The mother complains that the son eats in his room, he leaves used plates on the bed, he leaves the newspapers flying all over the room, he sleeps and wakes up anytime, and he helps with no chores. He once asked his mother what she did all day, since the maids did all the work. He’s 20.
Once when we had dinner with them he asked his sister, one year older to him, to take away our used plates. “Heh, heh that’s your future anyway…”. The mother looked annoyed, but not enough. He wasn’t affected. The sister bristled but she looked more tearful than angry. Mother said he was the one who was going to pick plates when he was married. I laughed (through gritted teeth) and added, “Of course he is only joking, he’s no MCP. He will be a good husband and share chores at home.” Mother gave me dirty looks, her son would never be a Joru Ka Gulaam.
I couldn’t say “Where did he get that idea about her future from? If you ignore him when he insults his sister, how do you expect him to respect other women, including you?”
Moments before that the boy’s father had proudly recounted how the son once punched a classmate on his nose (which bled) because that boy said something disrespectful (or worse) about a teacher. He said such reactions were in their DNA, he had been the same. I said violence could get the child into trouble, but realised they saw violent reactions as err… manly.
Then the father spoke of how he had accepted no dowry. And how shocked his servants, subordinates, colleagues, acquaintances and friends were (many reactions in great details), how they had inspected his house and found no new gas stove, etc. How one of them told him they could have got him “an English speaking wife with a good dowry”.
The wife was listening. So were their children. I said my husband got no dowry either, but we were proud of that. (I didn’t say my husband’s colleagues, servants, acquaintances and friends, and even his family knew he would not listen to such talk.)
He said he now realised that his father in law was not wrong in asking if they had ‘any demands’. Now as a father of a daughter, he was going to ask the same question. The idea of equal rights and responsibilities for the son and the daughter was an unacceptable option here. (I tried). He now feels his “idiosyncrasies were wrong”. He said, in his youth he had found the question about dowry offensive. He had asked his father in law, if he thought he was for sale.
I didn’t ask if he thought disrespect for teachers was wrong, but disrespect for the mother, the sister, the wife and the wife’s father was fine.