Comfortably Numb

Sheila Kumar's Storehouse

Published on: 10/12/17 11:20 AM


Book review: When I Hit You by Meena Kandasamy

When I Hit You by Meena Kandasamy. Juggernaut Books

There`s no getting around it, this book is a wrenching read for the  reader, all the more so for the  female reader.

The unnamed narrator,  a poet flying high but yet to get to the top of her game,  decides to, rather suddenly,  marry a man she meets on Facebook, seduced by the fact that his causes seem to be her causes.

Within the month of their marriage, though,  things start to fall apart and she realises she`s put her life in hock to a man who, whatever his rationale is, commits every crime in the married man`s book: he beats her up regularly, he rapes her violently,  he undermines  her self-esteem, her sense of life, her joy in living with abuse heaped on abuse.

He monitors her phone calls, he deletes her email account, he forces her off social media, he erases everything on her hard disk.  He controls her using words, the cord of her Mac Book, the back of a broomstick, a brown leather belt, ceramic plates,  the drain hose of the washing machine.

And she lets him. Till it all gets too much and she runs away, carrying only her passport, ATM card, laptop and mobile phone with her, ending four months that seemed like a lifetime of torture and misery.

This then, is the account of a bad marriage, this is a revenge tale wherein the narrator uses the powerful gift of words to slam her erstwhile husband for the deluge of abuse, physical and mental, he tried to drown her in.  Harassment of this sort could well have broken and indeed, has broken many a woman. But it didn’t break our narrator. So this book is also a memoir of triumph. And in there somewhere is a love song for a lost lover, there is celebration of prose, poetry, art as the great healer.

The book opens with the startling story of the narrator`s feet , describing their condition just after she had fled her marital home. The harrowing account of the harrowing marriage makes  no bones about putting forward  two points of view. He does, she is the done-unto. She attempts to parse the reasons for her staying locked into that cycle of misery.  She chronicles all the doubts that dog a woman in such a  position,  acting like an effective ball and chain. She states that there really is no one among a sea of strangers who one can turn to for help. She puts on record the occasional suicidal thoughts, the manner in which she adjusts to a monstrous new normal.

Even as the body is being abused endlessly, the mind works in overdrive. She uses reason, then silence, finally strategy as her shield.  A writer is one who controls the narrative, she states at one point,  leading the reader to sadly ask: but what of the woman? Can the woman control her narrative?

The passage where she talks of an article she writes for a national magazine in the face of (violent, of course) disapproval and sabotage from the man of the house flies the flag for women you can pulp but cannot really vanquish.

The passage where she talks of the moon shining through her kitchen window is pure poetry: He calls me again, a note of irritation in his voice. I wash the last dish and wave goodbye to the moon, who watches me leave before turning her gaze to the graveyard next door, where the newly buried sleep away their deferred dreams, the finicky dead rejoice in a rainless night, the friendly dead squat in a circle and tell each other stories, the silent dead soak in the faint white light, and the melancholic dead think of loved ones they have left behind. The moon has a difficult job cut out for her night after night.

A near total absence of self- pity in the narration  makes it all the more chilling. As for the title connect, rest assured it will stay in the reader` s mind for a long, long time.

fictionmarital abuseMeena KandasamymemoirpoetWhen I Hit You

Sheila Kumar • October 12, 2017

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  1. Julia Dutta October 12, 2017 - 11:49 am Reply

    Great review. I believe it will be a good book too, if one can stomach it’s violence, which many may go through, but may not want to read about it. However, I think the author has done a great work by talking a bold step to write about it.

    Thank you Sheila!

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