A couple I know recently got their doctor son married to a good-looking, well-educated, ‘homely’, ‘traditional yet modern’ girl of their choice, and since then they have been pretty much on cloud nine–holding forth before all and sundry how, at a time when eligible boys left, right and center were marrying outside the community, their son was a shining example of ideal son-hood. And how this was only the result of the exalted sanskaras they were able to impart to their son (who in turn retained those sanskaras despite becoming a doctor, no less, and how that quite probably is the result of good karma accumulated over this and previous births.)
They beam with pleasure every time somebody indulges them by saying what they so badly want to hear–how lucky they are to be blessed with such a son! Such good parenting, and such wonderful karma too! Then they get all coy and say all of it is God’s grace.
We know how our country is obsessed with sons. We also know why. But is just having a son enough? He has to be a good son, right? And what good is a son who cheats you out of enjoying the fruits of your good karma by not marrying according to your wishes?
So just what does it take to raise the ideal Indian son?
Well, the answer certainly lies in ‘appropriate’ parenting. And that probably entails, amongst other things, making the son hear these age-old gems starting from the time he is old enough to comprehend simple sentences.
I am sure most Indian sons have heard at least some of these, and the really good ones have probably heard and internalised most of them.
Part 1: These stock sentences are delivered mostly by the mother. The idea is to imprint indelibly on the young son’s impressionable mind that he is special and much wanted and in addition to nurture a sense of gratitude and indebtedness.
— I wept with joy at your birth.
— Your grandmother/grandfather/sundry other relatives wept with joy when they got the news of your arrival.
— Yours was a very difficult delivery. I nearly died. I could not get up on my feet without help for months.
–Your father was very worried it would be a/another girl when I was pregnant with you. He was so relieved when he was told it was a boy.
— You got a really bad case of measles when you were about one. We spent whole nights carrying you in our laps, trying to comfort you, singing songs you liked to hear.
–I breastfed you till you were almost three years old .
Part 2 The following pearls of wisdom are offered by both the mother and the father to an older boy and are crucially important in the making of a good son, as they will shape his attitude towards women in general and his future wife in particular.
–The man is the head of the family. Women are born to serve men.
–You don’t need to worry about those pimples, now! You’re a boy after all! Girls will be falling over each other to marry you, regardless of your looks, as long as you do well in your studies and land a well-paying job. Only girls need to worry about their complexion and stuff–otherwise nobody will marry them.
–ALL women, except your mother of course, are scheming and devious manipulators. They never mean what they say and never say what they mean. The bottomline is, they can’t be trusted. (Illustrated with examples of the neighbour’s third cousin’s sister-in-law)
—Woman are irrational and petty. Their opinions just cannot be taken seriously. In addition they are prone to crying at the drop of a hat. Wise men pay no attention to a woman’s wiles and tears. (Examples of numerous uncles and bhaiyas whose wives ‘used’ their tears to lead their husbands away from the comforts of a joint family)
–There is no such thing as falling in love. It is a thoroughly decadent Western idea. The Westerners are jealous of Indian culture so they seek to destroy it by exposing our youth to such corrupting notions. No woman, apart from the mother, is worthy of being loved by a man.
–Women need to be kept busy at all times. This keeps them sane. They become unhinged when they don’t have enough work to fill their hours with.
–This is part of the reason why it is always a good idea to get married to a woman who is trained in the fine arts. It shows that she has been utilising her spare time well, instead of bothering her pretty little head with irrelevant non-issues( say, feminist nonsense ?) It also shows that she is obedient and disciplined.
–Only parents, well past the heady days of youth, are capable of making a wise decision as to who their child should marry.
— Marriage as an institution greatly favours women. That is why their families are willing to pay such hefty dowries.
–Women use their charms and beauty to ensnare men. Their parents actively encourage them in this wicked pursuit, just so they don’t have to pay dowry. You know about Gullu Bhaiya who married his coworker in that big company, don’t you? His mother spent days crying! And did you see how happy the girl’s relatives were at the wedding? For such a nice boy they would have had to shell out 25 lakhs at least. They got one for free!! No wonder they looked so happy!
— Women’s parents need to be kept in their places. Too much respect or concern goes to their heads. So wise men maintain a safe distance from their in-laws. Foolish men don’t, and their in-laws take advantage of their foolishness by visiting them frequently and for long durations. (several examples)
–In our great, timeless culture, the son-in-law is considered an incarnation of Lord Vishnu. The son-in-law is therefore poojya ( and by extension parents of the son-in-law are param poojya). The son-in-law and his family are thus deserving of the utmost respect. Good, cultured families are never found wanting in their respect for the son-in-law and his family. They also take care to train their girl accordingly.
–No matter how qualified and well-employed a girl is, HOUSEWORK IS HER PRIMARY RESPONSIBILITY. Never make the blunder of trying to help her out. Before you know it she will dump all her wifely duties of cooking/cleaning/ caring for the kids onto your head and you’ll be left, quite literally, holding the baby. Surely you know this is what happened to Dullu Bhaiya?
This list is far from comprehensive but I am sure you get the drift! If there is one thing that is pretty clear to me about the Great Indian Culture, it is this–misogyny, like charity, begins at home.
Edited to add: If you’d also like to know what goes into the making of a good Indian girl, read this !!