Slap as a penalty

We don’t know how did the Homo sapiens realise that one can be insulted by slapping!

Arvind Kejriwal did not show the other cheek, as Jesus Christ or some other pious person advised, when he was slapped by an auto driver in Delhi. Instead he went to his tormentor’s house, not to submit himself for further slapping but to make solicitous enquiries.

In the bargain he earned the auto driver’s goodwill. This, I am told, is one of the greatest achievements of Aam Admi Party because so far no one in Delhi, old and new put together, has been able to reform at least one auto driver. But AK has done it. So he still has some future in the republic of Modi.

Jesus must have been familiar with slapping. So it is older than him. That’s why he made that remark about offering the other cheek. This obviously leads to the conclusion that people have been slapping each other for thousands of years. And the tradition continues even in 2014 AD and in the same old style. But we do not know when exactly it started. And also how did the Homo sapiens realise that one can be insulted by slapping and how did the man slapped realise that he had been humiliated?

Let’s turn to its etymology. One definition is that ‘a slap or smack is a broad stroke made with the open hand or the back of the hand’. It is different from punch which is made with a closed fist. Slaps are frequently made across the face but can be also made across hands or any other body part, says the venerable Google.

As recently demonstrated in the Kejriwal vs auto driver case the purpose of a slap is often to humiliate, more than injure. But that Kejriwal was also injured could be merely accidental. Slapping is normally associated with minor violence. It is a case of instant punishment meted out then and there. It is impossible to ignore but doesn't cause much damage, says an anthropologist by way of explanation.

‘A slap in the face,’ is different. It is a common idiom to express rebuke, rebuff or insult. But here one doesn’t need to use the palm but a snide remark is enough to convey the slight. Husbands with a khap mentality slap their wives. Teachers slapping students as a way of punishment is universal. Most parents welcome it but retaliate when things go out of hand and the poor teacher gets a taste of his own medicine.

But wait. Please don’t be under the impression that all slaps are damaging; in fact a slap on the back is welcome because it is actually a congratulatory message. But it is more often called a ‘pat’ on the back.

Look at the irony. The Congress has hand as its symbol but is getting slapped by others!

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