I Singe The Body Electric
Meena Kandasamy is the author of two compilations of poetry: Touch and Ms. Militancy. The following is an incredibly brave and extremely disturbing piece she published in Outlook last week. Her writing, and the violence this account describes, makes commentary shallow and inadequate. I was particularly shaken by the thought of a woman waking up, sipping coffee, watching television, participating the quotidian banalities of companionship with a man who could at any instant, for any reason, turn into a violent monster. This is the world we’ve built: rapists prowl the cities, abusive teachers stalk schools and universities; at home, violence breaks in waves.
As a bored housewife, I colour-code the domestic violence: fresh red welts on my skin, the black hue of blood clots, the fading violet of healed bruises. It appears that there is no escape from this unending cycle of abuse, remorse-filled apology and more abuse. One day, when I am whipped with a belt and cannot take it anymore, I threaten him with police action. He retorts that no man in uniform will respect me after reading a line of my verse. He challenges me to go to anyone anywhere. I have no friends in that small world—only his colleagues who think the world of him and his students who worship the earth on which he walks. I do not know whom to trust, even our neighbours could hand me back to him. In the middle of the night, I want to rush to a nearby convent, seek shelter. Would I be understood? Would it work out? How far can I run away in a city that does not speak my tongue, a city where young women in bars are beaten up?