Cracking India is a novel written by American Pakistani novelist Bapsi Sidhwa. It is set in 1947 and tells the story of Lenny, a Parsee girl who lives in Lahore, India. The story begins when Lenny is four years old and ends when she is just starting puberty. Lenny contracts polio when she is an infant, which leaves her disabled. Although she likes the attention her disability gives her, she does worry that it may stop her from being married. She is an honest, trusting, and innocent child. But it is her honest and trusting nature that leads her to tell Ice-Candy Man the whereabouts of Ayah.
Ayah, whose real name is Shanta, is eighteen years old when the novel begins. She is Hindu and is Lenny’s ayah (nanny). Lenny’s mother is not very maternal, and so Lenny becomes very attached to Ayah. Ayah is very beautiful and has many male admirers. She takes Lenny along when she meets her many suitors.
Ice-Candy Man, the villain of the novel, is so named as he sells flavored ice-cream. He is one of Ayah’s many admirers, and when he discovers her whereabouts from Lenny, he kidnaps her and forces her into marriage. He is a jealous, possessive, and sexually aggressive character.