By Nikita Lalwani
Pages: 272; Rs: 395
ikita Lalwani’s novel takes an uncompromising look at that most unmentionable of crimes—parental hubris. Set in Cardiff, Wales, it could be located in any part of our subcontinent. Five-year-old Rumi, enchanted by numbers, is diagnosed as a mathematical genius. Mahesh Vashi, himself a mathematician, bristles at the thought of his daughter’s talent being patronised. He rejects Mensa, and decides to train her at home. At first her father’s rigorous training schedule is just an interesting game. Soon, Rumi has to devise small escapades. Her mother Shreene, disillusioned but devoted wife, energetically grafts her known pattern of girlhood on her daughter, and is thwarted. The novel climaxes with Rumi’s adolescence, kept in check till the momentous A-levels are done. In the ferment of 15, Rumi finds herself in Oxford, and all hell breaks loose.
Readers who remember Samuel Butler’s The Way of All Flesh and A.J. Cronin’s Hatter’s Castle with rage will have their revenge at long last in this accurate little book as Lalwani shakes off cuteness and writes with anger and sincerity. For this alone, the book has my vote. When the crash comes, the utter impenetrability of the wall of self-righteousness is beautifully portrayed. Beneath that thin ice of hypocrisy lies—the abyss.
Rumi’s is a story of our culture where children are sent for tuitions after school, where teen suicides peak at exam time. Gifted should be required reading.