Gifted : Nikita Lalwani

Gifted, Nikita Lalwani's debut novel is an effortless read. Nikita balances the strong immigrant theme and that of a child's angst (at a time when the child is too young to even understand such emotions) very naturally.

Rumi is 5 when she is identified as a gifted mathematician. A label that takes over her life, her thoughts and her family. Mahesh, Rumi's father, channels all his immigrant insecurities into making sure that Rumi is his proof to his adoptive country. The proof that his rigid belief's are the right way to raise children.

Rumi's daily life from the young age of 5 is not unlike a bootcamp. Her rigorous schedule reminded me of my study timetables, just that mine started in the 10th grade and her's, when she is barely in the 1st grade. Her thoughts and emotions are peppered with numbers and equations. Her affinity to use maths to even understand and explain herself is endearing. She equates her dad's expression to an approximate sign (~), trying to decipher if that indicates his mood as "approximately happy, or sad".

Nikita has captured the Indian family of the 80's very well. A strict disciplinarian father who sees excellence in education as the only way out. An emotionally tuned in but clueless mother,Shreene, who can see her child's changing personality but is incapable of understanding why. An impressionable child, who is living in two cultures, yet is complete withdrawn from both. Her only release from her anguish being an entirely odd addiction.

Nikita has bluntly etched out the characters of Mahesh and Shreene. I thought that was a very bold move. There are no late realizations about being open to their daughter's feelings or turning a new leaf and finally being together as a happy family. To the end each character stays very real. Just as in real life, the generation gap coupled with immigrant sentiments is too strong to just come out of.

I was very curious to read the book since it was long listed for the Booker 2007. I have to say Nikita has brushed through so many issues, loneliness in a new country, the quintessential confused child balancing two cultures, parenting, without forgetting that which is core to the story. The little girl and parental expectations. That which makes it universal. I think the simplicity through all of this makes it a good book.


Swati said...

This is such an intriguing book from the sounds of your review! I cannot wait to read it.

chica said...

I think I liked it because it was about math and studying.. it reminded me about how I used to like math. But it does fall into the ethnic lit, so keep that in mind.

Swati said...

Yeah, both topics are close to my heart - math and ethnic angst :) I also want to read The Age of Shiva...

Dewey said...

Ooh, I have been meaning to read this! Now I want to read it right away. Off to my library to request it. And then on to your Lessing post!

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