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??