Thursday, June 29, 2017

Domestic violence -The other side of the story

Amma,
I am not sure if this letter will be well received. You are bound to feel upset and I won’t be surprised if you call me a ‘hen pecked’ husband. But I have to make my point and leave it to you to save the situation if you feel that I am right. Or rather that I am not wrong.

Point no. 1- Mine was not a love marriage. You chose Rashmi for me and I went by your choice. You wanted a fair, well educated girl from a decent upper middle class family to take charge of the household after you. I had no say in the matter and was regularly told that you and appa as parents would select a girl who would double up for the daughter you never had. It is quite another thing that you were supposed to bring me a wife – not a sister. Till today I have not complained. Yes, she has her shortcomings but then I have mine too. In the two year of our marriage we are still getting to know each other. Why don’t you do the same and try to understand things from her perspective? 

Point no. 2. – Is it fair that you expect her to cook a fresh meal three times a day considering the long hours she puts in at her office? You won’t let her hire someone to cook, you will neither let me help nor offer to help her yourself and yet find fault with her for not serving a freshly cooked five course meal for dinner. To top it you find the ‘dal’ salty and the ‘sabzi’ bland. How can you expect a girl who spent six years in two different hostels to take over the entire responsibility of running a household as per your terms? She needs time to pick up our ways.

Point no. 3 – Why do you bring up her parents all the time? It is always ‘her mother didn’t teach her to cook’ or ‘her father pampered her so much that she hasn’t learnt to adjust’. You never seem satisfied with the gifts they lavish on me. The suit they gave for my first Deepavali was ‘not worth giving to our driver’ and the diamond ring ‘had to be cross checked at our jewelers for its worth’ after all ‘it may not be real diamonds’. Do gifts really matter? It is just a token gesture. Don't I earn enough?How does it matter? If you keep on finding fault with everything they do, will she ever bond with you? They are her parents. She left her home and parents to share her life with me. But that does not mean that she is no longer their daughter. You resent the phone call she makes to her people, you resent the occasional outing that she plans with her friends and it may not be wrong to say that you resent her very presence in our house. 

You were not like this before. How has the equation changed after Rashmi came into our lives? You chose a wife for me with utmost care but nowadays your day begins with complaints about her and ends with more complaints against her. Appa is better. He is not as insecure as you.

Do you think that I can relax in the privacy of my bedroom? Rashmi takes over from where you left and subjects me to another round of torture by saying nasty things about you. I truly cannot believe what she says. Did you really add salt to the dal only to later complain that it was salty? And were you actually hiding behind the door and listening to her phone conversation?

I was better off without this mess called marriage. Am I not entitled to a quiet evening, with both of you being cordial to each other, where we can all sit together sipping tea and enjoying a normal conversation? If I pay attention to you she pulls a long face and if I go out for a short evening walk with her you get upset. While women can talk about domestic violence I can neither utter a word nor expect you to understand what I go through. People don’t talk about the emotional and mental torture a man goes through when he is caught in the crossfire between his parents and wife. Believe me, it affects my performance at work and my interaction with those around me.

Please try to understand…………………………
I just want some peace of mind and unfortunately it cannot be ordered online. 

This is my final submission for the blogathon # A letter to her . I wrote this piece because I felt that men also suffer in silence and experience the torture of being pulled in opposite directions by two women both clamoring for their attention. I wouldn't know if it qualifies to be called Domestic Violence. But it does cause a lot of agony and impacts their lives in ways that no one wishes to understand.

Note: I would like to read MeenaKandaswamy’s book When I Hit You because I understand that it deals with domestic violence that happens everywhere but society refuses to admit it.  I would love to read what the author has to say and I hope it helps me extend a helping hand to any victim of domestic violence whom I come across.    
     




Saturday, June 24, 2017

On the dynamics of a healthy marriage...........

Mamma,
I don’t know if it’s okay for me to write to you about this. But having seen the life you lead I feel it is time I came out with my observations. I truly hope I am wrong but my gut feeling says that you are at the receiving end of an abusive relationship with daddy. Please don’t get shocked. I am no teenager. I am now married and I understand the dynamics of family life. I have been observing you from the time that I could gauge your moods. I was perhaps 6 or 7 years old when I could understand the meaning of your words as well as silence. In fact I would find your silence oppressive and long for you to return to your ‘normal’ mood.

I took me a while to understand that your mood swings had something to do with daddy. You took care to keep it to yourself but we children have a way of understanding that all is not well between parents. The days you went into a silent mode coincided with the days when daddy went about beaming at those around him with the look of a conqueror. As a child I took care not to annoy or upset you on those days but I still did not understand what went wrong between the two of you.
It happened on a rare occasion that you chose to sleep in my room. Daddy came looking for you. I pretended to sleep. The conversation that followed is something I did not understand till I graduated from school.

“Hey, stop fussing” It was daddy talking in a hushed tone.
“Not today, please” I heard you protest. “You know I fast on Thursdays”.
“Fasting on Thursdays eh? Enough of this drama. Come on”.
“I don’t feel up to it”.
“Who is asking you?”

I then peeped from beneath my sheets and saw him leading you out of the room. You followed him like a lamb being led to a slaughter house. I knew then that something was very wrong though I didn’t understand what. Everything fell in place much later when Sr. Superior arranged for a program on sex education and the speaker highlighted the rights of a woman in matters pertaining to sex. I truly wanted to ask you why you let him bully you against your will. I realized how much you must hate yourself for not having a say in the matter. I also understood that you were being blamed for giving birth to a daughter because daddy often said in apparent jest that your clan was famous for producing daughters as was evident that you were one among five sisters. He joked about it so often that it ceased to be a joke. I also noticed that any reference by daddy to your ‘clan’ was always subtly tempered with sarcasm and you put on a mask of silence.

To be frank your submissive nature annoyed me as a teenager. But I now understand how hard it must have been on you. My husband is a wonderful person who believes in respecting women. His parents share a wonderful relationship and it is a pleasure having them over.  I now realize what was missing in your marriage. There was no equality. It was a kind of master – slave arrangement. But it is not too late to assert yourself. I am with you. Carve a niche for yourself. I plan to start a counselling center, for women in an abusive relationship, along with a few friends. Why don’t you join us? You need to come out of your silent mode. You don’t have to discuss your personal experience or drag daddy’s name into it. Just take the first step by lending a sympathetic ear to women who come forward to share their stories. The rest will follow. You’d be surprised at the kind of physical, emotional and mental torture women undergo just to keep their marriage going. The issue ought to be discussed and our men folk need to learn to acknowledge and accept  their women as equal partners and learn to treat them with love, affection and respect. Daddy was brought up to believe that a man could lord over his wife. Once you assert yourself he may change his opinion for the better. Why not give it a try? Think about it………………
Hugs!!!
Yours,
Neha

This post is my 2nd post written for the Blogathon series # A Letter To Her by Women’s Web. I appreciate the initiative taken to create awareness about domestic violence in society.


Note: I would like to read MeenaKandaswamy’s book When I Hit You because I understand that it deals with domestic violence that happens everywhere but society refuses to admit it.  I would love to read what the author has to say and I hope it helps me extend a helping hand to any victim of domestic violence whom I come across.    



Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Domestic Violence - When enough is enough.

My child,
I cannot believe that you are already eighteen years old and will be leaving for college in about a year from now. I wish to share with you the story of women belonging to three generations who for very different reasons put up with domestic violence. I feel that you are old enough to understand and when your turn to get married comes, you will be bold enough to say ‘NO’ to physical, emotional and mental abuse from your partner.

As a child I witnessed the plight of an aunt of mine who was married off at the age of sixteen though she was a brilliant student who passed her matriculation examination with flying colors. Her father wanted to send her to college but her mother felt that she ought to get married. Her handwriting was beautiful and her house keeping skills excellent. On festive occasions she’d make beautiful ‘rangolis’ that would make passersby stop to admire. She’d make a perfect housewife. And so she did. But her husband was never appreciative of what she did. He’d find fault at everything she did right from the food she cooked to the way she folded clothes. Her husband was spiritually inclined and would spend his time performing an elaborate morning puja and reading religious texts. He resigned from his job for the very purpose and her's was the onus of coping with his tantrums. He punished her by refusing to talk to her for weeks if she dared to show the slightest disinclination to act as per his command. His silence hurt more than his words and she literally fell at his feet and apologized for any suggestion she had dared to make. As a child I often wondered how a person who was spiritually inclined could spit venom on his wife for minor lapses and why she put up with it. I later heard that while the world praised her for being the role model for others to emulate, her own mother in law once remarked that her son needed to be put in his place and it was her tolerant behavior that was responsible for the pathetic life she led. However, that was eighty years ago when verbal abuse was not even considered worth a mention and physical abuse happened when the woman ‘asked for it’. Emotional abuse?? A woman was not supposed to have emotions. Unknown to others she could wipe a tear if she felt hurt – the rest was part of life.

Having said this, I must admit that our generation was no better. A woman could work outside her home but the husband controlled her income. I have known working women hand over their entire salary to the husband, accept a pocket allowance from him and use the cheapest mode of transport to travel to work for to save money even if it meant leaving home early. The smarter ones resorted to scheming and plotting and ‘stole’ a small amount from their own salary for their pocket expenses by claiming that they had contributed towards a gift for friend’s anniversary or a child’s birthday party. An unexpected salary raise or a double increment went unreported and the extra money tucked in a secret pocket in her purse to be used later. A wife who dared to resist the arrangement was trying to show off that she brought home a salary and was ‘put’ in place by the husband. Why did they cope with it you may ask? Those were days when women lived in joint families and the job allowed them a life of their own and a few friends with whom they could be themselves. The domineering husband would be tolerated in lieu of some eight to ten hours of freedom.  

The next generation revolted and announced that their financial independence had to be respected and no one could question their spending habit. They could order food from outside or hire a maid to cook and clean. The husband was asked to help at home. This new found assertiveness did not go down well with their men. If their wives earned more than them and/or were offered foreign assignments it hurt their ego. After all they had been pampered by their mothers and had always had their way. According equal status to their womenfolk was unheard of. Such women had to be put in place. Quarrels and snide remarks followed by physical violence took over. The bolder ones were able to say NO to abuse in whatever form. But most of them gave in and became subdued for the sake of peace in the family. The once assertive woman had been truly ‘put’ in place by her man.

You may have noticed that I have not included physical violence in the first two generations. Do you think it didn’t happen? It did. But in their case it was an accepted thing in society. No one would interfere – not even one’s parents. The woman would console herself by saying that he was burdened with the demands of a joint family and she was the only one who could serve as an outlet for his frustration. Moreover she was financially dependent on him - even if she had inherited a legacy from her parents or had a job or sold homemade pickles and papads that fetched her money.

 The reason for compromise was different in the third case. These women lacked the confidence to walk out of an abusive relationship. They valued the protection offered by the husband – never mind if it was an abusive one.

I want you to be different. Have the confidence to insist on mutual respect in your marriage. If you don’t get it don’t hesitate to clamor for it. A girl known to me rang up her mother in law after the first instance of physical abuse. She asked her to warn her son to never ever raise his hand on her. She would not only walk out of the marriage but would see to it that he was put behind the bars. The words had a magical effect and her husband understood that she meant what he said. There is no shame in letting on to your well wishers that you are at the receiving end of an abusive relationship. One can never guess the amount of domestic violence that prevails in society because no one wants to discuss it. As in the case of rape victims where the offender gets away with what he did while the victim is shamed, victims of domestic violence are blamed for annoying their abusive partners. Not all men are bad or abusive. I hope you find a wonderful husband for yourself. Even if you lead a normal life where both of you have mutual respect keep your eyes and ears open for what’s going on around you and extend a helping hand and stand up for any woman who is in an abusive relationship. She could be your house help, a neighbor relative, friend or colleague. And if you are blessed with a son treat him at par with your daughter and train both of them to love and respect one another. We need a whole generation to be groomed in this manner for the society that we live in to be hundred percent functional.
Your Grand aunt and friend.
              
 This post is my contribution to the Blogathon series # A Letter To Her by Women’s Web. I appreciate the initiative taken to create awareness about domestic violence in society.


Note: I would like to read MeenaKandaswamy’s book When I Hit You because the incidents of domestic violence never get reported because it is considered a private thing to be restricted to the four walls of one’s home. The topic is close to my heart having seen various degrees of domestic violence around me. I would love to read what the author has to say and I hope it helps me extend a helping hand to any victim of domestic violence whom I come across.    

Thursday, June 01, 2017

Gup Shup again

The writing bug has struck me again. After all I can rave and rant to my heart’s content in my blog world and forget all about it within minutes knowing that my readers would lend me their ears without ever being judgmental. So here I go!

If I had cribbed about my husband’s quirks in earlier posts I take it back. No, not entirely. He is a quirk alright but I realised that quirky husbands could be useful too. Let me elaborate-

 My dining table was polished 15 years back. I’ve been cribbing about the cushions needing replacement and how a fresh coat of paint was due etc.  etc., for the past five years. The cushion cover is fixed and cannot be removed and washed and they looked soiled. My rants fell on deaf ears and my husband of forty four years continued to either watch TV or read the newspaper. I then gave him the ultimatum.

“I am giving away the dining table and the chairs today” I declared “We can get a new set”.

Now, the announcement had the desired effect. No, don’t imagine that he agreed to get it polished. He didn't. We both love the dining table. It is sturdy but very light. We bought it when money was tight 30 years back. I know that a similar set would cost a fortune even if we could get one of the same quality and I had no intention of getting rid of it. My husband is a lover of stuff purchased with hard earned money. He also will not throw away what his parents or mine bought with their hard earned money. So the thought of giving up the dining table away woke him from his reverie and our familiar ‘nok jhok’ commenced.

“Why replace the cushions? They seem good enough”. 

“Don’t you see how dirty the cover is? And one cannot remove it to wash. I don’t feel like sitting on it”.

“It was your idea to put cushion. The earlier arrangement of a ply board covered with sunmica was good enough”.

“Does it mean that they can’t be replaced even in fifteen years? Call a carpenter and get it done. Or else I am just throwing it away”.

“What if I wash it?”

“Are you crazy? The cover cannot be removed and washed. It has to be replaced”.

“And if I wash it clean? I will unscrew the board with the cushion and wash it”.

And if you mess it up and it gets misshapen I will replace it”.

“Only if I don't do a good job of it”.

I was secretly relieved. I was certain that the flop idea of washing the cushion with the cover intact would never work and I would have my way. I advised him to try washing one at a time and offered to help if required.

“No need. I will manage”.

It was then that realised that I had underestimated my better half’s potential. He carefully dismantled the ply board with the cushion, turned it upside down and soaked it in soap water for half an hour. He then gently scrubbed it clean and rinsed it with fresh water without letting a drop trickle down to the wooden board.

And to my surprise the cushion was sparkling clean and looked almost new. He is washing the rest one by one without dismantling them. And between you and me I must say that he’s doing a good job of it. 

He was all smiles - gloating over his success. I could not deny him the pleasure. This was a time when defeat was a delight.

He now plans to polish it himself and I plan to keep my skepticism to myself. Once bitten, twice shy??









Thursday, May 18, 2017

Just my thoughts - 2

The writer in me seems to be hibernating. However much I wish to write I am not able to put down my thoughts on paper. Paper?? Well, I cannot write on paper these days. I only type out my thoughts in a word document and copy/paste it on my blog. It seems strange because I was known for the long and interesting letters that I wrote from my hostel. In fact, while in a boarding school, our letters were censored and our principal would make a weekly announcement on the best or most interesting letter written by the boarders and mine would be often declared the best. And how about all those exams that I answered? In these days of ticks and crosses I don’t think people consider long and descriptive answers worth a second glance but our days were different. We wrote out elaborate descriptive answers and a good answer would fetch us 5/10. No one heard of people scoring 90+ in language and literature. It was only in Mathematics that people got distinction marks.

Don’t get me wrong. I don't grudge the present system. But, with all the high scores one obtains, the proper application of the knowledge thus gained seems to be wanting. Getting a job means that one is trained to put theoretical knowledge to use and all promotions and perks depend on how well one’s skill is applied and how much the company benefits by such an application. To add to one’s woes ‘lay off’ has become common and loyalty to the organisation is limited because of lack of job security. I wouldn't know if the attitude is harmful in the long run. It is too early to say. I have worked in my college for 35 years and even after retirement I still feel connected to the institution. I willingly help out as much as I can and feel included. Would the current bunch of young office goers feel the same? I am not too sure about it.

The entire country is watching the arguments for and against ‘Triple Talaq’ and I feel happy to see victimised women opening up and sharing their experiences on TV. I do not for a moment claim that women are not ill treated in communities where Triple Talaq is not allowed. But divorcing a wedded wife for no fault of hers by uttering the word Talaq thrice over the phone or writing it on paper appears to be a practice that allows men to get away without giving the divorced wife any financial support by way of alimony. I hear that counselling the couple and advising them to make an effort to stay together precedes the process of actual divorce and just uttering Talaq thrice is not valid. Why then is it not practised? I am not competent enough to discuss the validity of the practice and wouldn't know if it is allowed in the Holy Quran. But I do feel that women have suffered for long enough and ought to be allowed to voice their protest even if a very small percentage of Muslim women are actually affected by it.

Polygamy is prevalent in almost all communities but it is not openly endorsed by society except among the followers of Islam. Yes, when men lost their lives in the battlefield and their wives had no one to support them society might have allowed the practice. But today it seems to be a license for men with roving eyes to resort to polygamy while the first wife is forced to remain a silent onlooker. At a time when census reports say that the male/female ratio is skewed in favour of men is it still necessary to allow the practice?

These are my views. I do not claim to know much about polygamy, nikah halala and Triple Talaq except what I was told by friends. A Muslim friend of mine explained the circumstances under which men were allowed to marry a second or third time and her explanation seemed acceptable enough. Over time, I believe, women were silenced and such practices were modified to suit men. 

Long back when I was in college a friend’s dad had three wives of whom the third wife was the most beautiful as well as the smartest. The first wife had no children and he married her younger sister who was my friend’s mother. My friend would joke that she was glad that her chinnamma was smart enough to put a stop to his adding a fourth wife to the list. All this happened when my friend did not belong to a community that permitted polygamy. 

I would be interested to know whether the Supreme Court would decide in favour or against Triple Talaq. There seems to be a provision in the marriage contract or ‘nikahnama’ wherein a women can insert a clause disallowing Talaq. If this is true I feel women ought to be rightfully informed of the provision and encouraged to exercise their right. 

It is long since I wrote and my writing is not very organised. I am just putting down whatever comes to my mind. Let me get going. I may improve with time. I have been lazing for long enough. Health was also a cause for concern. I haven’t been in great health for the past month. Writing is an activity I have always enjoyed. I need to get back to it to keep myself engaged if not for anything else.