Hindi Film 101: Salman Khan Part 4, The Abusive Boyfriend

Oh boy! The big controversial thing that is the first/only thing people think of with Salman! How fun for all of us to discuss it, and perhaps later be sued for libel.

Non-Usual Disclaimer READ IT: Salman has done a lot of bad things, but he has also done good things. And just as the good he has done has not erased the bad he has done, so has the bad not erased the good. I will try to treat his life as a whole, good and bad, with compassion and understanding as I would for any other human.

I purposefully put off dealing with this section until after we learned about Salman’s family background, his childhood, his work struggles and responsibilities. Too often Salman gets limited to this one thing. No one should be limited like that, human beings are more than just one label. So yes, this is part of who Salman is. And so are those other things.

Part of why I wanted to discuss the other parts of Salman is because I think often his abuse is seen as part of a pattern that doesn’t really fit. He isn’t abusive because he thinks he is above the law, or because he thinks he is better than other people. He isn’t a Golden Boy in public and abuser in private. There is no need to reveal the hidden “truth” and shame him. Salman is already a terribly humble person and a tortured person. He does not abuse because of his privilege, if anything it is a result of his personal damage. That does not excuse his behavior, but it puts it in the proper context.

Intimate partner abuse is one of those things that partly depends on society drawing a line, which helps you find your own personal line. If Salman were to actually hit a woman he was dating, backhand her hard across the face or punch her in the chest, I think he would be horrified. I think he would question everything about himself, take time off to do a deep internal inventory, find the source of the behavior and resolve it. And also immediately break off contact with the woman. Salman knows that behavior is wrong, all of society knows it is wrong. Wrong to such a degree that it must be addressed.

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One small confusion with Salman’s abuse of Aishwarya is that, unrelated to him, she happened to be in an accident shortly before she issued her statement acknowledging his abuse. Aishwarya herself tried to clarify this over and over again, but somehow in the mind of the public her broken wrist and other injuries became a result of Salman, not an unrelated accident. Her statement says he never hurt her in a way that would leave a visible mark.

But when Salman shouts at his partner in public, throws a drink in her face, drags her from a room or grabs her shoulder to get her attention, he is not crossing a line in his own mind. This is not a line that society has drawn for him. To hit a woman, that is wrong. To cause her pain, to frighten her, that is just a thing that happens.

I don’t believe that Salman is lying when he says he would never hit a woman. I don’t believe there is worse abuse that we do not know about. I also don’t think Salman is proud of his behavior in those moments, he himself has said it was wrong and he is sorry. But I don’t think he sees it as abuse, I don’t think he understands that this is not healthy behavior in a relationship.

Think about the Indian movies we have all watched and the way men and women are shown together in relationships. Not the over the top dramatic action films with the hero threatening the heroine until she falls in love, but the films that pretend to show something closer to “real life”. Dil Chahta Hai, for instance, Preity’s fiance was possessive and occasionally threatening towards others (but not her). She was also afraid of disappointing him. She left him in the end, and that was the happy ending, no one in the movie wanted her to stay with him. But no one in her life stepped forward to say “he is abusive, you have to leave”. He is just a bad boyfriend, that’s all. In Awara, Raj Kapoor is angry with Nargis, grabs her and shouts at her, and she accepts it and apologizes. Even Devdas, Dev does not know how to express his feelings and ends up being cruel and insulting to both Paro and Chandramukhi while they endure it. These are not supposed to be the best moments of the relationship, or the best possible relationship, but it is acceptable. When you are in love, you are passionate. You shout, you get angry, and a properly in love woman will then forgive you and quietly accept your behavior. Mani Ratnam in Kaatru Veliyidai set out to show this kind of unhealthy abusive relationship and to show it as abusive (even if he never hits her), and yet the audience still read the film as an epic love story.

Even the official youtube plot description refers to it as an “epic romance”

This isn’t to say that all of Indian film or all of Indian society is filled with angry scary men. But if you are a man who is verbally abusive to your partner, no one will necessarily question it. Even you yourself will not be encouraged to question your behavior. Certainly your partner won’t question it.

When a man behaves in that way in some other societies, it means he is so angry, so lost to shame, so out of control, that he is willing to break the bounds of society with his actions. When Salman behaves in this way, he is not breaking social bounds. He is staying with in them, just barely with in them but still within them. That does not minimize what he has done, but it makes me more willing to believe he has not done more in private, that he is not completely dangerous and out of control. Especially since his relationship history does not support the idea of him being a monster in private and a saint in public.

When Salman was young, after having seen his parents’ marriage fall apart, being forced into a role of responsibility for others and adulthood before he was ready, seeing his mother then forgive his father and love him anyway, he went out and found himself a girlfriend. I think it makes sense that he would go out and try to find a partner, a woman who would always love and understand and forgive him, one where he could be himself instead of the perfect son and the perfect brother. And he found her, a neighbor girl who was studying to be an air hostess. He was in love, he wanted to get married, they would be together forever and ever and his life would always be perfect. And then she left him, didn’t want the life he was offering, maybe didn’t want the passionate overwhelming need he was offering. She went on to be an air hostess, married, had a nice normal life. Salman was left heartbroken and lonely.

His next relationship was public, after his acting career started and with a fellow celebrity Sangeeta Bijlani. She was a model turned actress, more famous than he at the start of the relationship and also a few years older. He was in love again, intoxicated by this older woman who seemed to know what she wanted and could fit into his life. He brought her home and his family embraced her, accepted her, they had a serious mature relationship for years. And then they planned marriage, her family agreed and his family agreed, they ordered wedding cards. And Sangeeta called it off at the last minute because she learned Salman was cheating on her with young Somy Ali. And a few years later, Somy Ali broke up with Salman because he was cheating on her Aishwarya. And a few years after that, Aishwarya started fighting with him partly because he was still in touch with Somy and helping her with her father’s health issues.

Image result for salman khan somy ali
Somy was 16 (officially, but who knows?) when she started dating Salman and a young aspiring model, he was 26. They were together for 6 years, until she started getting suspicious of Aishwarya Rai spending so much time with him.

Salman’s first girlfriend broke things off because they just weren’t right together. His next two serious girlfriends broke things off because he was cheating. And then Aishwarya specified his abuse as why she left him.

I don’t think Aishwarya is the first partner Salman abused. But I think, perhaps, his previous partners just did not see his behavior as abusive. Somy and Sangeeta both had lines he could not cross and would leave him immediately (even while a marriage was planned) if he crossed them. But it was not lines of abusive behavior, it was cheating. And because it was cheating, limited to that one area of trust in their romantic relationship, they have remained friends with him after the break up. Friends to the point of Somy calling Salman for financial and emotional support when her father became ill, Sangeeta visiting his family home whenever she is in Bombay.

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Sangeeta and Salman at Arpita’s baby shower a few years back, years and years after their break up, post her marriage to another powerful man, she has no reason to “pretend” to like him or be friends.

It’s easy to call Salman a misogynist, a chauvinist, to write him off as being hurtful and hateful to all women. But that doesn’t really hold up. He is a bad romantic partner, but in every other situation he is a good man for a woman to be around. Somy Ali, in the middle of a fight he poured her drink on her. But after they broke up when her father was dying in America, he was the first person she called. Katrina Kaif, we have all seen how he cares for her. He is the first to defend her in any public scandal, he makes sure she gets hired for films and gets hired in good roles, he even produced a movie to launch her little sister. He treats his ex-sister-in-law and his stepmother with respect, both women who are in relationships to him that should make him disrespectful, and women who are most known for dancing sexually on screen. He has long term loyal friendships with actresses from Tabu (upperclass old school intellectual of his own age) to Karisma Kapoor (friend and colleague since youth) to Preity Zinta (independent international ambitious businesswoman). Heck, he’s the only figure from Hindi film to endorse Hillary Clinton for president! This is not a man that hates women, or disrespects women in general.

Let’s look at the story of him yelling at Katrina for the dress she was wearing. Salman says that he was concerned because the director was making her wear something inappropriate, it wasn’t right, it was going to hurt her career and her as a person, make people look at her the wrong way. So yes, he yelled. And then Kareena Kapoor was pulled over from a nearby set to come calm him down.

Salman was in the wrong, no question in my mind. You should not resort to angry yelling instead of calm discussion. You especially should not angrily yell at a friend. And you should not yell and posture in such a way that is an implied threat to a woman when you are a powerful man. And there’s the whole thing with Kat not even being the one he should be yelling at, he should be yelling at the director who put her in the dress. All of this is why he is abusive, leaping to angry yelling without worrying about how it makes the other person feel, how inappropriate it is to the situation. And when it is part of an intimate relationship, when the place where you should feel the most safe becomes the place where you feel the least, that is abusive.

Image result for katrina kaif singh is king
I remember an old interview with Salman where he said he just doesn’t watch Katrina’s movies, he knows it will upset him to see her like that onscreen so he avoids the trigger. I would prefer that he would have no emotional reaction to the clothes his girlfriend wears in films, but the awareness that it is a trigger and choice to avoid it is a good step.

On the other hand, if Salman had had those exact same concerns, that a particular costume was not appropriate for the character, or a good career move for his friend, and he had pulled Katrina and the director aside to discuss it calmly and express his concerns, I would have no objections. The actual mindset and opinions are not a problem. Salman is not crushingly patriarchal, he has old-fashioned opinions but he is aware that woman don’t have to follow what he thinks just because he thinks it. Salman was not beating Katrina in public just for wearing a short dress any more than he judges his stepmother for her past, or his sister-in-law for divorcing his brother and moving on with her life. Or his other girlfriends for their life choices.

But Salman didn’t pause and calmly express his concerns, nor did he think about what it would feel like for Kat to have a large angry man, a man she had an intimate relationship with, shouting at her. The story going around is that he also hit her with a stick and drove her back into her vanity van. Personally I don’t believe that exactly. But I believe he may have picked up a stick, a cane, anything laying around and raised it in the air, hit the side of the van, used it as an instrument of fear. And I believe Katrina retreated to the van in fear.

As I said, Salman is an abusive partner. But he is also Salman Khan, a particular person in the world. I don’t want to limit him down to just one element, or broaden him to try to make him fit with every other abusive partner in the world. He is a man who will allow himself to lose control, to show extreme anger to his partners, to the point of terrorizing them. But he does not see all women as objects for his rage, he does not hate women, and I do not believe he has crossed his own internal lines of physical violence towards woman.

Image result for salman khan tere naam
Salman even onscreen is unlikely to cross those lines, in Tere Naam he was driven mad by love, but could not bring himself to hit a woman.

There is also the fact that Salman comes across poorly. He is not verbally gifted, has a hard time explaining himself in interviews, makes bad jokes or goes down blind alleys. Sometimes (I suspect because of his TN), he appears almost drugged, responds to questions that were not asked, or seems not to hear questions that were. It is off-putting for an interviewer, or anyone who only has a brief interaction with him. He is also large and muscular in appearance. Currently he is most known as an action star, and his fans come from the male lower classes primarily. It is easy to see him as an abuser, a bad boyfriend. And perhaps he is given that label because it is easy to see him that way, his sins expanded beyond what they truly were, and moved into areas where they do not belong.

Just as a challenge, to make sure we are treating people equally and evenly, I can give you some more names of abusers from Hindi film and what they have done. Rishi Kapoor, Neetu had to call the police on him while they were married and had young children in the house. Om Puri, respected intelligent character actor Om Puri, was accused of violent abuse by both his first and second wife and his son. Sanjay Khan, minor actor and producer and Sussanne Khan’s father, hit his girlfriend actress Zeenat Aman so hard he broke her eye socket. Salman is not the only one, or the worst one, and yet he is carrying the label while others escape.

Partner abuse is just one area where Salman has been given a label. I will be getting into his other crimes tomorrow. All of them are areas that can cause a deep visceral reaction in people. And it is easy to look at Salman, odd famous aging pudgy faced perpetual bachelor Salman, and let our emotions go. To see him as a convenient symbol of everything that is wrong. But he isn’t a symbol, he is a person just like any other person, and he deserves to pay the price for his own sins, no more and no less.

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22 thoughts on “Hindi Film 101: Salman Khan Part 4, The Abusive Boyfriend

  1. I don’t see Salman as benevolently as you do. It’s true that he’s had to take on responsibility for his good for nothing siblings but I think it’s also led to a god complex. He will shower his generosity on those that listen to him and defer to him in everything. His family is willing to do that. So are people like Katrina. But his inner rage and vengeance comes out against those that don’t listen to him or have their self-respect intact. It can be witnessed with everyone from Aishwarya to Himesh to Arjit Singh to SRK. He recently slapped his own bodyguard and then had his PR remove the videos from the internet.

    Misogyny is not just about doing terrible things. Misogyny is also about not taking women seriously and not letting them have agency. Wardrobe people have even mentioned that Katrina’s clothes have to be approved by Salman and he will make her change if he doesn’t like it. This happened during the Tiger movies when they were not even dating anymore. The reason he gets along with her is that she passively lets him take control.

    I’ve seen him display a similar complex with SRK too. He claims he didn’t mention SRK during the time they weren’t talking but that’s patently untrue. He gave a lot of entitled interviews about how SRK used to call him ‘sir’ when hew as new but now thinks too highly of himself. He seems obsessed with Mannat and from time to time makes odd comments like “If I did Baazigar, SRK wouldn’t have Mannat.” He was doing it even recently during Bharat promotions that “Mannat came to me first” as if it’s a script that comes to someone. SRK ignores it because Salman’s family was kind to him in the beginning but there’s a reason why they’ve had at least 2 huge fights and not spoken for years at a time.

    He and his supporters made it look like Vivek was the one in the wrong for daring to speak up about Salman’s bad behavior. Everyone indulges Salman because he is their gravy train and nobody tells him he is wrong about anything. He’s believes his own hype now.

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    • I agree with you. I think Margaret is giving Salman waaaaay too much of a pass here. You can be both wounded and privileged. You can be both victim and victimizer and having been a victim doesn’t obligate us to sympathize with the victimizer.

      The fact that women go back to Salman for help is a common dynamic between abusers and abused, that doesn’t mitigate his behavior in any way.

      I’m also deeply skeptical that Salman didn’t hit Aishwarya. She says there weren’t any visible marks, that doesn’t mean he didn’t strike her.

      I enjoy Salman as a performer but his personal conduct is seriously problematic. I think you can hold both things at the same time. For example, Roman Polanski is both a rapist and a brilliant filmmaker. His films aren’t less brilliant because of his personal failures. I think a reasonable person can choose to watch Polanski’s (and Salman’s) films despite his crimes but what’s not reasonable is to downplay or excuse what he did so you don’t feel guilty about enjoying his films. I see that often with fans and it’s not okay.

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      • So glad you are commenting! I wrote this whole long thing and then no comments 😦

        I would flip your statement around and say that being a victimizer doesn’t mean I can NOT sympathize with you. I don’t like Salman for being an abuser, but I do like him for other things in his life. He’s a complicated person and, for me personally, the specific things he is accused of related to his personal life leave the door open for me to still feel sympathy for him in other ways. And give him the benefit of the doubt in the areas where there is still room for doubt.

        Especially because, as a Khan, any small story immediately gets blown up and repeated and changed as soon as it is released, making the truth increasingly hard to find. The story Anonymous tells above is a good example, a cell phone video of him in the middle of a crowd slapping a security guard is immediately interpreted multiple ways and used to fit any narrative that is convenient while the “truth” of the incident is left somewhere unknown.

        On Fri, Jun 7, 2019 at 9:50 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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        • Slapping a security guard isn’t a reasonable response to a child being knocked down. Yell at the guy, even fire him, but striking the guy? That just needs to be called right out.

          I can feel sympathy for child Salman and for the adult with pain and health problems, but people go through similar and even worse experiences and don’t come out of it as abusers.

          I’m going to see Bharat this weekend, I still enjoy Salman as a performer but his behavior is fully terrible regardless of what he may have gone through as a young person and with his health issues.

          Liked by 1 person

          • I’m not even sure about his health problems. I first heard about it because it was used in court (they also claimed he has heart problems) as a reason for why he can’t be put in jail and needs leniency.

            I know India – you can get doctors to write up anything for you if you give them some money. Not all but there are plenty who would be willing. People can get fake diplomas and everything. It’s not even that hard– even a middle class person can manage it.

            How and why is someone with such a ravaged body doing continuous action films back to back without rest?

            This is the same reason I don’t take his charity work that seriously because he has used it time and again in court to save himself. It’s good if people are getting help regardless of the reason but it still makes me suspect him.

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          • Agree that slapping a security guard isn’t a reasonable response. What bothers me, and what also bothers me with the stories of his abuse, is that it is immediately changed to be something different and either far worse or far better than it really was. The fans say “it isn’t true, he was protecting a child like the saint he is”. The anti-fans say “he has gone crazy and is turning on his own followers for no reason”. And lost somewhere in between is “he had a reason to be angry, he wasn’t irrational, but he expressed his anger in an unacceptable way.” In the same way, the vague impression that he beat Aishwarya to the point of visible marks and injuries is hiding the reality that he abused her in private without leaving marks.

            It is more extreme and obvious with his court cases, where he is certainly guilty but rather than being prosecuted for the thing he is guilty of, he is being charged with much higher offenses that the prosecution can’t prove, and he keeps winning his appeals. If he was being prosecuted for the lessor offenses, he would be in jail.

            On Fri, Jun 7, 2019 at 11:46 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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    • It’s all perspective I suppose.

      That story of him slapping his bodyguard for instance, I tracked it down. According to witnesses, he was arriving at a theater to see Bharat and a small child ran forward, the theater security shoved the kid away and knocked him down. Salman slapped the security guard. It wasn’t his bodyguard, he wasn’t turning on someone who worked for him, it was a theater employee. And he had a reason for it, or thought he did. The fact is that he did slap a security guard, but it can be seen as either “instinctive protection of a fan from a misbehaving guard” or “instinctive violence and anger for no reason”. It all depends on which headline you write.

      https://www.deccanchronicle.com/entertainment/bollywood/050619/watch-salman-khan-slaps-his-own-bodyguard-at-bharat-special-screeni.html

      https://www.dnaindia.com/bollywood/report-watch-salman-khan-comes-to-kid-s-rescue-slaps-own-bodyguard-during-bharat-screening-2757525

      I agree about the God complex and liking to be in control. But I still don’t know if I would characterize that as misogyny. For instance, the reason he is mad at Arijit Singh is also clothing related, he didn’t feel Arijit dressed correctly for an awards function, and Arijit isn’t a woman. And, for me at least, having these personal feuds and a short temper is not reason enough for me to write him off as a bad person. But then, I am also an extremely forgiving person.

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  2. I don’t agree that because Aishwarya said she’d go to work as if nothing happened implied that he never hit her. She appeared in Filmfare wards in 2000 with some injuries, and that point it was rumored that he had physically abused her and had even warned her to not make an appearance. Didn’t he also make a huge scene at her apartment because she wouldn’t open the door? Salman is the most entitled person; he feels his benevolence and charity (to family and outside) means everyone should always be indebted to him. He needs to see people as equals and not just as puppets that he owns. As for Arijit Singh – even if it was clothing related, I don’t think that gives Salman any right to dictate what people should and shouldn’t do. He just assumes he’s everyone’s big brother.
    Also no one is putting a gun to his head and forcing him to work – he works because he likes the money.

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    • He did make a huge scene at her apartment, either her father or her neighbors called the police, and Salman acknowledged that it happened and he was in the wrong.

      In terms of the visible injuries at FilmFare, that is what I reference here, Aish was in an unrelated accident that caused severe injuries. She herself said Salman abused her, but not in a way that shows. So, not those injuries, other injuries. There’s so much going on around this story, it can be hard to keep track of it, but I always like to be precise.

      I don’t think Salman is right in how he treats Arijit Singh, but I do think it shows that his Thing about proper clothing is not just related to women.

      On Fri, Jun 7, 2019 at 11:32 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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    • Salman has gotten Arjit’s songs cut from movies too and made other singers sing them over.

      Exactly, he works because he wants to. Who’s forcing him? He likes that the money gives him power to control people around him.

      One more thing about misogyny – journalists have written about how a drunken Salman sat down, grabbed a magazine, and started pointing to all the women he had had sex with. Salman has no respect for women other than the ones related to him – which is actually not that different from a lot of desi men. They idolize their mothers and sisters (partly because those women revolve around them) and denigrate other ones.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Hmm, I don’t know know much about Salman’s personal life but I do think that if those women are staying in contact with him it doesn’t necessarily mean much about him, more about them. They could be forgiving people or just people who don’t hold onto anger much and are willing to look at the happy times. Somy Ali might not have had much people who could help her besides Salman. He’s probably a guy who does help people he loves and goes out of his way for them but he also has some major issues. The thing that I hated most was the incident where he ran over the sleeping man, how heartbreaking.

    Being able to look at this as an outsider might give you a more understanding standpoint but if i was his friend or girlfriend who had to deal with the kind of behaviour he’s known for, I’m sure I’d want to distance him completely. if people were constantly bashing him I’d maybe defend certain aspects of his personality but in no way would I want to stay in contact anymore unless he were to really change.

    Also unrelated, but with the Vivek Oberoi thing, I think Vivek was the better person in that situation. What he did was unclassy and obnoxious but it was out of anger and frustration maybe. And a need to “win”. Its frustrating when someone is really bothering you and they’re not stopping . If Salman kept showing up at Aishwarya’s sets while she was dating Vivek and also calling Vivek numerous times, that would be super annoying. Maybe he was smiling or had a weird energy when bashing Salman to the press because he felt avenged to finally be able to out him publicly but I think his heart was in a normal place, a place of wanting to just stand up for himself and his girlfriend. Plus how he looked at that moment doesn’t necessarily represent how he felt the night before when he was maybe discussing it privately with Aishwarya or a week before when he was discussing it with Salman privately (if he did). We only got one glimpse into what happened publicly, his demeanor before could have been more serious about it than that day. Its far more forgivable to me than Salman’s anger and need to control everything.

    But I don’t hate Salman Khan, I just don’t like the types of movies he does generally and some of the things I’ve heard about him.

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    • Thank you for your comment! It sounds like we have a similar feel about things. I wouldn’t want to date him or even be friends with him, but I also don’t hate him. He did bad things, but for me personally it is not enough to make me hate him.

      On Fri, Jun 7, 2019 at 2:02 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  4. Why hate him anyways? He is an abused person, first and far too early by people very close to him. The abuse is going on and on and on and no way out of it except through his anger and abusing of his position as a provider and mega-moviestar. We have no idea about what he r e a l l y lived as a child. And later on… I bet that his abusive behaviour often is a kind of rebellion against what others expects from him.
    I don’t think that Salman is mysogyn, I think, he simply is unable to cope with emotional stress and the dichotomy between the man he is and the man he thinks he has to be. And yes, I think the steroids he took for a long time have added to that in a negative way, physically and psychologically.
    It might seem that he is the one in command…imo, the expectations of others and his own opinion about his place he thinks he deservingly has aquired define his life. I think he mostly has a life in a cage…those who enter this cage have to behave according to his rules…basically everybody except his father, his mother, Helen, his two brothers and his two sisters…and the family kids.

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    • That’s an interesting way to put it, he lives life in a cage. He was raised that he has certain responsibilities to the wider world, expectations he must always follow on how to act, and he now puts those same expectations on others.

      On Sat, Jun 8, 2019 at 6:51 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  5. I have an outlook that is very similar to yours, Margaret. As an abused kid, I had to decide whether to be a perpetually angry, grudge-bearing person, or figure out ways to let that go so *I* could live a happier life for myself. I am extremely forgiving – to a point. (Go beyond, and I will push you out of my life ‘cause ain’t nobody got time for that.) I have taught my kids that it’s important to put yourself in your tormentor’s shoes to understand why they are behaving the way they; is sit really personal? Is your bully (for lack of a better word) angry at YOU, or are they just angry because they, too are/have been abused? Or perhaps their life is just so overwhelming right now, they’ve crossed that boundary of acceptable levels of aggression?
    My sweet, non-abusing husband can get very aggressive and even mean-sounding, but it’s usually because I’m feeling particularly unwell or he’s really stressed and worried about work or the kids. Then, his inward concern and feelings of helplessness turn into an outward irritability that he doesn’t even see at the time. But, once you’ve held up a mirror to his behavior, he will apologetically later it immediately.
    Salman is, clearly above all, a simple man: I pick up heavy things and then put them down! He is certainly not “in touch with his feelings” and has noooooo idea why he does the things he does. He is Kuljeet Singh from DDLJ; not a bad man, but no personal tools or understanding as to how to be a good man.
    At least Salman seems to have the potential to be a good, decent person. But no one around him seems to be in a position to help him grow like that.

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