THE QUIET LADY

amnesty_domestic-violence_poster

It is the custom in Asia for women to defer to their husbands. Those unfamiliar with the culture will note women walk at a respectable distance behind their husbands whenever they’re seen together. It’s also surprising to a newcomer women don’t eat with their husband and his male friends, taking their food in relative obscurity of the kitchen; their holy domain.

While those not born in Asia may misunderstand these things, Asian society in history and sacred writings assign an important role to a woman. She’s a symbol of all that’s good, and Laxmi was a demonstration of that symbol.

Each day you’d see her trudging patiently to work, eyes averted modestly toward the ground. Evenings she’d march with her children to the bazaar, to replenish home supplies. She was infinitely patient as children darted around playing games and generally getting in the way. Once or twice she’d been at the clinic to have treatment for cuts and bruises, and it was an open secret her husband was responsible for those injuries.

Laxmi would shrug off questions and suggest she may have suffered wounds in her housecleaning activities. On holy days she’d be one of the first there, children safely deposited with teachers to learn good moral principles.

Laxmi was respected in the community.

Her husband was a firebrand. He felt his special assignment in life was to set people right when they strayed from his impression of the correct pathway, and he’d made himself very efficient in this self-appointed task. People would tread warily when he was around hoping he’d not be on a crusade against them.

Segments of the community were not as positive about the husband as they were about Laxmi.

Once in a while some brave soul would share with Laxmi community feelings about her husband. She’d smile and explain patiently he was a good man at heart, and his motives were pure. She’d dwell on his good points as a husband provider for the family, and make visitors aware of his achievements and work record.

Laxmi was a picture of loyalty and devotion, and those who came to her with complaints against her husband would leave the house confused, and a little ashamed of their criticisms.

Once in a while, if you were observant, you’d see a look of hurt and fear in her eyes after a personal encounter with her husband, but she was always patient, loyal and kind. No one would doubt this woman was doing all she could to model what the sacred writings described the ideal woman should be.

She longed for an environment entirely without suffering and fear she believed the after-life would bring. Her greatest desire was her influence would be the means by which her children would themselves model that after-life as she’d demonstrated it in her life.

“© Copyright Ian Grice 2015 All rights reserved”

This is not a description of any one case I’ve observed, it is an amalgam of several cases I’ve observed. The common denominator was an overbearing and brutal husband. Neither is this situation confined to Asia. There is ample example of brutality toward women in Western Societies too. The Hungarian word for wife roughly equates in English to “Other Self.” That was the original concept, a man and a woman together make a united team. Governments are today actively promoting a different set of values to what is practiced by too many men of this day.

Copyright: The above image courtesy of sojelrodsol.blogspot.com

22 Comments

  1. Very interesting post. It”s good to learn about other cultures. We oftentimes are so involved in our own little part of the world that we fail to learn about others. I must say, it certainly makes me appreciate being raised and living in my country!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You are so right. Living among other cultures give one an opportunity to compare what you see with what you are familiar with. We found many positive things to learn from those diverse cultures, and of course there were the negatives too. Those experiences reinforced the need for us to practice a tolerant understanding of diversity, but of course toleration has its limits too. When a migrant culture seeks to enforce its point of view aggressively then the host country has to say a very determined NO.

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  2. “Those unfamiliar with the culture will note women walk at a respectable distance behind their husbands whenever they’re seen together” ???? Still??

    But Asia is huge, Ian. Many, many places – the developed parts, esp like S. Korea – have long since shed such impositions on women. I think “Asia” is best clarified here.

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    1. OK, you are unlikely to find it among people in South Korea you say and in Singapore not among the Chinese or perhaps better educated others. Depends on whether you are in a rural area or not in many Asian countries. From my observation I’ve seen women deferring to men in rural areas of some developed Asian countries which I’ll not name because that would be insensitive. Transplant Asians living in America would probably be careful doing that in the US, either because they’d be laughed at or receive negative comments, or because they’ve become Westernised. That’s my observation. Perhaps others have a different opinion.

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      1. I think my last trip north was about 2010. I was working with some of my former students in Hong Kong who were involved in he Healthcare Industry and chairing a committee looking at potential healthcare industry start ups in China. I gave up international travel after that for health reasons.

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  3. very sensitively portrayed. I love that there was no bias in your piece Ian. It showed integrity and a deep understanding of the culture. My instinct at first was to help her as I have worked in the field of domestic violence for years, but as I read on, I realised how important it was, for you, the visitor in the country to accept their ways.

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    1. It’s complicated Barb. We were on a picnic near a village where in the distance a man drunk on arrack was beating his wife. Our children could not understand why we didn’t intervene. We had to explain to them that if we did and the man lost face in the village over that intervention he would kill her later when we were not around and no one would bother about it in the village. Its a vast land with a vast population and a slight change in culture every hundred miles. But the biggest contrast is between urban areas and the villages. There are laws to govern the nation, but in the village the heads make their own rules.

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  4. It is so interesting to read how different the customs of the people in other parts of the world are from where I live. It is sad to me the way women are treated in some places though. Reading this reminded me of when I was growing up and we would all be at my grandparents. At mealtime all the men were fed at the table first, the children were fed next and the ladies all ate after everyone else did. My grandparents home was the only place I ever saw that done. Another very interesting read sweet Ian. Hugs

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  5. I always learn something new from your posts and this one was no exception. It is good for members of a partnership ,such as a marriage, to know their roles. It seems to me that Laxmi was remarkably smart in her loyalty and acceptance of what she couldn’t change. You seem to infer that she thereby achieved her own level of happiness and content. As a staunch westerner, I believe in a partnership based on sharing and equality in the conviction that such a relationship will result in more true contentment and fullness of life. Dan and I just celebrated our forty-second anniversary and know that this approach works for us. He says that his approach is to: “Win the war, by loosing every battle.” When I challenge his terminology and concept he merely responds, “Yes dear!”

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    1. There is that built in sacrificial spirit in the majority of women. We have been conditioned to expect that and it comes as a surprise when we read a news headline that gives us the exception. I think we men often have unrealistic expectations of our women and should appreciate them more than we do.

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