…by Nikita Lalwani.
14 year old Rumi Vasi is a maths prodigy. Living in Cardiff in the 1980s with her parents Mahesh and Shreene and her younger brother Nibu, she faces the challenges that most children of migrant parents do: caught between two worlds. Rumi though has the added pressure of being gifted in maths and consequently, has been pressured to do well academically since a young age by her parents. After years of putting up with her father’s regimented tutoring, Rumi finally begins to crack. She starts to long what most teenagers do: a life beyond numbers and academics. But unfortunately for her, longing and desire have no place in the Vasi household.
I really enjoyed this book. My heart went out to poor Rumi who had to put up with the pressures of parental expectations and being a first generation migrant. She tries to find herself and her own identity without much help from her family. A father who is rigid and aloof and whose only role is to push Rumi to succeed acadenically on all accounts is probably not uncommon in Indian households. Shreene though was an interesting character in that she is traditional and a prude and yet, at some level, you wonder whether she wanted Rumi at all. She pushes too but it’s her punishments and cruel words that cut through you as a reader. What I liked about the book was that unlike other books by Indian authors that portray the west as being negative or that the rebellious Indian girl eventually finds that all things Indian are the only right things in life, this was balanced. Yes, the parents are deeply rooted in Indian tradition and see the west as being a negative influence. But Rumi…while she enjoys Bollywood and feels a connection with India, also seems to realise that independence and a life of one’s own is just as important. I think because I see a lot of clients like Rumi, I was able to identify with her a whole lot more. And kept rooting for her. Nikita Lalwani has done a wonderful job in portraying her characters as well as unveiling the story.
It’s the kind of book I would have loved to write. My rating: 4
Until next time,
***This review originally appeared on my personal blog***