Tuesday, August 31, 2010


Gifted, a book by Nikita Lalawani, provides a scary perspective to just how obsessed parents can become with their child’s grades and how being a genius is not all that cool.

All parents get after their children to study and get good grades. But what would you do, as a parent, if your child turns out to be a math prodigy? What if someone, a teacher perhaps, tells you that your child is a genius when he/she is just five years old? What will you do?

Gifted tells a story of a middle class Indian couple, settled in Cardiff, who are parents of a math prodigy. Mahesh and Shreene Vasi are the parents of Rumika, a genius at math. The discovery of their daughter’s talent turns their life into one difficult mathematical equation.

Math becomes the central of the Vasi house hold. Rumika follows strict routines and timetables. Her father keeps her hungry for long intervals because he feels that hunger helps the mind to concentrate. She is not allowed to watch television, hang out with friends, play games or read fiction books. So even though Rumika likes number crunching, all these measures and controls make her confused and frustrated which leads to rebellion.

What follows is a wonderful story of three people trying to make sense of the world. There is Mahesh, who still harbours anger over partition and it seems he wants to settle a score with the English through his daughter’s gift. Shreene, who arrives in Cardiff with Mahesh as a newlywed Indian bride, feels alienated from her husband and daughter. She pines for her home, her family and above all, her customs. And finally, Rumika, for whom her gift becomes a curse which not only destroys her own life but that of everyone around her.

This story is not just about a child prodigy but is a potpourri of various issues; racial discrimination, family values and upbringing, teenage rebellion, religion, discipline, generation gap, and life in a foreign country.  Lalwani has made really strong characters and as a reader, I found myself empathizing with Mahesh, Shreene and Rumika at different points. The end was tragic and sort of open-ended, leaving me to draw my own conclusions.

Three things I loved about this book; strong characters, simple prose and a good story. And that is what matters at the end, a good story. Read the book before the film comes out.

Photograph: Google Images