Getting Proustian With…LAXMI HARIHARAN – The Interview Series

MadhuriWrites

I’m kind of a nosy bitch, real subtle like, but still, nosy as shit, giving my two cents even when it isn’t requested. Which has gotten me in loads of trouble, heaps of it in fact, but that is another story altogether and one that will never be told anywhere on this blog

but is excellent fodder for a book…

heh-heh.

Anyway, I discovered Laxmi Hariharan a while ago on Wattpad, one, because she writes dystopian fiction, two, because she’s Indian, and three, because I love growing my circle of diverse writer friends, especially when we work in similar genres. I added her book to my library, started reading it – it’s really freaking good – and of course, momentarily stalked her on the internet

Laxmi1     Laxmi3bookcover  Laxmi3bookcover2 because that’s the kind of shit we do these days.

She and I had some random exchanges on Twitter but nothing major…

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Getting Proustian With…LAXMI HARIHARAN – The Interview Series

Getting Proustian With…LAXMI HARIHARAN – The Interview Series.

My choice is that I don’t have to choose

I admire Madonna. From the time she burst on the pop-music scene, she has constantly reinvented herself every decade, always teaming up with the current artist on trend.

I am not Madonna.

But thanks to technology I too am able to constantly reinvent myself in this lifetime.

So it means I don’t have to choose just one role anymore. I can simultaneously be an author, a blogger and a marketer.

LaxmiAuthor
I was a writer first, then became a marketer, thanks to opportunities in media and also because the roles held which allowed me to travel to many different countries in the world. The most memorable of these is the city of Belgrade. A story I heard there was that when NATO bombed the city in 1999, the schools, colleges, offices were shut down, for security reasons.

But rather than stay scared at home, the Serbs decided that what the heck! We are going to die some day, and if it’s today so be it. The general consensus was that they’d rather die while partying on the town than cowering at home. And, so while bombs dropped outside they were at the pub celebrating.

Fact or fiction I don’t know, but this particular nugget has stayed with me. Probably because I wish I could be as ‘ballsy’ as the Serbs. You know… Just live in the moment, make the most of it, rather than continuously plan out for the future as is what we are programmed to do.

So, the reason I share this story, is that all through the time I journeyed through these highly demanding marketing roles, I realise now I was actually searching for human interest stories.

I looked for it in the background of my peers, in the motivations of the CEOs I met—often trying to understand what makes them do what they did—in the more interesting real life-story narrated by the security-guard at the last office I worked at. It was this trying to understand what people are all about, which propelled me on. Perhaps in their experiences, I was looking for a key to understanding myself better.

All that time, I had been building scenarios & characters in my head. So when I finally put some real intention behind the words, stringing them together, I found I had opened something even I didn’t really understand. Not fully.

I am learning with each book I write, with each character I create.

Ruby.wheel.jump

Being a marketer is very valuable, because even as I write my novels the marketer in me is figuring out how to position it and trying to understand how what I am writing will stand out in the cluttered world we live in. I think it even helps me in sharpening my protagonists point-of-view. Because after all that’s what a brand is about: it has certain values, a certain DNA, an unique take on the world. That’s the perception people buy into. And so for myself as an author brand and for each of my book/character-brands, I am subconsciously building the messaging, of how to convey what I am writing to the world; even as I am writing.

Not too shabby then.

I used to be very defensive that I had been a marketer first and an author later. For it felt like in doing so I had been untrue to the artist in me. But I know now, that all through that time, I always have been a writer. That is the red-thread running through my life. Of, being someone who needs to express herself. Yet, that need for self-expression has been of varying strengths at different stages in my life.

Earlier, in life the need for independence and travel overrode everything else.

Now, the need to self-express is most critical.

So, while I will always be both an author and a marketer, I can instinctively play the role asked of me, depending on the situation I am faced with.

My choice is that I don’t have to choose.

Now

Video

“Becoming means duality means conflict” – Jiddu Krishnamurthi

A new society

Video

“But if we all see together that such an imprisonment, which it is actually, that we all feel it is intolerable, not just verbally but actually do something about it we will create a new society – right? We will if all of us say we will not tolerate for a single day this routine, this monstrous activity of nine to five, however necessary, however good and pleasant, then we will bring about not only psychological revolution but also outwardly. Right? We may agree about this but will we do it?” – Jiddu Krishnamurti

Using no way as way

Video

This video is pretty incredible. What it says applies to me as an artist, and in my everyday life. Bruce Lee influenced by the teachings of Jiddu Krishnamurthi says here: “It’s just a total freedom to react. Using no way as way. Having no limitation as limitation….Not to be boxed in by a certain way, you never get into a situation where there is only one response. Honestly expressing yourself….I can be phony, show you fancy movement, be blinded by it. But to express myself honestly is very hard to do. Do you know yourself, your skills, your weaknesses? Can you adjust your life to compensate for what is happening? I don’t believe in system nor method. Without system or method, what’s to teach?”

Bruce found the cause of his ignorance… Can you?

I want to look away but I can’t

No, I don’t want to see that your child has just been born

That this is your first family selfie —the only one before you untie the knot

 

I dont want to see pictures of your honeymoon

And that diamond ring to be enshrined in your tomb

 

That first kiss you stole from her, the first crush, a glance, a feel

Let that stay with you

For you, and, only you, for when you are heartbroken and aground

 

And when you die,

I don’t want your face popping up on my timeline

So, I see you are more missed in death than in life

 

For, when your life unravels in front of mine

Dipping in and out in real-time

It’s confusing and then…

 

When we meet

We don’t really have anything to speak

 

For I know everything about you,

Even what your family mishaps look like.

 

And while I too fall prey to it too many a time

I am going to try and hold onto my sacred space, from now on

And not share

How 26/11 changed this life of @RubyIyer

Incidents in our growing up years stay with us, reverberating throughout our life. And sometimes, something happens in your grown-up years that change the course of your life. This is how the 26/11 – terrorist attack on Bombay changed Ruby Iyer’s life forever

Crossing Over

No, it’s not actually as dramatic as it sounds. Its not like I am moving over from life to death or anything like that.  I am here on the first day of life as not being a nine-to-five employed person. I should be terrified at the thought of the yawning chasm of uncertainty in the future. But I am not. Where once I saw darkness, now I only see possibilities. I keep waiting for the feeling of helplessness, that traumatic sense of vulnerability, of being defenceless at the mercy of the fates to clamp its jaws around my throat, to the point where I am light-headed with worry. But no, nothing like that happens.

I should be terrified.

I am not.

I should be ecstatic at the chance of having the chance of being anyplace, anytime.

Not that either.

All I have is this sparkly, silvery feeling of now.

Now is the right time to be. The right place to be. The right space to take and set your own pace. Transform it into what you want it to be. I’ve been heading here my entire life.

Now when I am here, it feels right.

Like it was meant to be. Where I am in myself, not discombobulated—yes okay, over-usage of favourite word—I mean, not feeling like a whiff of vapour, which does not really have shape. An amorphous mass of rubber being pulled in different directions, buffeted into a form which is of use to the external elements, with the real me only being that tiny little scared walnut shaped embryo at the centre.

Maybe this time I can take this mass of clay, pour it into my own potter’s wheel, and use my own hands to give it the shape I want. There will be false starts. Sometimes the clay will be too agile, at other times too inflexible, I am sure to fire up the kiln to the wrong temperature a couple of times, and emerge scarred for the experience too.

But as long as the general shape is aesthetic enough to be pleasing to the eyes, strong enough to stand on its own, robust enough to withstand the external forces the next time around. Then it’s right. For me.

“Camel Trips don’t begin or end. They merely change form.” – Robyn Davidson in her memoir Tracks, about her 1,700-mile trek across the deserts of west Australia using camels. The posts in this series are inspired by the movie of the same name Tracks, based on her memoir.

The Many Lives of Ruby Iyer – Spotlight Blog Tour

The Many Lives of Ruby Iyer debuted #1 Hot New Release in Asian Lit on Amazon. Here’s a little more on Ruby’s journey

Fran Pickering

The Many Lives of Ruby Iyer

Laxmi’s Hariharan’s new book, The Many Lives of Ruby Iyer, is a white-knuckle ride through the disintegrating streets of Bombay as a terrifying encounter with a molester on a train propels our heroine from her everyday commute into a battle for survival – her own survival and the survival of the city she loves.

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How a near life moment changed my life

I was six weeks pregnant, or it may have been eight, when the pain caught me unaware. When I look back now I think I can tell with pretty accurate precision the exact moment that little thing which was not yet a foetus tore its way through my left fallopian tube. It didn’t live to tell its own story. Hence it falls to me to narrate the journey of that soul that never was, and how she—I just know it would have been a she—changed my path.

I call this my near life experience. For it was in almost giving birth to a new life that I stumbled across the courage to really live my own.

I remember clearly the first line of poetry I wrote. It’s a very distinct memory. I knew then I would write. A lot. It took many, many years; a few lifetimes; many reinventions to actually give some shape to what my five-year-old self had seen.

Emerging from the haze of morphine at the hospital—thank god for drugs—I switched off my cell phone and went offline for a month.

A full four weeks.

A first and never since.

In the silence that followed, I looked into the eyes of my husband and saw real fear: he didn’t want to lose me.

I didn’t want to die either. Not yet.

And yet I could have. And I would never have written all that was in my head, that which I saw so clearly.

In my weakened state-of-mind, I clearly saw the many generations of thwarted writers in my family—yep, I come from one of those families where everyone writes, but no one ever gets published—shake their heads sadly at me. They had thrown down the gauntlet.

Was I going to do it? End this pathetic, self-pity filled story stretching across time?

Perhaps it was being put deep under by the anaesthesia, for I am told it really is a little like dying. Well the closest one comes to dying without actually… dying; when you are sedated enough for them to cut into you. Maybe it was that which dropped me deep into myself, enough to touch the stuff that really mattered. The debris hidden behind decades of conditioning shot to the top.

So when I switched on my cell-phone and plugged back into the real word, I knew what I had to do. Write those damn books.

My second book The Many Lives of Ruby Iyer about a screwed up teenager, who comes of age in a Bombay on the verge of complete annihilation is out November 13. It’s released by Amazon White Glove, through Jacaranda Literary Agency.

About The Many Lives of Ruby Iyer

girl desperate to rescue her best frienda cop willing to do anything to save the city he serves, and a delusional doctor bent on its  annihilation. When Ruby Iyer’s best friend is kidnapped by the despotic Dr Kamini Braganza, she 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?

The Ruby Iyer Diaries 4

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.

Diary entry – 4

ELEVEN

Today is just another day in the rest of your life. 

That’s what Dad likes to say. He’s, really cool. Full of all these awesome quotes. I often creep into his study and hide behind the door of his cigar room. It is cool there, unlike the rest of the house, which is right now boiling hot, reflecting the sweaty weather outside.

Dad hates air-conditioning at home. He thinks its unhealthy to live cooped up, breathing in the same recycled air. It is one of the few fights he has won with Ma. A rarity, in our home too.

The only exception is his walk-in humidor. It is more a cubicle, the size of closet, leading off his study. It is always cool here. When I step in it is as if I have entered my own secret world: where that shrieking demon aka my Ma can’t find me. Often I can hear Dad putter around as he works. Today I can hear him chat with a colleague from the research Institute who is visiting.

He lights up a cigar, the smoke creeping into my little closet. The nutty-sweet, caramel taste of the smoke makes my mouth water. Inside my little universe I am surrounded by brown, leafy rolls. I am sorely tempted. Spying a lighter, I reach out for the closest cigar box and removing one, place my lips around the cigar. I have to purse my mouth completely in an ‘o’ to get my lips around it. So this is why Dad calls it, kissing a cigar. 
Ha! I am now the only girl I know, who kissed a cigar before kissing a boy.
I take a drag, and cough immediately. My throat is burning, eyes watering as the smoke burns through my insides. A pungent taste of burnt chocolate hits my tongue, making me gag. Yeesh! It’s nothing like the blissful look that fills my Dad’s face when he lights up.

Then the door to the humidor is flung open and I meet the shocked face of my Dad, his eyes rounded in astonishment. A puff of smoke escapes my mouth. It makes my eyes water, and I blink it away. I squeeze my eyes shut waiting to be scolded, perhaps to be slapped to within an inch of my life.

I hear the sound of laughter.

I open my eyes, to see Dad clutching the humidor door, his mouth open, peals of laughter bubbling up like a mountain stream. Around him, his friends take up the chant too. The room is filled with the mirth of grown men. To say I am shocked is putting it mildly.

Dad puts out his hand and I take it.

He will forever be my hero.

Dad swings me up into a bear hug. I put both my hands—the smoking cigar still clutched—around him and hug him tight. “Love you Dad.” I whisper. It’s the first time I have said that to anyone. It will be a very long time before I say those four words to anyone else.

From the author-This was just a taste of Ruby Iyer’s life.  Read the complete Ruby Iyer Diaries here.  Enjoy The Many Lives of Ruby IyerFollow @RubyIyer and on Facebook. Subscribe to my newsletterIf Ruby intrigues you then please do mention her to your friends 🙂

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Ruby Iyer Diaires. Entry 3

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.

Diary entry – 3

TEN

I have always been addicted … to adrenaline. It’s right in the middle of my summer holidays. The sun ripples through the fronds of the coconut tree. Placing my hands on the low wall, which separates my apartment block from the one next door, I heave one leg onto the top; the other still dangling down. Balancing the full weight of my body on my arms, skinny biceps vibrating with tension I pull up my other leg, scraping it against the rough edges of the wall in the process. Heedless of the thin stream of blood, trickling down my left knee, I survey the scene from my now-superior height of four feet nine inches, plus another five feet added by the wall. I look down at the scattered boys and girl assembled below.

Ruby Iyer Diaries

Ruby Iyer Diaries

“Dare you,” pouts Sid.

“Ha!” I snigger back. I am taller than him—for now—and am going to prove just how much braver too. I stick out my tongue; and am instantly rewarded by him rolling both eyes towards his nose and sticking his tongue right back at me.

Yah! Whatever. I’ll show you now! 

As light as a ballerina, I walk across the narrow surface of the wall towards the adjoining coconut palm. One of its long fan-like leaves hangs suspended. I tug on it, to make sure it’s firmly attached to the tree trunk.  Then, holding onto it, I raise myself to the tips of my feet.

Angling my head up towards the sky, I let the sunrays warm my face and neck, enjoying the little rise in my pulse. Then, as my heartbeat speeds up to tango with the blood now pumping through my veins, I jump.

“Kreegah Tarzan Bundolo,” I scream at the top of my voice, sailing through the air, over the heads of my friends. I look down at Sid as I cut through the air near his nose. He raises his hand pointing towards something behind me.

Yah! Right, no way am I falling for that trick now.

The ground rushes up to meet me.  I head straight for the pebbled mud just past where the group is standing, and hit the ground with such force that my nose slams into the dirt. Something hits me on the back of my head. Sid! How dare he? 

I shimmy up to my feet, my hands still grasping the palm frond, to find the kids laughing at me. One of the boys is literally rolling on the ground holding his side. The large leaf has come loose in my hand; it now drags behind me as if a large cape.

“Ha! If you are so strong, why don’t you wear your underwear over your pants like Superman?” The boy bursts out between his guffaws.

“She can’t, because she is a girl,” replies another. The look on his face suggesting he smells something horrid in the air.

“But you are a girl. So, how can you be Tarzan? You should be Jane,” bursts out the only other girl in the group. I walk up to her, more distraught than I care to admit. I don’t know why, but it seems terribly important to clarify, “I am Tarzan.”

“No, you are not!” The girl pushes her face right back at me, so we are nose to nose. Losing patience, I lift my hand and slap her. Thwack! To see her features crumple, you would have thought I had socked her hard. For all that, its just a measly little slap. She bursts into tears. Can you believe that?

Sid goes up and comforts her. “You really shouldn’t have Ruby.” He looks at me sadly. As they walk away, Sid still holding her—as if she is going to die any moment—the girl looks back at me and sticks out her tongue. Then, turning around she places her head on Sid’s shoulder and continues her incessant crying. She holds her hand to her cheek for good measure.

So much for female solidarity. I learn that lesson quite early in life.

From the author –

This was just a taste of Ruby Iyer’s life.  Read the complete Ruby Iyer Diaries here. Enjoy Ruby’s story in The Many Lives of Ruby IyerFollow @RubyIyer and on Facebook. Subscribe to my newsletter.  If Ruby intrigues you then please do mention her to your friends 🙂

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Ruby Iyer Diaries 2

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.

Diary entry – 2

TEN

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?

No such luck.

“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.

I am lighter. Swifter.

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 hate the attention.

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

This was just a taste of Ruby Iyer’s life. Here’s the complete Ruby Iyer Diaries. Enjoy Ruby’s story in The Many Lives of Ruby Iyer. Subscribe to my newsletter If Ruby intrigues you then please do mention her to your friends 🙂 

The Ruby Iyer Diaries – 1

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 

TEN

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. 

Prelude to a change

We lay calm in our beds that night. Even the baby, for once, slept soundly; even the dog, out in its kennel. And perhaps that was the odd thing, after all: how trustingly we slumbered.  As if fate had gifted us a few last wholly innocent hours, before innocence fell away forever. For when I woke, in the early morning – what was it? A difference in the quality of the light? Some new texture to the silence? But I opened my eyes, and I knew it. Something had changed. Something was wrong.

Blinking up at the ceiling, eyes unseeing, I made my muscles relax. First the feet, then my calves, the large ropey ones around my thighs, the shorter ones of my waist, my heart – was that what was different? The now? A window had opened. The choice was mine though. All I had to do was step through. Everything was right.

The baby’s wail cut through the alcohol fumes: low hanging clouds from the excesses of the night before. That’s how it was. She would be asleep one moment the next it was as if the entire world was beckoned. Sliding out from under the arm, which lay thick around my neck: a python of gigantic need, which had swallowed me whole many times; I wore my spectacles, then walked bare feet into the nursery.

Picking up Nina, I shushed her. Teething was painful: incisors cutting through gums. It made her want to chew on something, harder, unforgiving: anything to rival the ache of breaking down barriers.

Does she know this is only the first of many obstacles she will face in life? That she will need those sharp teeth to bite through arms holding her down. Use them to inflict pain on another being, to save her own?

The swaying of my body as I carried her down the stairs calmed her. Then, reaching for my breast, she latched onto it, sucking with a determination that echoed the sensation running through my body. Is this what they meant by seeing the world through your child’s eyes?

I looked out the backdoor into the darkness: I have stood here before, in a different life. I know when the dawn will reach out its silvery claws, extending it over the lone tree in the courtyard, caressing my skin and for a few fleeting minutes I will be warm. I have been cold, freezing, since my mother called me a few weeks ago.

For the first time in many decades, kith and kin were getting together at the temple of the family deity. Neglected except for short annual visits, when one of my cousins would attend to the needs of the idol housed there, it had surfaced in the collective consciousness of the larger household.

A series of illnesses, dreams from beyond the funeral pyre, delayed marriages, women having children late or not having children at all, had led to the astrological question being asked: what was wrong?

The answer:  appease the divinity at the core of the generational tree.

The last two priests appointed to perform the daily religious rites, met their end under mysterious circumstances; since then, the gods left to their own devices and had become unhappy at the lack of attention from the family who had sworn to take care of their footprints on this Earth. So in late December they came, from across the globe; assembling at this tiny village in the South of India.

Brothers buried teenaged disagreements.  Daughters of the family who had changed their clan-lineage by marriage had been specially invited to attend, for it was they… us… me? —Who had borne the brunt of celestial anger? The rituals continued over two days: ancestors were appeased, the foundation of a new temple lain, naysayers were silenced. Then, in divine acquiescence, it rained.

But, why did I not fit within this celestial pattern? By leaving the home country had I cut off the threads, which had warped me into the fabric of that family tree? Why was it that appeasing the ancestors had not yet cast its umbrella of benevolence over me? Something had shifted: I could see it shimmering in the air, just beyond me. But it wasn’t enough. For, even the stars did not deliver at warp speed. It took them a while to realign, leaving me no choice.  I had to bend time, take it in my own hands.

Hearing his heavy tread on the staircase I froze. The second step from the top, which coughed hoarsely; the fourth, which squeaked in a high-pitched voice; the one below, which was silent, and the one after which sighed. I willed myself to break out of the hypnotic effects of the symphony. There were only a few rungs to go. I was again a child, the one who was never seen or heard; and I knew I would not go back to that. I couldn’t wait another lifetime.

When he entered the kitchen I was ready.

Mikey’s cold nose pressed against the back of my knee, trying to comfort, to encourage? Securing Nina over my right hip, I picked up the unsheathed urumi (Indian sword with a flexible blade), which lay in readiness next to the remnants of yesterday’s pizza.

No, sometimes you just had to do these things yourself. You couldn’t depend on the cosmic to set everything right.

Sunday Surprise

creative barbwire (or the many lives of a creator)

My name is Brenda de Zorig and I’m a journalist for the Konigtown Gazette. I’ve been on the road for years as an actress in an itinerant company, but eventually decided to go back to my hometown to start living of the thing I like the most – writing. So while I write my Masterpiece, I took this job at the Gazette and they send me on various assignments… I thought I might as well starting interviewing random people. Since I intend to write fiction, but truth is always stranger than fiction, I’m eager to hear about people out there – on my world or Beyond.

Hello there. Tell me a little about yourself

Ruby Iyer, 17 ½ years

Describe your appearance in ten words or less.

Angry

Do you have an enemy or nemesis? If so, who are they and how did they become an enemy?

My Ma…

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The Ruby Iyer Diaries

There was a girl

With a curl

Right in the middle of her forehead

When she was bad she was punished

Then, she had her revenge

This is what Ruby Iyer’s story is about. Almost. She is one messed up girl, who spends most of her teen years trying to unlearn everything her parents taught her. That is, when she forgets to be angry, with the world.

RubyIyerDiaries_cover_final

What can’t be overcome, has to be tossed aside. That’s Ruby’s philosophy. Till life does it to her: throws her over. And then when she meets the boy/ man of her dreams. He is not the kind she imagined she would ever be attracted to… Yet, he is just what she needs. She knows that. But will she accept it?

How many lives will Ruby need to live, to realise she can’t bend life to her will. It’s life, which will sketch her… To the blueprint it has in mind.

Its all a bit cryptic I know; bear with me, its the writer in me not wanting to give away more.

Ruby Iyer started off as a weekly series, right here on UKAsian. Thanks to you: the readers who wanted more, The Ruby Iyer Diaries, a glimpse into the origins of an angry young girl, who will come of age in a city on the verge of total annihilation is now on sale here.

The Ruby Iyer Diaries, is a prelude to The Many Lives of Ruby Iyer: about a girl desperate to rescue her best friend, a cop willing to do anything to save the city he serves, and a delusional Doctor bent on its destruction. Also, out soon.

Here’s to finding your inner Ruby Iyer.