When a sister is engaged before her older brother, the natural order is disturbed. The first child is always packed off first, the second child is next and so on. Family elders are not pleased that the line of people waiting has been jumped, but that most in this line cannot yet vote is ignored, and that had they been able, they would choose to not cast their ballot.
"For how long will you resist," an aunt smiled, wrinkles spreading around her grave eyes. "Not long now," another said, squeezing my shoulder tightly. One hopeful asked: "By this year's end?" Every relative is the enemy, every conversation a landmine. It takes one irresponsible word to turn a discussion on Sehwag to turn into an impassioned speech about marriage and responsibility. The words could be 'girl' or 'settling' or 'maiden'. Even not saying anything leads others to believe a cloud of gloom has descended over the bachelor, and only marriage can save him. Wedlock as savior. There is something very evangelic about all this.
The gorgeous sister was forgotten, replaced by self-preservation. But how? Running away is not possible, noncommittal smiles are perceived as arrogance, jokes are inappropriate, so how can it be avoided? Age can't be fudged (we're not Pakistani cricketers) a silent corner cannot be found for fear of being labeled anti-social. The temporary solution is to stand there and listen, and be honest. No, marriage can wait; no, not this year; no, don't chat with the woman's parents; no, please, no.
The elder brothers, the ones who resisted this charge once, are among the elders. I cannot explain it, not without sounding foolish, but there is something disheartening about this, but also something comforting in imagining that the struggle is bound to end in defeat.