By Akhtar Mahmud Faruqui
The news item below was emailed to me by Arif Hussaini
Sahib, Pakistan Link’s senior columnist, whose
writings I greatly adore. His comment on the news
item was illuminating: “Interesting! I could
never imagine that such a development will take
place in a male-dominated society of India. How
far things have moved - from sati to police custody.”
Victimized husbands unite to protect themselves
Hyderabad: The story is usually the other way round.
But now several "victimized husbands"
have come together to protect themselves from their
wives! Bhaarya Baadhitula Sangham, which claims
to have 350 members, will hold a convention here
on September 12 to launch a struggle aimed at preventing
misuse of laws by women with the connivance of police.
The association will provide a platform for those
husbands who were implicated in false cases by their
wives by misusing anti-dowry and other laws meant
to protect women. Association office-bearer Susheel
Kumar said that there were hundreds of cases of
women harassing their husbands and holding their
in-laws' to ransom. He said some women in connivance
with police officials had implicated their husbands
in false dowry cases and had even sent them behind
Another office-bearer of the association, Mohammed
Ali, said the proposed convention would discuss
ways to curb the misuse of law. He said the association
planned to provide legal assistance to harassed
husbands. He said efforts would be made to bring
estranged couples together. The association claimed
that the number of men who were being subjected
to mental and physical torture was increasing. It
alleged that police officers, who were required
to counsel the couple first, were straightaway taking
men into judicial custody. " - India Tribune,
Sometime back, I wrote a humorous piece, a flight
of fancy, in these columns. The India Tribune report
lends credence to that imaginary account. So read
on what I wrote earlier.
Begums are an enviable lot – enterprising
and entrancing – poised coyly in their blissful
marital abode like pugilist Mohammad Ali ‘to
sting like a bee’ at the opportune moment.
Unlike the village belle happy in her pre- (or post-)
mediaeval existence, the doctor absorbed in the
constant drudgery of heart murmurs and abnormal
pulse beats, Miss A lost in the mundane routines
of a teacher’s work-a-day life, or the newly
acclaimed member of the fourth estate, the implacable
begum stalks to conquer in the mold of Bronte’s
Bertha Mason – emancipated and restored to
seeming sanity. For many a contemporary Mr. Rochester,
life hinges perilously at home!
The imperious begum rules the roost cheerfully dividing
her time between family gossip and jovial tittle-tattles
and wisely conserving energy for the sublime task
of badgering the helpless mortal whose name she
contentiously bears with her own.
As forced cheers to the accompaniment of hysterical
jeers is the only saving grace for the hapless mijazi
khuda, the begum dexterously pursues her course
to stage the coup de tat. Many a headstrong matador
- admiral, general, air marshal, academic, diplomat,
researcher et al. – surrenders ungrudgingly
before the charging madam and dutifully responds
to her command with a loud and clear “Aye,
aye, begum’ submission, displaying, what the
fair sex graciously concedes, ‘an ingrained
sense of nobility.’ Clever.
Disposed to adventurism, the more audacious and
foolhardy mizaji khuda is hard put – forced
to run the gauntlet at the risk of hypertension,
disturbed blood chemistry, and accelerated ageing.
A precocious buzurg, an assertive husband grays
and grays quickly.
So confessed a group of husbands at a hubby get-together
in Beverly Hills, LA, the other day. The occasion:
a hurriedly convened meeting with the avowed aim
of restoring the rights of men of all shades, opinions,
outlooks, faith and ethnic backgrounds.
An exasperated medical doctor, nursing a chronic
heart murmur and dismissed casually as an ‘hypochondriac’
by the begum, thought it propitious to form an ‘All
Pakistan- American Men Association’ to supplement
APWA’s efforts for a nobler cause. He appeared
more keen to foster APMA’s cause rather than
his association with APPNA!
A portly architect piqued with his begum’s
excessive craving for ‘better interior décor’
proposed to name the association as ‘ Society
for the Prevention of Harassment to the Husbands
Yet another hubby, a professor and a man of letters,
lamented the begum’s apathy for the world
of learning (she did know of a book by the name
enlisting important universities and educational
institutions) and her pressing engagements at the
beauty parlor in optimistic anticipation of a ‘second
spring of youth.’ To him the proposed association
could ideally be called ‘Union for Restoring
Authority at Home (URAH).’
A perceptive chartered accountant hurriedly worked
out the cost-benefit parameters and suggested the
advisability of creating an SOS Village (SOSV),
an Apna Ghar, so to say.
A newspaper editor and a former public relations
executive pooh-poohed by his wife for his grade
20 pretensions, failed to come up with a name as
he sat abstractedly. Perhaps, Nasheman would do,
he was heard sputtering in a muted tone.
Incongruous though the assembly was, the huddled
and muddled confused mortals debated the begum’s
subtle and psychological ploys to turn mian sahib
into a mere stooge. Like the famous Qissae Char
Durwesh characters, they narrated their tale, one
after another. The commonality of their accounts
The first speaker, an anthropologist fresh from
a UNESCO assignment in Paris, furnished illuminating
insight into the begum’s behavioral pattern.
Alexander did pass through the part of the world
constituting Pakistan today. Didn’t he? As
many heads nodded in assent, he made the grotesque
revelation: the begum was of Greek extraction, of
the Amazon stock, the female warriors who tamed
men in ancient Greece! Confusion worse confounded,
the hubbies could neither assent nor dissent.
The next speaker, a weapon expert, delineated begum’s
sophisticated armory. She could set off a chain
reaction with her verbal stingers against a loosely
marked target and drop depth charges to gauge the
reaction to a new offensive. In the art of biological
warfare she was equally at ease: now an extra spoonful
of salt, now some additional red pepper, and the
plan is worked to sinister sophistication.
At this point,
a middle-aged gentleman who had sat superciliously
all this time, introduced himself: a Dr. M.N., a
psychiatrist, educated at Cornell with an outstanding
academic record and many post-doctoral research
accomplishments to his credit. He added to his professional
acumen with a yearly pilgrimage to his alma mater
where he had good contacts. He appeared to be specially
qualified to address the gathering and to lay hands
on the root cause rather than trifle with the better-half’s
He spelled out his expert opinion thus: the main
battleground in a matrimonial conflict is the ‘psychological
front’ where the begum ‘shatters’
the hubby at the ‘conscious and sub-conscious’
level. It is a subtle, long-term and well-planned
offensive, he explained, to keep the husband guessing
all the time. ‘The begum makes you believe
she has bestowed great honor on your family by entering
into a matrimonial alliance, that a tragic mismatch
has taken place, that you can neither clothe nor
feed her, that she was better off in her spinster
days, that your parents are both bohemian and unsophisticated
with whom the all-forgiving begum has graciously
condescended to pass time.
The begum, Dr. M.N. went on, ‘makes you conscious
of her family’s ehsan in agreeing to the match.
Day in and day out she slights you with oblique
references: ‘Amman, papa nae kiya dekha jo
haan kardi?’ The venerable assembly of husbands
nodded in union. Their experience in this regard
‘Even dadijan, a Syedani, rubbed dadajan,
a Mughal and an aristocrat by birth. Unwarrantedly
she would often lash out at him: ‘Hear me
now, and hear me good. I am a Syed, not a Mughal!’
Dr. M.N. bemoaned. ‘Poor dadajan was always
on the defensive. I pray for him to this day.’
The begum strives to see mian sahib in the role
of a doting mallard, completely and helplessly dependent
upon her.’Didn’t Saira Bano say in a
recent interview that she relishes Dilip “come
out and call her gently, as he always does, asking
for help”. Saira feels “beautiful and
great” when he needs her. “I want him
to be dependent on me for everything he does.”
Saira said so perhaps out of love for Dilip,’
Dr. M.N. explained, but in ‘your life the
begum has her own designs: she wants to rule the
roost - unchecked and unhindered.’
To support his argument, Dr. M.N. referred to a
number of case histories and quoted extensively
from international surveys and published reports.
A slide summing up findings of a recently published
report in the UK was particularly illuminating:
‘Women everywhere felt they had the sharpest
tongues and in Ulster, 44 percent of men shed tears,
a survey in Women’s World revealed.’
The survey confirmed: ‘Women agree about one
thing in marriage – they start most of the
rows,’ Dr. M. N. smiled. ‘Proves me
right,’ he said.
Divorced twice, his third marriage was on the rocks.
The disclosure added to the discomfiture of the
hapless hubbies. APMA, URAH, SOSV could help mend
the fences, not snap them altogether, they thought.
At this juncture,
the disheveled ex-PR executive-and-now-editor stepped
forward and surprised everyone with his strange
rhetoric and recital of newspaper reminiscences
of a senior and respected journalist, Mr. Mushtaq
‘From Lucknow I went to Bhiwandi for my marriage
which has lasted well over thirty-five years. Safia,
the niece of my closest friend, Murtaza Fakih, proved
to be a woman of extraordinary qualities with a
wealth of common sense so uncommon even in these
days of high education and low IQs, and blessed
with an infinite capacity to manage the household
on a meager budget bordering on a proletarian purse.
I did not marry for the love of money, but if I
were to marry her again, it would be for love. We
have three children all of them working on their
own, thanks to the care she has taken in their upbringing.
Like the parents they belong to the middle class,
content with their middle class income.’
Dr. M.N. hollered. ‘The fool doesn’t
know what he is talking about. It is out of force
of habit, his PR urge, to defend, to promote, to
deny, to explain. Defy, he can’t.’
The confused husbands were apparently moved by Mr.
Mushtaq Ahmad’s honest appraisal and appeared
in an ambivalent mood - now feeling for, now against,
Meanwhile, the Dr. M.N.- PR executive-turned-editor
verbal battle continued.
‘The fault does not lie with the begum. The
husband too is not to be wholly blamed,’ continued
the ex-PR executive.
‘Who, then, damned you?’ asked Dr M.N.
‘The fault lies with our perception, the perception
of the middle class. From the role of a social mentor,
the self-respecting safed posh middle-class has
degenerated into a boisterously braggart and discontented
‘Safed poshi has given way to superficial
artifices and affectations with middle-class strivings
shifting from universities, literary societies,
libraries, and publishing houses to posh localities,
five-star hotels, plush sofas, and aphrodisiac Indian
‘As in the past, so in the present, the middle-class
must act as a vibrant, dynamic segment of society,
and show greater respect for human development which
needs the science of values rather than material
development which is not total development and does
not solve major problems but raises them to a new
pinnacle of desperation.
‘We have a heritage, a past, and a history.
Even the present does not look all that bleak. Salam
has won the Nobel Prize and KANUPP (Karachi Nuclear
Power Plant) runs on indigenous fuel…’
‘There, there, he goes again,’ Dr. M.N.
protested. ‘Didn’t I tell you he is
a compulsive PR rascal.’
‘The truth, Sir, does not speak differently,’
came the sharp retort.
And so the altercation continued, a lively extravaganza,
as the evening wore on.
LATE NEWS: APMA has been formed, not so much to
confront the begum as to act as an appellant group
for erring sahibs! A special APMA group is to chalk
out the broad outlines of a ‘corrective policy;’
for whom no one knows! Dr. M.N., in the meantime,
has left for the United Kingdom to attend a course
on ‘matrimonial conciliation.’ His third
marriage still remains on the rocks, but, hopefully,
things are expected to take a turn for the better
with his fresh indoctrination.
The hubbies are generally at peace and lie low,
hoping against hope, that the begums would draw
inspiration from Mrs Mushtaq Ahmad and act Safia-like.