It takes courage to say no in a marriage-obsessed country like India but we also need to remember that marriage and children don’t have to be a package deal

Dear Rahul,

It is a truth universally acknowledged (and about a thousand times more so in India) that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife. So, thank you, for letting us know your feelings and views on the subject.

It is brave of you to be candid. The common young man/woman so often gets the “So when are you getting married?" question from parents, relatives, friends and the neighbours’ twice-removed cousin that I cannot imagine the pressure you must face. Saying that one is not interested in marriage is always interpreted as being coy or obstinate and is accompanied by the response, “You don’t know what’s good for you.” There are people who will say that being single is against our culture and look horrified when one tries to explain that it is a personal choice.

Congratulations, therefore, for making a statement in the face of social pressure that you’re not interested in marriage at this time. However, I’m keenly disappointed that you've swept up marriage and children as a package deal. I wonder why the opposition has not picked up this rather obvious point yet. It’s possible to be married and be childfree by choice, you know? In assuming that children come with marriage is giving into a normative view, not very different from saying everyone should be wedded.

You’d said, “If I get married and have children, I will be status quoist and will like my children to take my place.” That’s natural, I suppose, but it’s possible that you may find a partner who is not keen on kids. But, perhaps, you too are of the view that producing children is why people get married? Can not two people be a family too?

It is a big taboo in our country, and in many places world over, to say that one does not want children. Any ambivalence toward parenthood is frowned upon. Some people will even offer unsolicited references to fertility specialists if a couple is married for more than a year without children. Others will say that it is selfish for a couple to not have children.

Maybe, you are already wise to these facts of life and know that it is close to impossible to fight the pressure that society will put on you to go forth and multiply if you do get married. People will say things like you owe it to the nation and that you are wilfully cutting down the tree of lineage.

In any case, I think it would be great if your remarks spark off a debate on remaining childfree in our country. I do hope you will speak out more on the subject.

(Kannal Achuthan often ponders on philosophical conundra, and writes down some of it. You may contact her at kannal.achuthan@thehindu.co.in)