A/N: This story is somewhat autobiographical and deals with racism and hostility like my other short story "Lakshmi". Rather an experimental piece. Don't like, don't read.

When you sit in the bus, Renuka, and you feel people stare at you as if you were an exotic animal locked up in a zoo, you hold your back stiff and curl your toes in order to generate an invisible shield which will protect you from the hostile glare.

You are in Indian girl living in a predominantly white community; and not a day seems to go past when you do not encounter members of said community who look upon foreign cultures and people with fear and hostility.

Do you remember, Renuka, when you were a little child? The only happy times you could experience were at home, with your family, where everyone was warm and outgoing.

And your other world, the world of school, was hell, wasn't it. You were hated from the very moment you set your foot into the educational institutions, beginning from kindergarten and continuing, continuing, continuing…

And now, Renuka, although you are hardened and your will has undergone much suffering, you have become very sensitive; you hide your vulnerability underneath a mask, and you wonder around alone, not daring to trust anyone. The racism, the discrimination, the nasty remarks have shown you the evil side of human nature, and the people who were good to you have disappeared from your life, moving away, just vanishing, vanishing, although you tried to maintain the contact with them.

Your self-esteem is low, so low. You withdraw into yourself; you prefer autumn and winter, the somber, rainy seasons, to spring and summer. Whither do you wander, Renuka? You come and go of your own will; if your friend focuses her entire attention upon someone else and ends up excluding you, however unintentionally, from the conversation, you go; and when your friend turns around to address you, you are no longer there.

Strange, weird, unapproachable Renuka! That is how people see you, don't they? People are not tolerant of your ethnic origin, although you are proud of your roots. And you have recently found out that you are bisexual, and people are not too open about that either. So you go strolling away on your own, preferring to be on your own, saying it is better that way, yes; it's good to be alone, yes, better to be alone than to be hurt by someone for the umpteenth time.

Renuka, your outlook on life is so dull, so utterly hopeless; wretched is your state of mind; you see no future ahead of you; you think of death, of self-destruction. And yet you struggle on, you can't seem to be able to stop, a tiny spark of hope is calling to you from the abyss of your despair, calling to you to hold on, hold on, hold on…

And you continue to remain true to what you tell yourself frequently: Never be one of the crowd, it is better to be lonely and free than surrounded by false friends and destroyed by peer pressure.

You are sometimes the only person with dark skin in the lecture-hall, in the streets, in the tram or in the bus, Renuka, and you feel so vulnerable, you wish you could collapse upon yourself just to avoid all those strange glances directed at you.

Yes, they stare at you, and others yet again don't look at you, you're invisible, a mere shadow, you feel like a wallflower, you don't know why, you just don't know…And they just stare through you, Renuka, and every time it is like someone is aiming an arrow with a poisoned tip at you.

The university is better, but Renuka, do you remember when you had to sign up for speeches for a seminar, and you had to work with someone on the speech? You actually managed to pair up with someone – group work has always been hell for you – and one person had to hold the speech while the other prepared a questionnaire. You remember preparing the questionnaire and although you didn't know the other people's e-mail addresses you used the university search engine to find out, and thus no one ended up being forgotten.

But when it came to the others sending out the questionnaire…you were "forgotten" twice. Only one person out of eleven or twelve apologized to you; and both times the teacher said nothing. Yes, you and your fellow-students are all adults; you can arrange that on your own. If you were white-skinned – would it have been different? You don't know.

Paranoid embittered cynical Renuka! Do not allow them to twist and distort your true nature; because if you allow them to wreck you like pirates a ship laden with treasure, then they will win.

It is you who must win.

And you will. Strong Renuka!