He wants us to understand that he loves her.
The context of his actions make no sense in English, this language of wide open spaces, predictable grammar and punctuation, but in his scribe’s suffocating paragraphs of endless, clear Urdu prose the act takes on entirely different dimensions, love is not “love” but “mauhabbat,” a deeper, aortal lub-dub that exits not from our tongues but our solar plexus, where we also locate the sickness with which it fills us, this act of mauhabbat.
He wants us to understand the balance in their life that was upended by his nephew, the intruder. The details appeal to our sense of familiarity – love forbidden by families, surmounting hardship, defeating obstacles. He draws us into his security, love-as-happiness and fulfillment. What could be better for two people than complete contentment in each other (he asks), man and woman, the harmony of their lives is transcendent, uncomplicated because he loved her, he was a good husband and he wants us to know this. He wants us to know that the usurper, a man more privileged than he, the outsider, had no business taking advantage of his and his wife’s mehmaan-nawazi – crucially, because like marital love, a man’s obligations to his family and neighbors is also holy. He speaks to us intimately of his wife’s flirtation with his nephew. The long walks, the long drives, the movies together, the acts of – let’s face it, infidelity – that led him to banish the young man from his house, he says all of this to us, as a friend, what would you do, you know? You tell me, as a man in my position, you try to be reasonable, you appeal to your love for her, her hospitality, and you find yourself a guest in your own house, I thought once I threw him out that things would go back to normal, but it wasn’t so, she just got worse, I mean, Christ, what would you do?
(Fact: marital disputes, rejection of romantic advances and of marriage/love/sex proposals are amongst the most common reasons given by men for carrying out acid attacks. The literature falls just short on establishing a correlation between love and violence, yet tells us that perpetrators are frequently “lovers” or “suitors.” This is unremarkable in itself until we unpack the identity of “love” which is almost stubbornly and uncompromisingly male. Following a pattern of sexual politics so typical that it’s almost depressing, our friend constructs his “Self” as transcending the body in acts of love, tolerance and neighborliness while his partner is limited to her body, she is an object of love, an object to love, an object that, by diverting from the path he chose for her, worries and upsets him.)
What would you do if she threw you out of the house? With creeping horror our friend faces the reality of his powerlessness. The house in her name, the business she jointly owns, the annulment she will seek and the nephew she will marry – all this, virtually overnight, in spite of his best efforts to forgive her. In Bangladesh, the increasing participation of women in the labor force was accompanied by increasing instances of violence against women; many acid attacks, for example, took place on the way to or from work. Working women upset many orders, the primary one being of their own objectification. Women who seek love, sex and income have no place in mauhabbat.
But fuck this. Forget this endless processing of what he means, let’s listen to what the man says. Let’s hold our love-sickness in for a while longer: he wants us to know that he suffered, an inner imbalance that “burnt” like the tehzaab he had thrown on her face. The coup de grace is the appeal itself – “woman, don’t make a monster out of me so that I have to make a monster out of you.” The cadence between “qatil” and “maqtool,” where one kills and the other is killed, is lost entirely in translation, he wants us to know, this poet, that the two are entwined, by etymology, in death – dono maarey jaatey hain – and if the maqtool were to stand before you with her bosom bared, beating on her heart and screaming shoot me, shoot me and if you had a loaded rifle and were beside yourself, beyond your Self, bey-qaaboo, and if you were your father’s son would you not pull the trigger, take the first flight out of the country and get someone to throw acid on her face?
(Aside: In “Brief Interviews with Hideous Men,” David Foster Wallace reproduced, verbatim, conversations overheard and interviews conducted with rapists, molesters, with men who slept with women because they were vulnerable, who beat them because they could. Very little context is given, and almost no explanation is given for what the act of monstrosity actually was – the man is a monster, clearly, but what about his friend, the rapporteur? What about Wallace, the conduit and what about us, in our uncomfortable ability to relate to, sympathize with and finally recoil from in horror?)
The richness of JC’s language, his meticulous loyalty – “neutrality” – to his subject is precisely what horrifies us. The reproduction of male love and male hurt and male anxiety will not be satisfied in death and will not be silenced by law. It will not settle for anything less than complete disfigurement of women who love and earn and fuck. JC’s op-ed leaves us cold because just for once, we’d like someone to reproduce voices of women before they become acid victims, right when they’re deciding to leave their husbands for the men they’ve fallen in love with. Long interviews with wives who screwed their husbands out of alimony, with those petty, selfish women who leave their families, who fornicate without consent, who stay late at work and neglect to put tarka on the daal. Monstrous women who ruin marriages, cause “misunderstandings,” lie, cheat and steal but at the very least have the option, as men do, of carrying their hideousness on the inside.
 Rehman, Mofizur (2010), “Body of the other: constructing gender identity in anti-acid violence campaign materials in Bangladesh,” Post 1(1), pp. 31-60
 Chowdhury, Elora Halim (2005) “Feminist Negotiations: Contesting Narratives of Campaign against Acid Violence in Bangladesh,” Meridians, 6(1), pp. 163-192
Read Javed Chaudhry’s op-ed in Urdu here: http://www.javed-chaudhry.com/chala-goli-javed-chaudhry/