Last week, a 14-year old boy stabbed his family’s domestic help multiple times. His reason? She rebuked him for bunking school, then asked him to tell his father to buy some vegetables.
Although police arrested the boy, his father’s response was to doubt the cook’s claims and praise his son. “My son is a well-behaved boy and the incident has come as a surprise to me. After speaking to him, I have been given to understand that the maid kept instigating and ragging him. As a single parent, he didn’t want me to be hassled and hence did not raise it with me. Today, she went overboard and he snapped.”
Illustration/ Amit Bandre
It is completely understandable that a parent wishes to protect a child. Family dynamics are complex and a father will do what he can for his child. Yet, it is amazing that his statement implies, that any kind of scolding justifies multiple stabbings, potentially fatal. That somehow the victim ‘asked for it.’
It’s just a smaller version of what’s happening in the case of the Badaun rape and murders, where now, the machinery is working overtime to make it look like the victim’s families killed their daughters, because they were ‘loose’ — the fault was theirs.
From assault to rudeness, murder to misbehaviour — it is all allowed because boys will be boys. I have seen an acquaintance’s 14-year-old son lounge on the sofa watching TV while I helped her move some heavy things, unbothered, not attempting to help. When I queried why, she said, “Let him be, he has just started hostel so he is a little disturbed.” From here, to never helping his working wife while she makes dinner after her office, when she is six months pregnant, is one short step for mankind because “office mein bahut tension hai.” We must understand what our men go through.
The stabbing story nestled next to another ongoing media event — a movie star being tried in a hit-and-run case, which resulted in a death. This young man nearing 50 (some boys are always boys. Adorable, na?) has allegedly acted up many times, displaying violence towards women and men.
His violence is never condemned. Instead, his industry colleagues have said things like: “Many car drivers get away with similar offences. Salman Khan is paying the price of being famous. I am not saying that he should be excused, but I really pity him. (His ex-girlfriend) should come forward and rally around him.” Or, “He has suffered. Every wrong he does becomes a big controversy. But of course, I will not endorse drunken driving at any cost.”
That last comment is a masterpiece of excusing the inexcusable — where the crime of culpable homicide is quaintly re-phrased as drunk driving, just an unruly, boyish shenanigan. And it wasn’t even by his dad. Excuse him because he has a good heart (who doesn’t?).
No such understanding available for Preity Zinta, eh? That’s because it has nothing to do with a good heart and a lot to do with gender, caste and class. The stabbing boy attacked his domestic help, not his dad’s boss. The accident victims, street dwellers, did not have Rs 150 crore riding on them. The girls killed in Badaun belonged to a lower caste and rich industrialist certainly trumps faded actress in our world.
It’s like a cliched novel about 19th century feudalism — decadent sons of aristocrats mistreating some serfs, getting drunk and singing, ‘Papa kehte hain bada naam karega, beta hamara aisa kaam karega.’ We must understand, they can’t help it.
Paromita Vohra is an award-winning Mumbai-based filmmaker, writer and curator working with fiction and non-fiction. Reach her at www.parodevi.com.
The views expressed in this column are the individual’s and don’t represent those of the paper.