Indigo's child-free zones: Finally, a small victory for non-parents

Last Updated: Thu, Nov 10, 2016 11:11 hrs
An IndiGo Airlines aircraft prepares to land as a man paddles his cycle rickshaw in Ahmedabad

Relax. It’s a few rows.

Breathe. It’s twelve years.

Consider. It’s a tad unfair on the world to have to pay for your having chosen to have sex without protection.

Since budget carrier Indigo hit upon a brainwave to make a few extra bucks and added another perk to their list of things-for-which-people-will-pay – the privilege of travelling without a child wailing into your ears – social media has exploded. The airline might as well have announced that the crew would be tossing unwelcome toddlers out of the window.

Furious parents lashed out at the airline and at all those who welcomed the move, as if their children were being banned from all air travel and all vacations.

“My child is well-behaved!” they all chorused.

Sure. Maybe your child doesn’t scream or run around the aisles or bully co-passengers. Are you saying no child does any of the above?

Why do parents take it personally every time an instance of bad parenting crops up?

Why is there so much sympathy for a woman who allowed her son to get past three barricades into a gorilla enclosure and no sympathy for an animal who must pay with his life for being guilty of nothing more than being an animal who was trapped in an enclosure by humans?

Maybe you’re a good parent. A lot of people are not.

Maybe you’re a bad parent. That doesn’t make bad parenting acceptable.

People who have chosen not to have or raise children are treated with a special kind of hate by parents, as if we have opted for a life of hedonistic self-indulgence over the sacrifice of furthering a species in danger of dying out; as if having a child were not an exercise in narcissism, but a noble service rendered to mankind.

We are constantly asked to “understand” and make allowances for people who chose to inconvenience us. I have been tricked into babysitting by acquaintances who needed a break from their spawn – an imposition on my time that can never be reciprocated. We are either told we are lucky for not having children – as if the stork had scratched its beak and decided not to drop off the bundle at our doorsteps – or chided for being inconsiderate by parents quite oblivious to the irony of this sentiment.

Every time a parent says, with righteous indignation, “He’s just a child”, after the ‘he’ in question has poked my neck or jumped on my feet or spat at me or screeched into my ear or tumbled onto my lap while trying to balance on the edge of a seat, I’m torn between saying, “Yes, but you’re not” and “Yes, but not mine.”

I did not choose to bring this being into the world. I haven’t raised him to be a brat. Why must I be his enabler? And having committed both these errors, why can’t you discipline him?

I am one of those unfortunate beings who has rarely been to a movie or travelled in a flight, train, or bus that is child-free. And people like me cannot help but feel it is selfish of people to refuse to change their lifestyles at the cost of other people’s comfort after having children.

If you had to watch this movie at the cinema, could you not have found someone to watch your toddler? If you had to take your baby along on this trip, could you not use a pacifier to keep it from crying?

Some of us are not flying to a vacation spot or a relative’s home. Some of us will get off the plane and head straight to work, with a shower slipped in if we’re lucky.

“Try travelling economy with two toddlers, and then you’ll know better than to hold parents responsible for their children,” a woman said, when I spoke of what a relief it would be to have a child free plane.

“I have,” I said, “Except they were not my toddlers.”

I did not choose to travel with them; I did not get a discount on my seat.

We know it is a battle we cannot win. Any argument is rebuffed with, “You’ll understand when you have children.” We cannot prove them wrong except by going forth and multiplying.

I don’t, and most likely will never, have children. But I do have dogs of my own, and foster rescued dogs. If I’m expected to ensure silence and obedience from a dog that has only known trauma from humans and cannot understand my language, if I’m expected to muzzle a dog on suspicion that he or she may bite, why must I also be expected to smile when your five-year-old pulls my hair?

If we choose to pay extra for seats to which we are entitled, it is not because we are gloating. It is because we are desperate for peace. If that is objectionable, who is being inconsiderate?

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Nandini is a journalist and humour writer based in Madras. She is the author of Hitched: The Modern Woman and Arranged Marriage. 

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