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 Doctor 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 a diary from the age of ten, till she left home at sixteen-and-a-half. It is from here that I picked out scenes from her early life. They have been chosen in chronological sequence but are in no specific order of importance.
Diary Entry – 1
THE SOUNDS TRAVEL through the layers surrounding me. I am snug in my warm, little world. I am ready to go.
Impatient, I kick out, only to come up against a barrier. Trapped! I throw out my fists. I know I will only come up against the same barricade. Yet, that does not stop me.
I long to be free.
Then, a voice soothes as music filters through the fluids I am swimming in. It’s lush, solemn and gentle, dramatic and lean all at the same time. Entranced, I listen. Then I am moving, swaying; flowing back and forth, up and down.
It is hypnotic: pushing all other thoughts away from my mind, replacing the chaos with white. I quieten.
The music is haunting, trying to lull me to sleep, but I can’t. For, beneath it all is an overwhelming feeling of unhappiness.
My Ma’s misery wraps me in swathes of grief. Lonely, she is so lonely. Adrift in a world where she does not belong anymore. As if she has been pushed into doing everything against her will. Is it possible to feel such despondency? It’s dark enough to cloud the spotless silver of my mind. I can scarcely move now. What is it that perturbs her so much? Trapping her in this dismal reality?
When I tell her about this, my first awake memory, she dismisses it: “no one remembers what it is like to be in the womb, I can tell you how it was to carry you though,” she continues. Once she gets going, there is no stopping my Ma. She is like a fireman’s water hose: unplugged, and out of control. Nothing can withstand her frustrations. “You were the most violent baby ever. So restless I thought you were going to tear your way out. Not like your brother. The calmest child he was.”
Just another day, when I have disappointed her.
There really is no way I can make my Ma happy. It’s going to be many years before I realise that. Perhaps I never will.
Right now, I am a ten-year-old trying to figure out the ways of this world. A place, where grown ups tower over me. Where if I don’t do as I am told I am punished.
Where I am always being told to share my things. Today is when I decide I simply don’t want to share my home with another kid.
He is an adorable little doll like creature, my brother. He crawls all over following me, wanting to sleep in my bed, to play with my toys. He simply wants to imitate me. I guess I should be flattered.
He slithers towards the balcony, and standing up holds onto the grill. Above the parapet is vacant space. Opting to keep the flat stylish, Ma’s decided not to have any grills put on top of the bannister. Sanjay places his chubby little hands on the railing, looking through the grills. I lift him up. He is a heavy baby. Little Mr. Pleased-with-himself he is.
Not as skinny as I am. I am told I started life much like him, quite weighty. But the weight just slipped off in my third year. Its probably the stress of having to take care of my Dad while my Ma is away on yet another of her endless social engagements. That was until little bro—Sanjay came along. The boy she had always wanted. The child that almost never happened: conceived so late in life he is heralded a miracle. Ma didn’t have time for me earlier.
She has less for me now.
I kiss Sanjay on his cheek. He smells of baby powder. My lips touch his pale, pink cheeks and my tongue comes away with the taste of fresh cheese. I am enveloped in a white, sugary rush of affection.
Ma says he smells like himself but also like her.
I hate it.
I heave him up at eye level with the railing. So tempting… It will be easy to simply push him just that little bit over the edge.
I turn away still holding him in my hands. A wail sounds from the baby, attracting the attention of both Ma and the nanny she’s hired for Sanjay. But Sarita keeps me company instead. For, Ma will not let her darling out of sight. Surprise, surprise, she is the first to reach me: Ma covers the length of the room, in a single leap. I have never seen her move so fast. Ever. She snatches up her precious son.
She has no idea how close she came to losing him.
If you like Ruby’s Diaries, then do read her story The Many Lives of Ruby Iyer.