An important part of Indian culture is an expectation of “display of respect” from those who are younger or are considered socially inferior (as in, ladki wale, including the female spouse; employees; some castes, subordinates; anybody who might appear less powerful, etc.)
We express this respect in a huge variety of subtle and obvious ways.
Obedience and subservience are seen as displaying respect.
Another obvious way of displaying respect is the custom of covering the head or in some cases, the entire face by women, or not making eye contact.
Other ways are adding jee, ma’am, sir; being formal, not being too familiar, not calling the person by their name (even if married to the person). This makes communication difficult in some situations and relationships.
The one who is being displayed respect can be familiar in some ways like they can ask personal questions and take personal decisions for the one displaying respect.
Disagreeing is seen as disrespectful, having an opinion or humming, whistling, singing, relaxing very obviously (e.g. leaning, sitting with ones feet up, dressing comfortably etc), or generally being at ease are also seen as disrespectful and inappropriate.
(Just a thought: Maybe – since all women are lower in hierarchy, they may not whistle, or look relaxed in presence of men, or in public spaces. And if they do they face harassment or being put in their rightful place)
Letting the other person control our lives and choices is seen as displaying respect for them.
Some of these customs can make day to day life difficult for both, the one who is being displayed respect, and the one who is displaying respect. If one of them finds the need for this display inconvenient, they risk losing respect or being seen as undignified, or they risk being considered rebellious and inconsiderate
The older or the “respectable” person is expected to behave in certain ways. Not being openly communicative, giving instructions (even if ignorant or disinclined), keeping an eye on the respectfulness of those lower in hierarchy and maintaining their own state of superiority often puts them under pressure.
Many Indian in-laws and frequently, traditional husbands too, are not able to have relationships where respect is mutual, because they must fit into these rules of hierarchy.
This concept of display of respect isolates the one being displayed respect, it also builds a distance between the display-er and the respected. This also makes the one being displayed respect rather insecure – because they are told ‘follow the rules or be treated disrespectfully’ and strangely we also claim, apni izzat apne haath mein hoti hai.
This also puts the displayer of respect at risk of abuse by the one being shown respect. (as seen in cases of child sex abuse by teachers, older relatives etc and bullying of ladki-wale.)
Also it seems we believe those who do not behave in certain fixed ways don’t deserve to be treated with respect, because we have no concept of mutual respect and personal space and justice for all and individual rights or freedom and happiness etc for all.