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America for Beginners


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Do you consider Ram's behavior to his wife and son abusive? What is the line between an unhappy relationship and an abusive one?

Created: 07/26/19

Replies: 15

Posted Jul. 26, 2019 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
davinamw

Join Date: 10/15/10

Posts: 2732

Do you consider Ram's behavior to Pival to be abusive? What is the line between an unhappy relationship and an abusive one?

"Ram's authority destroyed Pival's own sense of herself and replaced it with a version that Ram created, a version she liked better, for a time. For Pival's part she had never met a man who looked at her with such a mix of calculation and interest, and she mistook his manipulative speculation for a deep true love... She had thought Ram would be the antidote to the lonliness and longing she had begun to feel. Instead, he became the cause of both." (p34).

Do you consider Ram's behavior to his wife and son to be abusive? What is the line between an unhappy relationship and an abusive one?

Later Pival observes that Ram "died thinking he had been the best husband and father he could." (p150). And towards the end of the book she concludes that "Ram had been in charge and she had accepted it. She had never realized that had she not accepted, he could not have remained in charge. Things might have been different. And the reason that they weren't came from no one but herself (p256).

Does Pival's acknowledgement that she could have stood up to Ram make his treatment of her and Bhim okay?


Posted Jul. 29, 2019 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
djcminor

Join Date: 03/14/19

Posts: 145

RE: Do you consider Ram's behavior to his wife and son abusive? What is the line between an unhappy relationship and an abusive one?

Ram is definitely an abuser. He probably saw himself as the traditional male in charge of the household and all the people in it. That does not absolve him from being abusive to his wife and son. Pival knew from early in her life that she had no power. Her marriage only cemented that belief. For her to discard her old life and make the trip to the US is remarkable. It took every ounce of courage she had. She had to summon up her old self--the one she might have been had she not been married to Ram.


Posted Jul. 29, 2019 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
djcminor

Join Date: 03/14/19

Posts: 145

RE: Do you consider Ram's behavior to his wife and son abusive? What is the line between an unhappy relationship and an abusive one?

I recently read A Woman is not a Man; in that story, Isra marries Adam in an arranged marriage. She hopes for a real relationship with Adam, one that will eventually be based on love and mutual respect. That does not happen. In reading Pival's story, I am reminded of Isra and Adam's relationship. In both cases, the women have high hopes for the marriages and look forward to a strong, loving relationship, but in neither case does that work out.


Posted Jul. 29, 2019 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
JLPen77

Join Date: 02/05/16

Posts: 304

RE: Do you consider Ram's behavior to his wife and son abusive? What is the line between an unhappy relationship and an abusive one?

I do consider Ram to be abusive, whether or not this was the author’s intention in portraying him as an alpha male of means in a culture of male domination. My reading is that she certainly wanted to highlight the cultural aspects without suggesting that all men of that culture are like Ram. But Pival’s ultimate exoneration of Ram, and her self-blame for not resisting him, made me wonder whether or not Franqi actually saw behavior like Ram’s as abusive, or fully understood what an abusive relationship really is. In my unfortunate personal experience, forgiveness of a dead, abusive husband is possible — but not the kind of exoneration Pival exhibits (“He did his best”), or the blaming of oneself (“If only I had spoken up...”). Pival’s real-life counterpart knows very well why she didn’t speak up— or try to leave.

The line between an unhappy marriage (or other relationship) and an abusive one is a matter of fundamental respect for the other person as a separate human being, not as an extension of your own desires, intentions and public image. The person with an abusive personality feels entitled to control every aspect of the victim’s life as much as his or her own, and is deeply affronted and threatened when the victim challenges this, even unknowingly. Ram clearly saw Pival and their son in this way, and gave them reason to fear the consequences of challenging that. Ram’s abuse was emotional and verbal, intended to demean Pival and cause her to distrust her own judgment and worth, enough to keep Pival in line without escalating to physical abuse. His son distanced himself to avoid a confrontation that could have become violent, it seems; both Pival and Bhim relied on subterfuge as a survival strategy as well. That is a major warning sign that you are in an abusive relationship: that you have to hide your honest thoughts, feelings and desires, not only because they may conflict with the other person’s, but because that person won’t hesitate to punish you for having them. Pival’s isolation from other people, even family, Ram’s dismissal of her own servant, and finally even her son, is another warning sign—the abuser doesn’t want the victim in situations or relationships he can’t control. Ram’s economic and cultural context aided him in that he could hire servants to run his household and report to him, in effect acting as guards over Pival as his property, and no one would see her seclusion as abnormal. His wife wasn’t expected to be active in a career or other pursuits outside the home, unlike Bhim.

We don’t see Ram in scenes that reveal what is implied by his worldly success, his faithful servants, and his role as occasional host: abusers are aware of what they are doing. They know exactly when and where they can lash out and get away with it, and to the world they present themselves as charming, gracious, sociable. That is how they find their victims.


Posted Jul. 29, 2019 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
dianeh

Join Date: 08/01/16

Posts: 70

RE: Do you consider Ram's behavior to his wife and son abusive? What is the line between an unhappy relationship and an abusive one?

Ram was definitely abusive both to Pival and to his son. He robbed Pival of her identity and her self respect. She was treated as an object. His relationship with his son was cold and heartless.
As I read the book I found myself becoming angry at Pival for not standing up for herself but, in the nd, I admired her courage.
There are huge cultural differences between what is acceptable in the US and what is acceptable in India. However, in my opinion, Ram overstepped the boundaries.


Posted Jul. 29, 2019 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
rebajane

Join Date: 04/21/11

Posts: 284

RE: Do you consider Ram's behavior to his wife and son abusive? What is the line between an unhappy relationship and an abusive one?

In our society he was an abuser. Anyone who has to deny themselves is under the thumb of another. In other cultures, however, wives are supposed to be submissive and homosexuality is an abomination. I don’t think that his peers would have considered him abusive


Posted Jul. 29, 2019 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
josephinej

Join Date: 05/11/15

Posts: 84

RE: Do you consider Ram's behavior to his wife and son abusive? What is the line between an unhappy relationship and an abusive one?

I definitely consider Ram an abuser. He completely controlled Pival and their son, shunning him and cutting Pival off from him when Bhim came out to them. I think it's a sign of her naiveté and the result of Ram's having control over her that she imagined that if she had only stood up to him things would have been different. Maybe they would have - they probably would have been worse. He even got the servants to be abusive to her.


Posted Jul. 29, 2019 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
JLPen77

Join Date: 02/05/16

Posts: 304

RE: Do you consider Ram's behavior to his wife and son abusive? What is the line between an unhappy relationship and an abusive one?

In looking at abusive behavior in a different culture, one that doesn’t grant women much freedom in law or by tradition, I think there is an important distinction to be made between the men who actively exert the level of control Ram did, and the men who don’t. In other words, regardless of whether his culture might tolerate his conduct rather than condemn it, it doesn’t mean all men in this culture behave the same way, or that they approve. Abuse is a personality disorder, regardless of its cultural context. Women can be abusive as well as men. And when it comes to looking the other way—that happens in America too.


Posted Jul. 30, 2019 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
davinamw

Join Date: 10/15/10

Posts: 2732

RE: Do you consider Ram's behavior to his wife and son abusive? What is the line between an unhappy relationship and an abusive one?

According to her bio, Leah Franqui lives with her Kolkata-born husband in Mumbai; and in her acknowledgements she thanks "Rohan, who, more than anything else, said just go ahead and do it." So, it would seem clear that she is not in a relationship like Ram and Pival.

I only personally know one family that lives in Kolkata of that generation and class, and they certainly don't fit the mold of Ram and Pival--husband and wife run different aspects of the successful business she founded, and both travel and work independently. Perhaps they would turn a blind eye on a relationship like Ram and Pival's if they were aware of it, but I feel it unlikely they would. So, I agree with JLPen77 that some cultures make spousal abuse easier than others but that is not a reason to tar the entire male population with the same brush.

As an aside, I was fascinated to read that Kolkatta has hosted an annual Pride walk since 1999, making it the oldest such event in India and South Asia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kolkata_Rainbow_Pride_Walk


Posted Jul. 31, 2019 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
carolt

Join Date: 03/25/17

Posts: 127

RE: Do you consider Ram's behavior to his wife and son abusive? What is the line between an unhappy relationship and an abusive one?

Yes, I consider Ram abusive. I suspect his culture made it easy.


Posted Jul. 31, 2019 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
reene

Join Date: 02/18/15

Posts: 406

RE: Do you consider Ram's behavior to his wife and son abusive? What is the line between an unhappy relationship and an abusive one?

Abuse exists in all cultures. There is physical abuse, emotional abuse and verbal abuse. When one is afraid to speak their own thoughts or to pick up a phone and attempt to connect with a family member, you are in an abusive relationship. Ram had destroyed Pival's ability to think for herself, and to respect herself. The culture does not matter. Even in a male dominated society, a man chooses his behavior. Ram chose to be an abuser.


Posted Aug. 01, 2019 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
acstrine

Join Date: 02/06/17

Posts: 314

RE: Do you consider Ram's behavior to his wife and son abusive? What is the line between an unhappy relationship and an abusive one?

Having read Girls Burn Brighter and A Woman Is Not A Man, I understand that Ram's treatment of his wife and son is in line with the cultural norms of his society-a patriarchal society, one in which men and women are not equal at all. And even though Pival was from an educated family, who did not accept this or adhere to this part of the culture, she was not exempt from its effects after she married.

I find it interesting that she and Ram met at university. Knowing that Pival was involved on campus, with the newspaper, for example, he pursued her. Certainly he should have recognized that Pavil was a different sort of woman than his mother or aunts. Was he intentionally cruel? Did he see Pival as a challenge to bring down? And given the way Pival was raised, encouraged, taught to question, I am surprised how quickly she shrunk to a fraction of herself so quickly. I feel that her parents would have supported her decision to leave Ram based on his "old ways" had she chosen to. What made Pival stay?

I have several friends from other cultures that are more "man centered" than ours in the US. The difference is that the men I know care for, provide for, and represent their families while respecting and honoring the contribution and unique personalities of their wives. Ram embraced the misogyny of the patriarchal mindset, and as a result, by western standards, his behavior was abusive.

Ram crossed the line from an unhappy relationship to abuse "almost immediately". His intentions were not pure or good. He set out to manipulate Pival and take her sense of self away. He made sure she was constantly surrounded by HIS family, people who embraced his methods of controlling his wife. Ram's most despicable act of abuse was taking the most important part of Pavil's life, her son, away from her.


Posted Aug. 12, 2019 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
dianeh

Join Date: 08/01/16

Posts: 70

RE: Do you consider Ram's behavior to his wife and son abusive? What is the line between an unhappy relationship and an abusive one?

I agree totally with comments by acstrine. Ram was definitely abusive. He did know about Pival's activity at university and possibly even admired it. However, once married, he was determined to have the upper hand. He probably was not as self confident as he believed himself to be and Pival. left to her own devices, may have made him feel less of a man.
In an abusive relationship one party dominates and does not treat the other person as an equal. Rather there seems to be a need for the aggressor to make the other part subservient. In this way he/she feels in control and not threatened.
Many people unfortunately are in unhappy relationships but they are not necessarily abusive


Posted Aug. 12, 2019 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
N*Starr

Join Date: 03/13/14

Posts: 45

RE: Do you consider Ram's behavior to his wife and son abusive? What is the line between an unhappy relationship and an abusive one?

I agree that abuse occurs in all cultures and it also is contextual. I actually struggle with particular point as I wonder if there is an universal set of rules around every person should be treated or if there is a different set depending on culture.


Posted Aug. 14, 2019 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
tracyb

Join Date: 09/22/11

Posts: 92

RE: Do you consider Ram's behavior to his wife and son abusive? What is the line between an unhappy relationship and an abusive one?

He is definitely an abusive husband in our culture. In that culture it is often just the way things are. Is this Ram’s fault that is hard to determine. Isolation is learned and from the outside it looks like he is taking good care of his wife. She has all the servants, clothes, tea with his family what more could she want.
This is really a poverty of spirit, self and life. Ram’s world revolves around himself and the beautiful picture Pival and Bhim present to his world.


Posted Aug. 25, 2019 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
teachlz

Join Date: 07/28/16

Posts: 43

RE: Do you consider Ram's behavior to his wife and son abusive? What is the line between an unhappy relationship and an abusive one?

There are cultural differences, but Ram's behavior was more psychologically abusive than cultural to both his wife and son. His wife lost herself trying to make Ram happy, and his wife lost her son, trying to agree with Ram's decisions.


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