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How far will a woman go to rescue a child? Rescuing Ranu is a multicultural, literary novel about sacrifice,survival, and the mysterious alchemy of love.
After a power struggle at her university, math professor Nela Sambashivan returns to her native India to think. She is drawn, instead, into the lives of ten year old Ranu, the cunning motel-keeper who exploits her, and an unscrupulous Uncle who believes that everything is for sale. Nela's transformation from abstract thinker to selfless guardian begins when she and her lover rescue Ranu from a forced marriage, but only when the child unexpectedly fails to thrive does Nela confront her miscalculations about sacrifice, survival, and the mysterious alchemy of love.
Nela allowed the suitcase to be put away, but would not relinquish her backpack. She sat with it on her lap, hugged it like a child. When the girl held out her hands for it, she had the look of an impatient parent on her smooth face. Nela shook her head. It was not the usual ambiguous waggle. It was a definite no, but the girl grabbed the handle anyway, and tugged hard. Nela pulled back, standing up to force the girl to let go. She did. But when she let the handle go, it was Nela who stumbled backward. The girl, with no trace of a smile, either victorious or apologetic, offered her hand to the sprawled woman.
On her way up from the floor, Nela took in a few more details. The girl was about ten years old, her underfed frame stretched on bones lengthening fast. She had high cheekbones and guarded eyes. Dressed in a plain cotton sari frayed at the hem, her only adornment was a thin gold chain, so thin that from a distance it looked like a few grains of sand had lodged on her clavicles. Her thick black hair had a blue sheen, and Nela could tell that it was heavy. It had been plaited too tightly into braids that hung thick as limbs just behind her ears. They probably gave her a headache she was so used to, she never noticed it. Who braided her hair, anyway? What was she doing in Kerala? Did she have people? They should want more for her than this.
Nela sat back down in the chair, bag still in her lap, and pointed to the other chair. The girl took it obediently. Nela unzipped the bag and pulled out the long yellow pads of paper, the pens and pencils, her well worn Gita. She laid them all out on the table, looking for a reaction. The girl seemed unimpressed. Nothing glittered, nothing gleamed. Nela asked, in Malyalam, “Can you read?” She flipped open a page, ran her finger down the margin. The girl patted the pad as if it were a pet, then shook her head and backed away.
“Don’t be afraid,” Nela smiled. “The words can’t hurt you. Do you know your numbers?” The girl nodded. Of course she must—it was probably up to her to haggle over prices at the market. She must have learned to add, subtract, multiply, and divide, at a young age.
A game the young Ramanajun had played with his schoolmates--his “magic squares” might appeal to the girl, so Nela pulled out a blank sheet of paper, scored it with three columns, and wrote numbers in each square. The columns added up to the same number, in all directions. The girl laughed with delight. She wanted to try it, too. Nela pushed the paper and pencil toward her.
“What is your name?” she asked.
“I am Ranu,” the girl said.