Sometimes it feels as if I have been scared all my life… Tried very hard to belong, know what I mean?
I once brought my friend Tanya home for lunch. I was about seven – I think. The cook had just served up steaming, hot dosas, and there was Amma in her fashionable cotton-kanjeevaram silk blended saree, which was all the rage at that time, by-the-way, and sporting this big, red pottu on her forehead. She was quite a sight to look at my ma. Regal, with that big bouffant she liked to wear, even though it was longer in vogue. She sat at the head of our antique dining table, gin & tonic in one hand, a cigarette in the other, not quite paying attention to our excited chatter, until Tania turns to me and goes: “Oh! You are Madrassi?”
I mean seriously, whoever says Madrassi anymore? Even in those days, which not that long ago, by the way, for I am just gonna turn eighteen in a few months`— it really was such an outdated concept. You’d think at least in Bombay, which is a bit more educated and cosmopolitan than the rest of India, people would have moved beyond that? But sadly not. So, anyway my darling ma, turns to Tania, and fixes her with this baleful smile.
I think she was trying to tone down the nastiness, but it didn’t really work. Quite the opposite, it made her look pretty scary. “There is no such thing as a Madrassi,” she snarls at her, breathing alcohol fumes down poor Tania’s face. It didn’t help that I giggled right then, seeing Tania’s terrified look. It was quite shocking, yet kinda funny. Poor Tania, bet she thought this was the lunch from hell.
She promptly burst into tears and had to be carted off by her faithful maid; who by-the-way never really told Tania’s mum what had really happened. The maid was as it turned out later, a drinking buddy of ma’s. She loved to bring Tania by our place mostly in the hope of getting the odd peg or two of G&T from my ma, who, btw wasn’t above sneaking a pint or two of beer to her too, on really hot afternoons. So it all remained our happy little secret. I don’t know what traumatized me more.
Having my best friend call me a Madrassi or losing a best friend thanks to my Ma’s outburst, which now that I am grown up seems quite justified.
Ruby Iyer the novel is out soon. Meanwhile, stay tuned for an occasional, sneak peak into Ruby’s innermost thoughts, as we raid her diary to take you inside the mind of this brash, bold, new heroine from Bombay. Sign up here to find out about the book release. Follow @RubyIyer on twitter.