Raja had to leave for Delhi that night. His vacation came to an end and it was already a week after Ranju had gone on her honeymoon to Kerala. Raja was now heading the online division of a large publication. He always loved to read – books, journals, blogs, anything. He also focused on keeping himself fit and would run in marathons at least 3 times every year for the sake of charity!! Mani never understood why somebody would order running shoes worth 150 dollars and pay money to participate in such running events. How can running cure breast cancer, for god’s sake, he would joke!
Raja was sipping his morning filter coffee and said, “Dad, I have always wondered but never asked you this. Do you have time for me today? Shall we go for a jog?”
Mani: “Of course, shall we go now?”
Meena wanted them to be back quickly because Ramani and Pattu mami were coming over for lunch at 1130 and leaving for Tirupati by 1. Father and son nodded in unison and Mani slammed the door behind them.
R: “Dad, you and mom are both educated. You met mom at your workplace and both of you went abroad together in the same project. When you decided to get married, mom quit her job because your parents weren’t sure that she would take care of you and the children (even before we were born!). An educated man like you who has been a great dad, why, may I ask, has never been a good husband? I mean, you even raised your hands and have never been good to her. You have always criticized her, even in public. Even Ramani mama and Pattu mami seemed unhappy at you during Ranju’s wedding.”
M: “Oh, your perspective is very different. You are still young. Did you notice how everybody appreciated Meena? She is good because I make her good. Because I make her listen to me, that’s why things happened as planned, in our family. That is why you and Ranju are settled happily. And please, don’t you bring Ramani and Pattu into this. They do not even know how to behave – Look at Aditya. He hates sports because they always watched movies at home or did pujas. He became a movie buff and all their success is because Ramani got lucky. He was always scheming and devious, you know. But somehow he buttered his way and moved up. Anyways, destiny is everything. I didn’t do too badly either. My kids are doing great, so I am not complaining.”
R: “But, dad, how could you justify wife beating?”
M: “That was long ago. Why?? Only Muslims can beat wife, aah? It happens in all sections of society and because you were inside our house, you were aware. Otherwise, this is a big secret in almost every house. Even Ramani has never known. I never hit Meena on her face, always areas where people couldn’t see. But what’s your point? That’s the case in all homes. Unless men can control, you cannot streamline your life”
R: “I cannot accept that you did it, dad. And this thing about Islam allowing wife beating is a lie. I read that the Arabic word “idribuhunna” for “beating” was used several times in the Noble Quran to mean “to go abroad” and to “leave” a place. It did not mean “to beat”.
Of course there are many examples that I can think of dad, but none of the acts are justified. In Saudi Arabia, a famous Saudi woman, Rania al-Baz, who was beaten by her husband, suffered multiple fractures. Her husband ran away and he faces charges of attempted murder. Every morning for the past six years, Ms Baz had been the smiling face of a family programme on Saudi television. She was well-known and loved in the kingdom. You think, her unemployed singer husband, who thrashed her, was the reason she was so popular?
Sandra Mackay in her book “The Saudis”, says that “Women survive by totally placing themselves in the hands of men. It is in this basic relationship of master and servant that a woman’s physical needs are met….. Restlessness is repressed…. Obedience is security.”
I can talk of cases in Spain, Turkey and all over the world including the US, dad”
M: “Hey, I know you are a well read boy. I am a simple man, who struggled to make both ends meet. To succeed, I had to enforce discipline and make both ends meet. I sent money to your grandparents and also gave money to my sisters’ marriage, besides helping Meena’s brother for his engineering studies. Where do you think all that came from? My hard work, sweat and blood!! Bloody fellow, you are today pointing fingers at your dad!! Is this the only thing that you can see that I shout at Meena? She is my wife and I have the right. Do you know that she and I fought years ago because she wanted to give that Pattu a four hundred dollar ring on their marriage anniversary?! That’s how irresponsible she can get. At that time, I didn’t even earn 3000 dollars a month”
R: “Your boss in office was a lady. You bowed to her but when it came to mom, your attitude changed and that too much later after marriage. Do you know that reports released by UNICEF show that the circumstances cited for wife beating are: Wife neglects the children, wife goes out without telling her husband, wife argues with her husband, wife refuses sex with husband, and wife burns the food. Also, did you know that more than 50% Indian women justified wife beating? I cannot see you or mom in the less than 50% category. How, appa, how?? We live in this modern world, you lived for decades in America and yet, you talk like this!”
M: “There is a joy in bringing discipline. Spare the rod and spoil the child, that’s an old saying. Did you not hear about it? To me, child is just symbolic. It can be replaced with wife, as well, if it is justified. I never came home drunk, I haven’t even looked at another woman, so why all this fuss? And why do you think, I got you and Ranjita back here. The American culture is not one where all the men respect their wives. Don’t you know about their high divorce rates and domestic violence statistics?”
R: “Maybe you are right, dad, maybe you are not. Anyways, I am taking mom with me to Delhi. I will send her whenever I see that you have a sense of regret, dad.”
Rings the door bell again and again and when Meena opens the door, “Ok, Meena, Raja wants to take you to Delhi. Don’t come back.”
Meena: “But, who will give you your pills? Will you eat outside, no no, I am not going anywhere unless you also come.”
R: “But mom, how can you go on like this? Everybody at Ranju’s wedding noticed how badly dad behaved. All our neighbors talk about it and even now, after all these years, you still tolerate and support dad. No way!! I am calling the police next time I hear any of this shit!”
M: “Watch your language!”
Ting tong, ting tong!! Ramani and Pattu enter and all is forgotten. This was something that happened so many times even in their California days. After a nice lunch, Mama and Mami left for Tirupati and at night, Raja and family boarded the flight for Delhi.
Two years later, Mani and Meena were on their way to their driver, Gopal’s wedding. As Mani felt pain in his joints, he had asked Meena to drive. A drunken lorry driver hit their car from the opposite direction. The car toppled several times and Mani’s last words were, “Bitch, can’t you see the road properly and drive?” Somehow Meena survived. She still feels she should have let Mani drive or they should have gone in an auto.