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#Exclusive: Author Laxmi Hariharan on ‘The Many Lives of Ruby Iyer’

The rape of the journalist in Bombay in 2013 (following the rape of the girl on the moving bus in Delhi in 2012) affected me for I too had been a young journalist in Bombay not very long ago.

I wished for a female robo-cop, a vigilante figure who would take the law into her own hands and protect women.

Robo became Ruby… Ruby Iyer.

As a young girl travelling on the local trains of Bombay city I was at the mercy of those men who groped me, felt me up on each trip… I was helpless.

Ruby is not.

Ruby Iyer was born as a weekly web-series right here on the UK Asian.  From the first episode, readers would email to ask me what was going to happen next.

So I wrote The Many Lives of Ruby Iyer – completing it in six months.

Ruby Iyer is the ANGRY YOUNG GIRL of today.  The millennium belongs to her.  She does not need anyone to save her.  She saves herself.

Ruby’s choices are not always correct, yet we empathise with Ruby because she does not hesitate to follow her instincts whether it is to save another girl from being molested by the ‘Hand’ who also assaulted her or teaming up with the cop Vikram Roy to save Bombay from the clutches of the devious Dr Braganza.

Ruby has a unique energy.  She bids… I follow.

She is also her own person.  Ruby always finds her way.

Novel Synopsis:
An angry, young girl, desperate to rescue her best friend…
A sexy cop, willing to do anything to save his city…
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 mysterious Vikram Roy, a cop-turned-rogue, 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, 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 Many Lives of Ruby Iyer’ is a character-driven, thriller-fantasy, with a kick-ass protagonist taking you on a white-knuckle ride, through a disintegrating Bombay city.

It debuted at #1 on the Hot New Releases on Amazon Asia Lit.

I hope you will enjoy this excerpt from Ruby’s story.

For the last fifteen minutes of the ride, Vikram has not moved from his position.

He is careful to keep his back and neck well supported against the seat stirring only once when we turn off Pedder Road onto Warden Road. 
Familiar routes.

Roads I know better than the lines of fate on my own palm. After all, I have ridden through them more often than I care to speculate.

Already the geography of the landscape is changing. I can feel that slight change in the air that signifies comfort, wealth, and a gracious way of life.

It’s a subtle inflection in the atmosphere that has crept in like the long fingers of fog from the sea as we burst into the promenades bordering Worli Sea Face, just after the Sea Link.

Or perhaps it’s just the proximity of these areas to the ocean.

Still, once you hit Worli, it always feels as if the skies open up to the heavens, a window through which I can lean out of any time, and breathe. An easy escape just there. It’s so tantalising I can feel it, taste the salty air on my lips. I hate it because it reminds me of how I feel inside: caged.

I can hear the silence.

The car follows the graceful curve of the road all the way down as it hugs the curve of the coastline of the city, past the ice-cream parlour where I hung out at after school, the café next to it modelled on Pop Tate’s from the Archie comics.  It’s where I tried my first meat-burger, and I hated it so much I had sworn to turn vegetarian.  Like my dad.

Past the Ghetto, a pub, which has been there forever, where I kissed my first—short-lived—crush, Sid.  The homegrown Irani café, tucked away a little down the road, which has long served up the best bun-maska.  Where through most of my rebellious teens I sat with my best friend, Reena, the only one who had an inkling of how I had really felt inside.

There’s no more Pop Tate’s, and no more does the Irani café serve out cups of milky coffee. It’s all replaced by condominiums thrusting out into the sky, thumbing their nose at innocent fancies of girlhood.

Soon we would all be gone if she had her way. It was just insane.

I blink and focus on the road.  Around here, things seem normal, sort of, if you discount the lack of people and traffic.

It’s always been quieter here within the walls surrounding the compounds of these buildings.  Money brings a certain hush to the air.   Here in SoBo, there is a softening of the desperation more evident in the suburbs.  Yet, it was there, on the opposite side of the city from where I grew up that I discovered a hunger for life.

There’s nothing like being deprived of what you take for granted to realise you can do without so much.

Vikram signals I should turn off the street into the compound of the building coming up, and I pull over in front of the lobby.

Normally this area is packed with cars, and chauffeurs taking cigarette breaks in between driving kids to school and the lady of the house to the beauty salon.  It’s weird to not have to jostle for space.  Sometimes, you really do get what you wish for, only to discover it doesn’t feel right anymore.

Thankful I don’t have to worry about parking properly, something beyond my rather basic driving skills, I unsnap my seat belt.

There are no lights in the lobby, or out in the compound. Isn’t it amazing how much we take electricity for granted?  My parents had sometimes spoken of power cuts when they were growing up.  I have only ever seen a city with a stable electricity supply.

The headlights of the car illuminate my path as I rush around the other side to help Vikram out.  My knees buckle slightly when he puts his arm around my shoulder and leans heavily on me.  The bleeding seems to have stopped…

Actually, I can’t really tell, for the cloth he holds to the wound is now over-saturated with blood.  His skin is pale, stretched across his face, but he seems to be stable.  The weight of him on my shoulders pushes me down, and awakes anew the aches and pains all over my own body.  Great!

The bullet wound on my side has decided to wake up and speak with the scratch on my back, which in turn chooses this exact moment to chatter with the lightning tree it’s lying on top of.

Each scar has decided to swap their life stories … I am one big wounded opening.  Biting down on the inside of my cheek, I try to contain my distress, focusing on making it to the staircase. “Which floor?” I pant.

“Eighth.”

“Fuck,” I groan at his whispered reply. There’s no way we’ll make it that far without an elevator. “Perhaps we should just knock down the doors of one of the flats on the first floor?”

When he shakes his head, I stare. “What? Don’t go all cop on me now. No one is going to mind if we crash his or her place. They are gone, trying to save their own lives.”

He simply shakes his head again. His body sags further into mine, and his eyes have gone steely. More grey than brown now. It’s a combination of pain and what I recognise as sheer pigheadedness.

“Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.” I don’t bother to hide the curses now.

“Very innovative.” His breath hitches in his chest.

“What?” I snarl as we begin climbing the stairs. To his credit, he climbs with minimum assistance from me, using the bannisters for support.

“Your cuss words. Very original.”

“FUCK,” I swear louder, just to make a point. His smile maddens me further.

I pause at the landing of the fifth floor. “WHAT. THE. FUCK!” I yell, kicking the wall, only to groan when my already broken body protests. I almost collapse as a spear of pain throbs through me, setting off all my wounds ringing in unison.

“If you are done having a meltdown … can we keep going?” Vikram asks from where he has stopped on the landing ahead of me.

— Get your copy of ‘The Many Lives of Ruby Iyer’ on Amazon USAmazon UKAmazon IndiaAmazon India Paperback / Flipkart
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