This book was nothing short of brilliant. Every word, every sentence, every page of the book hit me hard. To think there are tons of women going through the same or worse in their lives is horrifying. While reading When I Hit You I felt choked and breathless. It felt like someone had locked me up in a cabinet and I couldn’t get out. The darkness, the suffocation was quenching the life out of me. That is the beauty of Meena Kandasamy’s writing. She picks you up and puts you right into the middle of the setting of her novel and you become a part of the book.
“That is the aim of all rapes, all this rough sex. Not just discipling, but a disabling. He believes that after him, I will have nothing in me to love, to give pleasure. This is a man breaking his own wife. This is a man burning down his own house.”
I have never shied away from reading books that might make me uncomfortable simply because I feel the reality is worse and if I can’t deal with a fictional form of it, I am not taking responsibility or acknowledging the fact that there are so many people going through the same terror in their lives. Marital rape is a real thing yet it isn’t as widely acknowledged in India. In fact, marital rape is not even punishable under the Indian Penal Code. In the recent times, studies indicate that between 10 and 14% of married women are raped by their husbands: the incidents of marital rape soars to 1/3rd to ½ among clinical samples of battered women. Sexual assault by one’s spouse accounts for approximately 25% of rapes committed. That’s just the statistics for you. Despite being one of the most offensive acts, marital rape is not even considered to be a crime. It not just infuriates me but renders me helpless and humiliated.
When I Hit You tackles the issues of patriarchy, abusive relationships, rape and oppression in a marriage where the young writer is stuck with her abuser (aka husband) who challenges her mental state at every moment, so much so that she starts playing out her marriage in her mind in such a manner so as to keep peace and not trigger her husband and avoid being violated. Her strong political opinions are made fun of and opposed by her husband and this is exactly how abusers work. They tear through your identity, belittle your thoughts and beliefs and then break you apart, so you are left anonymous and without anything to call your own by the end of it.
“There is a distasteful air of the outlaw that accompanies the idea of a writer in my husband’s mind. A self-centeredness about writing that doesn’t fit with his image of a revolutionary. It has the one-word job description : defiance. I’ve never felt such a dangerous attraction towards anything else in my life.”
Meena Kandasamy’s writing feels honest and fierce. And if you are not comfortable reading such brutally honest accounts of violence then you might stay away from this one, although, personally, I would suggest all men and women to read this book. I am banking all my hopes on this one to win the Women’s Prize for fiction this year.
You can buy the book here.
Rating : 5 / 5