids. Many confess to have secretly wished to be as courageous as us to reject the pressure to procreate mindlessly,” says Minal.
Non-parenthood was a decision she made during her teens.
“Not to have a baby was always in my subconscious mind long before my parents started looking for an alliance. For me, no human is fit to become a parent when we don’t know how to live in harmony with nature. But only years later, after going vegan did I realise how destructive the homosapien is! However, I was lucky to have found an ambitious, career-oriented man who wanted to marry me only if I agreed to go child-free.”
The duo had kept the decision to themselves for long, but they had to finally blurt it out. “Convincing the family was difficult for seven to eight years, but sooner or later, they had to understand that we have no interest in breeding.”
Minal opines, “Bringing a child into this chaotic and collapsing planet is the biggest child abuse. Many might think that we are supportive of wiping out mankind from the face of Earth. In fact, it’s the other way round. Human race will become extinct due to global warming, climate change and ecological destruction if we keep breeding like mushrooms. With our unsustainable lifestyle for ages, we have almost destroyed the planet. Procreating in this chaotic world is a crime.”
ANTI-NATALISM IS PRO-LIFE
Like Minal, several couples would explain that their non-parenthood choice is a benignant act of altruism. Bashing the misconceptions that movements like anti-natalism and Voluntary Human Extinction Force support murder, Kedar Mohan Tembe, a sports professional based in Singapore, clarifies, “In fact, it is supportive of life – not just human life. One species alone cannot be entrusted with the safety and continuity of the planet. The sixth mass extinction is because of human activity. As soon as humans are gone, all these will start reversing and the planet will start recovering.”
Kedar and his wife Sneha, a software engineer and Kathak dancer, had reached a consensus on non-parenthood before getting hitched. “We believe that parenthood is full of frustrations and expectations, along with the obvious joys. People tend to become more selfish when they have children, and in many cases unintentionally hurt others. If children make life complete, it should have been a loving society, a perfect world. But it isn’t!”
Now that their immediate family has accepted their choice, the couple doesn’t bother about the rest. Kedar adds, “Societal dogmas have no place in intellectual decisions. People find it difficult to accept, but that is more because of societal conditioning and not because they understand that they have a choice.”
Exit the closet
It’s the stigma that results in several voluntarily child-free couples staying hidden in the closet. Coming out requires a great deal of courage and conviction. “Married for over seven years now, we are open about our decision to not have kids. Our family has more or less accepted our thoughts, but they hope we would change our minds. Generally, people in India do not appreciate the idea. Over the years, they have been pushed towards the thoughts about the joys of motherhood and family,” observes Raeesa, a social media consultant and animal welfare volunteer in Chennai.
It was her auto-immune disorder vitiligo that first prompted Raeesa and her husband Harshvardhan Jodha, a racing official at the Madras Race Club, to decide not to try to have kids. As the duo travelled more and worked with abandoned or injured animals, the idea that humanity was becoming a burden to the rest of the species, reaffirmed. “When the world is populated enough and we struggle with basic sustenance, there’s no need to add more people to it. We live in an overpopulated country where there are many orphan kids. Why should we create more lives when we cannot look after our current state of affairs,” she asks.
Among all these child-free couples are the ones who do not want to make ‘anti’ as their identity. Bengaluru-based writer Rheea Rodrigues Mukherjee and her partner Indrayudh Ghoshal, a music-theatre artiste, who parent two adopted dogs, are one such couple. “We are not anti-anything. In fact, we are very pro-adoption, but it’s a huge commitment. We are waiting it out till we know the right time,” says Rheea, who refuses to see the world in binary ways being ‘for’ or ‘against’ something.
“Having kids can be a wonderful thing for many. But you do things from your own understanding of the world and what it teaches you. I am 35 and have never been inclined to have a baby. In fact, as young as 13, I remember telling my mom I wanted to adopt,” she explains.
Rheea finds labels like ‘anti-natalists’ flawed, “Blanket stereotyping of people who have or don’t have kids is silly and myopic. We have so many ways of interpreting the world and commanding the space. Over-population is not as much a problem as shared distribution of resources. The world we live in is skewed dramatically, but we should use our privileges to create a platform for the world to be a tad fairer when we leave it.”
Though firm on their decision, the couple accepts others’ choices to have kids. She says, “Everyone uses their social and economic privileges in their unique circumstances for a better life. For some, the things they do are benefited by not having kids, for others, raising a child to be kind can be a powerful act. We can do better by not defining ourselves by what we hate. It will only evolve into shaming others.”
No to anti-green acts
Sumedh, an insurance professional in Goa, too wouldn’t want to be tagged with any ‘ism’ for living child-free and not adding to environmental stress. “I believe that humans are the most destructive species as they encroach upon the earth and endanger lives, eliminating many species.”
Open about his views, he feels it’s very important to sensitise people, “Especially the lakhs of underprivileged men and women who never know that they have a choice. Parenthood has to be a choice; most people just yield to the social pressure to reproduce even though they aren’t ready for it.” Having grown up in a progressive and liberal background has helped shape up his thoughts. “If I ever marry, I will choose someone who prefers to live child-free. I would like to see the future that will be less populated,” says Sumedh, who would undergo vasectomy to not let his partner suffer any invasive procedure.
Nothing is forbidden
Awareness is the focus area for Alok Kumar, a computer science tutor and an active YouTuber who runs the channel Varjitsatya (Forbidden Truth). Alok and like-minded friends recently organised in New Delhi a meet-up ‘Stop Making Babies’, coordinating child-free proponents, anti-natalists, efilists and members of Voluntary Human Extinct-ion Movement. “People think we are crazy, but we try our best to utilise all available platforms to tell the world why we don’t want to impose suffering on someone by giving birth; it’s immoral. No social pressure will affect us. Despite putting pressure on others, deep down, most people want to enjoy their life and don’t want to spend life raising children,” he says.
As he has been quite vocal about his philosophy, Alok had a hard time finding a life partner. “Relatives shunned me and the girls I proposed to were not courageous enough to make a decision. I was advised not to go public about such matters, but I wasn’t ashamed, even when people started asking me if I was impotent.”
Bombarded with queries and doubts, Alok launched the YouTube channel, where he made videos to clear all misconceptions on child-free lifestyle. “I interview people from various walks of life who talk about taboo topics like sexual needs of the differently-abled, anti-natalism etc.,” explains Alok, who fell in love with wheel-chair-bound Shweta, who too was against the idea of childbirth. Though their love story was hailed by social media, their family cut off all the ties with the couple, who has decided that nothing would deter or demotivate them. Now that more non-parents are revealing themselves, they are hopeful of the idea gaining momentum.
Spread the word
All these child-free individuals know their choice is a prerogative and agree that awareness is very crucial among people who thoughtlessly engage in the process of multiplying. Says Deepak, “All developed nations have their population under control. Only with proper education will people see the truth.”
Raeesa adds, “People should be able to reach quality gynecological and contraceptive care. We need to work towards empowering women medically and emotionally, educating them about their choices.”
Not just lack of awareness, poverty too matters, observes Tom. “Poverty, illiteracy and rapid population growth reinforce each other. A poor farmer might look at having kids as an asset or an investment. Religion, too, is largely responsible. But with education, access to contraceptives and better awareness of rights, many problems can be solved,” he hopes.
Vidhya, on the other hand, feels bad for all the people who are being judged, prodded and ridiculed for living life on their own terms. “It is utterly sad, rude and unbelievably hilarious that people think they have the ‘right’ to feel offended at a couple’s choice,” she says.
“People find it very hard to even digest the idea that it’s alright for someone to not have children,” observes Deepak, adding, “Acceptance will ease the pressure so much on people who are tortured for their inability to have children – women put on steroids for years and men shamed for immasculinity, even in educated and affluent households. It’s high time people realise that the purpose of life is not only to bring in more life.”
Next time someone says ‘I won’t have children’, feel free to not prod further. Do respect their choice!