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[Contribution] A Single Slap Is Enough

          In my growing years I had no knowledge of the term ‘Domestic Violence’ or its repercussions. Whatever little we saw in films, was a very distant, almost mythical representation of violence, which was certainly not prevalent or visible in our urban surroundings. Its not that the adults, including my parents, never fought, but their fights were mostly verbal, sometimes very silent, or long drawn debates and arguments but always very controlled and measured and often we were never exposed to their differences.

          

I was about 18 when we shifted into a very up-market housing society. The neighbors are mostly very polite, highly educated, progressive group of people. My mother soon found a group of ladies who formed a club, to organize various, social, cultural events, opening a library, plantings trees etc. As an active member she would often initiate many activities and would come back and discuss all their activities with my father.

          

One Sunday, some ladies of her club came to our house, there was a huddled discussion and they went out for a meeting. When she came back she looked visibly upset and very agitated. Assuming it was just another of her club issues, me and my sister didn’t ask her anything. We guessed it was something quiet disturbing, as she just sat quietly without talking to anyone.

 But as soon as my father came out to ask her what happened, she burst into her narrative. She and her club members had gone to another member’s house as mediators. I listened gaping with horror that our gentle looking neighbors had been regularly beating their young bride.

          I couldn’t imagine that the handsome looking man, whose wedding we attended barely 3 months back, was accused of abusing his fairly educated wife. It was something very shocking for me. I just couldn’t put the face of the man, the pretty wife and the polite family in a frame that is quiet repulsive and violent. 

My mother by then was getting quiet upset, “You know what the father-in-law told me,” she was telling my father. “Its ok, Mrs.Das, we didn’t hit her that much. A husband, if angry can always slap his wife, if she is not listening to him. I’m sure Mr.Das has also slapped you sometimes.”

 My father, who was pacing up and down till then, stopped and frowned at my mom. Both of us sisters were unsure what was going to be his reaction.

          He didn’t say a word, instead kept staring at her, waiting for her to continue. 

“I just lost my cool at that very moment. I told him – Firstly Mr.Das has never ever slapped me. Forget about slapping he hasn’t even used a dirty abuse on me.
 Secondly, he wouldn’t ever dare to slap me. If he had ever tried even once, my mother-in-law herself would have broken his arm.
 And finally he knows that if he ever slaps me, then, first I will give him two tight slaps in reply to one, and then I’ll pack my bags and take my daughters and walk out of the marriage.”




          My sister and I, who were used to being the silent audience akin to any tennis match, shifted our gaze to and fro. Whenever the volley of words ensued, we slowly looked up at my dad. There was a strange churning in my stomach and my sister looked like she had gulped a worm.

          The frown on my dad’s face vanished and there was a very satisfied look on his face. He nodded, “Good”, he said and started pacing again, “You should have told him that next time we’ll call the police.”

          After that I never heard my parents dissect the subject again. Although later she narrated the incident to many people. Some people felt uncomfortable, some didn’t like my mother’s choice of words. Some people assumed that what my mother said was a warning or an insult to my father. But in reality, my father seemed very proud of my mother’s stand because he was certain and strong enough to know that such a situation will never occur in their lives.

          He was so strong in his stand against violence that there was no question of him attaching her response to himself and let his masculinity get hurt or injured. Also I feel he felt good that my mother had a certain amount of confidence in him that she will never be slapped thus there was no question of being prepared for it. It was an unsaid moment of trust between them, where he kind of silently approved of my mother’s viewpoint. It was difficult for me to judge at that moment, whether my mother was a bigger feminist or my father.

          

Later in my life, I heard many educated, progressive, supposedly liberated women talking casually, “It’s just a slap”. But in my mind I have a very strong memory of my mother’s words and my father’s stamp of approval on that, “Even a single slap is not acceptable.”

Many women I meet say, “Even my husband slapped me several times, but in the end we still have love and respect for each other.”“A slap is nothing, one shouldn’t make such an issue out of it”“Think of all the good things he is doing”“She must have angered him enough so naturally he slapped her”“There must be something bothering him”“Maybe he was upset over something”“Maybe he is having some problem at office”.

          After all these excuses, I narrate them this story. Many women are stressed due to work load or other factors, can she use her stress as an excuse to slap her husband? If it is so natural that any and every man can slap his wife, can that be applicable to the women as well? A woman also can get angry, but is it okay if regularly she takes out her anger by slapping people?

          Finally I have some questions for men — Will a man be able to respect or love a woman if she slaps him, for whatever is the reason? She doesn’t need to be his wife. Say any random woman slaps him. Will all her culinary skills, skills in bed and other gifts in kind can make him forget a slap. Is one slap just a simple slap or does it become a reminder of lack of respect for each other?

          About the Author: Sangeeta Das is a writer and illustrator, mostly for children and young adults, who has challenged gender stereotypes since she was a young child.

          Image Source: Artiii

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          6 Responses to [Contribution] A Single Slap Is Enough

          1. can someone talk about how to live with peace and love rather just talking abt slap slap and slap …………. women with love can make or break her house ….. why anti men feminist are spoiling the society …. why dont they start creating love in men and thereby avoid any such situtaions……

            • @sp: It is people like you who breed the rapists of today! The point here is not only whether it’s OK for men to slap or whether it’s OK for women to slap too. It’s the basic act of teaching our sons to respect women. When a man slaps his wife in front of his son, that man is teaching his son, first hand, that it is perfectly fine to treat women like filth and that men are greater. This is what that son will then practice on women he meets in the course of his life!! By the way, the author has written absolutely nothing that is ‘anti men’. Read between the lines and you’ll understand the author’s respect for her father, for the way he was and that is exactly how men should be, not like the neighbor or the neighbor’s son!! Finally, why is it that only a ‘women’s love’ can make or break a house, why are men being excused out of this responsibility as per you? I don’t know whether you are a male or a female, but whatever sex you are, one thing for sure is that you are a very narrow minded tunnel visioned person. I’m a male by the way and I believe in equality.

              • @Utpal. Hats off to u. I know there are men who respect women and keep their wives happy and respect them too. My brother-in-law always tries to make my sister laugh and can’t live without her even for a day. I am happy at least my sister got a good husband. I thank God for this.

          2. To SP – Then you should come to my house and see, how I, an highly educated woman with 2 kids, who first sponsored my Husband to come to US, and now back in India after 8yrs, am the only income provider; gets the most abusive language along with physical and mental abuse. Despite providing him a lifestyle he nor anyone in his family had ever seen before – and he sits at home free – not even taking care of any household responsibilities. He only takes care of the bank user/pass responsibilities – and keeps transferring monies from my a/c to his. If I object, he creates a terrorizing situation with kids and me and then I back down.

            Only because, he comes from a violent home, his mother is of the opinion – that she tells me often ‘don’t worry all husbands slap their wives, even your father-in-law used to beat me with anything at hand – you should be thankful that my son doesn’t use a stick with you – he just occasionally pushes/hits you’.

            I just saw this adv today in TOI – I guess for the sake of my kids – who have been pleading with me to break away from their Dad since long – even though they are quite small (9 & 6), I probably should take a stance for their sake, at least.

            Now my husband is selling all the properties in our joint name, that we made from US – and is keeping all the money with himself, even though he always earned in US much lower than me (less than half). Then I will be left with nothing for my kids, and he says he is going to invest further for the kids. When I ask why not in joint name again, he says ‘you are working in job, hence you will have higher tax liability, hence, not in your name’.

            I am not sure what to do?

          3. My dear Meena Haq, you are a literate (young?/physically fit) woman. You can continue working to provide for your kids if it comes to being on your own. Secondly why take this nonsense any more if the ‘bitter’ half doesnt want to get better at all? Its going to be tough but life goes on, some have to start all over again. My heart goes out to you, brave woman, having come out of the shadow!! God will make a way where there seems to be no way if you are walking the right path.
            I, myself, have been going through what i thought ‘happened to others’, but getting help/support is hearing “maybe he has some problems at work blah blah….” I say, doesnt he have tongue in his mouth to say what’s wrong, where, or its there only for verbal abuse. I cant help identifying with what Mrs. Das says, ‘I will give him two slaps for one….’ I am mentally strong & though not so much physically, I have quick defend reflexes so that keeps him away. Also one earlier physical assault of his that he tried on me, I am sure is a harsh lifetime reminder for him of how it will come back to haunt him, as its happening with me. So, the best thing he does for the last couple of years is not giving enough money to run the house, calling names, character assassination, etc. I am told go work at half century of my life. At least I am in a better situation as my kids are 12 & 15. I cant imagine if they were bigger, perhaps after giving my everything I would be left with no one, no nothing to look forward to. I have worked in an office for 13 years of our marriage, stood by him & then worked from home while I cared for the kids, multitasking all the time. Now when my physical state makes me dependent on him, he wants me out of his sight & perhaps wants the kids too, as he most probably doesnt want to share his retirement benefits with anyone of us.
            I am contemplating what to do next, because legal route is the only one I am told but the lack of enough finance to run around keeps from hurrying in this matter. My patience is running out of patience.

          4. My husband is highly educated and nice to all except me(i don’t know why). He thinks that if he gives me importance or love, he will give me his head. He is usually busy with his work and I am with my daughter at home. I take classes at home and earn some money which I have to spend on household expenses and sometimes he takes away my money(although he’s earning good but wastes his money on his stupid ideas). I have been bearing with his rude behavior and uncaring attitude but afterall I am a human being, so get upset sometimes but he doesn’t understand that too and starts shouting at me, when I also get angry he slaps me or hits me with the things in his hand. I am a teacher by profession so many students and their parents respect me and call me an honest and nice teacher and human being. But at home I am treated like a full time maid only. He slaps and then apologises. But all this is really shattering my confidence and my parents also don’t understand my problem and advise me to adjust. I don’t know where to go in that case because I know if I leave my husband and stay with my parents, they will also not respect me. I feel like dying but then what about my innocent daughter.

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