Friday, 7 July 2017

Book Review- When I Hit You or A Portrait of a Writer as a Young Wife by Meena Kandasamy

What is the first thought that comes to your mind when you hear about somebody facing domestic abuse? Something like this:
  • Why doesn’t she retaliate?
  • Why doesn’t she pack up and leave?
  • Why doesn’t she ask for help or go to the police?
  • Why doesn’t she tell her parents? They will help her.
  • Minor altercations happen in all relationships. She is overreacting.
  • It must be her mistake.
  • She is just exaggerating. Her husband (or the person accused) is such a gentleman.
  • There is nothing called rape in a marriage.
There are some more strong assumptions about the subject…so strong that they have almost become a belief in our society. Such as:

  • This happens only in lower strata of the society. In other words, this does not happen in sophisticated/educated/rich households.
  • This does not happen in joint/nuclear families.
  • This is just hyper-reaction created by media to minor problems. 
And the worst and most dangerous assumption about domestic abuse…

  • This will not happen to me.

The feminist in me always gets furious when I come across stories of domestic abuse and more often than not, my reaction is one of the many stated above. Almost reflexively, I have heard myself saying many times “why does she put up with all this. Just pack up and leave”. More than sympathy, it is always the anger that supersedes.

We blame poverty for this social vice and confidently pronounce education and awareness as the only solution to domestic abuse, conveniently assuming that educated people will not accept it as a part of their lives. Educated men will not beat their wives and educated women will not succumb to it. How enormously wrong can we be?

When I Hit You is an account of a marriage of two highly educated and intellectual people. An independent writer wife married to a college professor with revolutionary communist beliefs doesn’t make for a very convincing story of domestic abuse. But life sure is stranger than fiction.

The author recounts her struggle of being trapped in a violent marriage which is, by the way, not just about the physical pain but also the pain of being robbed of one’s individuality. She finds herself reduced to a silent red dot in the confines of her house. She finds solace in her kitchen but is also aware of the fact that it could turn into her grave any day. Don’t we read about so many women burnt in the kitchen, by accident of course? She has to keep the writer in her alive but with limited access to resources, it seems impossible. Her only solace is a blank page that has short-lived letters to a long ago lover.

Domestic abuse is too complicated than just violence or physical injury. It is a well-crafted master plan to corner the victim, rob her of all the confidence and will, portray her as insane or evil and garnish sympathy for oneself, push her to believe in the futility of retaliation and leaving her with no choice but to surrender. There is, of course, physical, sexual and emotional abuse to crush the morale.

Meena Kandasamy’s book was an eye-opener in many ways. It is a staggering proof that domestic abuse does not differentiate on the basis of educational qualification and social or financial status. The irony of social indifference and judging the victim at the same time is baffling. It is a strong book and don’t read it if you want to stick your age-old philosophies and myths about domestic abuse. For all others, you should and must read When I Hit You.

My Rating:  

About the Author: Meena Kandasamy is a poet, fiction writer, translator, and activist. She has published two collections of poetry, TOUCH and MS MILITANCY, and the critically acclaimed novel THE GYPSY GODDESS (Source: Juggernaut.in)

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