When I was a boy of eight or ten, I used to see a lot of men beating their wives. One was a man of my father's age (he and I were partners in the salt works we bought and ran from 1978 to 1991, when I sold my share to a man who owned the neighboring salt works). This man used to beat his wife for reasons I never understood. She died young, after giving birth to a boy (who died of kidney failure around the age of 50). The wife-beater took another wife but by that time we had moved from that neighborhood so I never knew if he used to beat her up as well.

My father once told me that wife-beating among illiterate men was considered normal and even essential in our ancestral home town of Bhavnagar in India. Men used to beat their wives before breakfast, before lunch, before dinner and whenever the urge came upon them. It was done to remove Satan from their minds, but I never found how they determined if Satan was there. Maybe if the wife failed to get pregnant within three months after marriage, or if she didn't bring him a glass of water sometimes due to fatigue, whatever the reason (and even when there was no reason), she would get beaten.

I once heard of a man who had been told by his friends not to talk to his wife unless it was absolutely necessary (like when he wanted something to eat or drink). The poor thing used to spend her days staring into space, because radio and TV had still not come into the country. One day, he put his hand on her shoulder and said, "Let's go and watch a film". The woman was so startled that she died of  shock. I don't know if this story is true or not, but I remember one of my friends advising me on my marriage to dominate my wife from day one. "Tell her to remain silent in the presence of your relatives and to obey your every command". Of course, I was educated enough to know that no woman would ever live under such circumstances, so I merely nodded. But because he wanted to dominate his wife (he had married six months before I did), she naturally didn't like it and filed for divorce after their first kid (a girl) was born. He married again, a divorced cousin from Bombay, but of course he was too careful with her. He too didn't live long, dying of a heart attack at the age of 50.

Talking of wife-beating, I'm sure it is still common, though there have been only two men among my distant uneducated relatives who indulged in it. One of them died a couple of years back, the other is now an old man who spends most of his time in a nearby mosque.