RUBY IYER IS just another scared, screwed-up teenager growing up in Bombay, until the despotic Dr Kamini Braganza kidnaps her best friend. Now, Ruby will do anything to rescue him. Anything, including taking the help of the reticent Vikram Roy, a cop on a mission to save Bombay. The city needs all the help it can get, and these two are the only thing standing between its total destruction by Dr Braganza’s teen army. As Bombay falls apart around them, will Ruby be able to save her friend and the city? Will she finally discover her place in a city where she has never managed to fit in? And what about her growing feelings for Vikram.
Ruby wrote almost daily in her diary from the age of ten, till she left home at sixteen-and-a-half. It is from here I picked scenes from her early life. They have been chosen in chronological sequence but are in no specific order of importance.
Sometimes it feels as if I have been scared all my life… Tried very hard to belong, know what I mean?
At school during recess, I sit with my tiffin box on my thighs. My arms are placed over it; palms demurely folded one on top of the other. I take care to cross my legs just so. Making sure there is not even a tiny flash of my panties. Just as Mother Superior taught us.
I sneak a peek at Tania’s lunch. Cucumber sandwiches: nicely cut, crusts taken off, and chocolate chip cookies on the side. Of course I don’t want any of hers, I am not going to ask her. It looks so nice.
“So, what have you got?” Shali asks pointing to my unopened box. “Nothing…” If I keep peering at Tania’s tiffin, perhaps she will forget about me?
“Surely there’s something there? Show me!” Snatching up my box, Shali runs away. “Hey!” I stand up shocked at her audacity. Then, skirts of my navy- pinafore flying over my thighs, I give chase. She is taller, has longer legs.
She runs past other girls scattered around the playground. Each one cheers her along as if she is the winner of the race, and I am the runner up. I am conscious of eyes boring into me, assessing my every move. It’s as if I am starring in a movie on the big screen, instead of running in a school playground.
I don’t like coming second, even more.
Pretending I am invisible I give chase, and catch up with Shali just past the badminton court. I grab the braid streaming behind her, yanking her back. For a second there, we form the two arms of an inverted ‘V.’
“Ow!” She screams, dropping my tiffin box, and holds her head in pain. I pull once again, so her neck snaps back with the force. My feet slip on the mud and falling to the ground I hit my cheek. Still I don’t let go of Shali, bringing her down with me so we are both on the floor. I am fuming. She is of course crying. What a weakling!
One of the girls has come up behind us and picks up the box that has burst open now. “Oh! Look… Dosas (rice & lentil pancakes)!“
All the fight goes out of me. My secret is out. I never seem to bring the kind of Westernised, sophisticated food my friends do. It’s not because of my lack of trying though. I have begged and begged at home to be given sandwiches instead of dosas… Food that marks me out as being backward, traditional. It’s just that Ma is never around, and Sarita only knows how to make Indian food. I mean how difficult can it be to pack sandwiches for lunch right?
I have never hated anyone as much as I hate my parents just then.
The crowd gathers around us, faces peering down at me. One of them helps up the still sniffing Shali to her feet. Everyone’s staring at me as if they expect me to lose it again and attack one of them.
I am sorely tempted to stamp my feet in frustration.
Instead, I stare straight back, sitting up cross-legged now; not caring that the rough stones are biting my legs throughout the cotton of my pinafore. One of the girls picks up the tiffin box and lifting out the remaining dosa she gobbles it down.
“Yum!” She looks at me. “I wish I could bring home cooked food everyday. All I get is sandwiches,” she grimaces.
OMG! I’d give anything to exchange my food for hers.
“Yeah, I know. My Ma loves me so much, she cooks it with her own hands everyday. And now she spilt it.” I look to where Shali is looking at me with disbelieving eyes. My tone wobbles, very convincingly. I have learnt how to play the victim really well from Ma. After all, she’s had a lot of practice with Dad
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