Just took a proper look at ToI’s child-free zone story in which I was quoted recently and found that it uses only a couple of short quotes (one of which was taken from this old post - a humour column for Metro Now - and included in the piece as if it were a direct quote. I'm glad that they at least said "half in jest"). Just for greater clarity, and to make the point that my views on the subject are slightly less strident than the piece suggests, here’s the questionnaire that was sent to me on email, along with my responses. (Still don’t understand the point of the sixth question, but well...)
1. Do you think we should have childfree zones in India? Why?
Personally speaking I'd appreciate it if it happened, but I don't have a hardline stand on the subject. What I think is more important is that parents be "trained" to keep their kids in check – when they stroll across to the next table at a restaurant, for example – and also try to keep in mind that not everyone loves kids (and that not everyone is under an obligation to love their particular kid!).
Parents should also be willing to bear the costs of their decisions. If a child is creating a non-stop ruckus in a movie hall while a film is on, at least one parent should be prepared to interrupt his/her own enjoyment of the movie to take the child outside until it has calmed down. Rather than staying in the seat indefinitely, hoping the kid will fall asleep eventually. (Thankfully, in an extreme situation like this, there are usually enough people – including some who normally like children – who will voice their irritation.)
2. Which are the places where you would not want to see children?
I'd rather not hear them (or have them picking on the back of my head or dribbling into my hair) in a movie hall. Or have one come across to my table while I'm eating and stare at me continuously (or worse, fiddle with things on the table).
3. How can it be done? Can it work in Indian society?
No idea if it's possible, practically speaking. I imagine it would be especially difficult in our society, where most people can't wrap their heads around the idea that some people might simply find children irritating.
4. What is the age group that you have in mind?
Age group of children who can be irritating? Anywhere up to 6 or 7 years, I guess, generally speaking. But then a well-behaved, well-brought-up child will be tolerable even at a much younger age. And I know of adults who behave far worse in public places, so it's a moot point anyway!
5. Would you be ready to pay more to access such child-free places? If yes, how much more?
No, I wouldn’t. If things get out of hand, I think I can rely on myself to silence the child/its parents with a glare.
6. People who want to stay away from children are generally considered 'less human' by others. Your comment?
How to comment on something like this? If it's true, it makes me less human, but I'm told I meet the biological requirements for the species, so someone has it wrong.
More seriously, how exactly would these people define "less human"? You don't have to be a child-hater to see that it's a fairly silly and self-defeating thing to say. I could just as easily retort (with just as much or as little rationale) that the people who say such things are secretly envious of those who don't have children hanging around their necks! But once you decide to start heaping insults at each other, it'll go on till the end of time. The more pragmatic thing to do is simply accept that people who aren't fond of children do exist and will probably go on existing (unless they are tossed into concentration camps on the grounds that they aren't "human"). And that children (being at an age where they don't yet understand the concepts of intrusion or personal space) should be properly monitored in public places.
The responsibility of keeping kids under control rests with the parents, not with the people who are being inconvenienced by them. That's not such a difficult concept to understand – surely you'd do the proper amount of monitoring/admonishing if you took your child to a shop where there are fragile objects lying about. (If something broke, you wouldn't expect the shopkeeper to say, "It's alright ma'am, don't worry about it, if I expected you to pay for it that would make me less human.")
7. Is it only the children of strangers who bother you? Or do you just find all of them annoying? Do you like children of your relatives/ friends/neighbours?
Offhand I can't remember particularly liking any human child (I do love kittens and, to a lesser extent, pups). But that doesn't necessarily mean that I find all children annoying or that they all “bother” me. I'm fine with the ones who mostly stay quiet and don't demand my attention.
P.S. the comments on the online version of the ToI story are superb and remind me of some of the comments on this post.