Gifted is the moving and compelling tale of a young girl named Rumika Vasi - affectionately known to those around her as Rumi. At just 5 years old, Rumi was recognised by her teachers as being mathematically gifted and her parents were advised to get in touch with Mensa. Rumi’s father sees this as a fantastic opportunity for their family but decides that he is better qualified to deal with the nurturing of his daughter’s gift and devlops a strict program to help Rumi.
The reader looks on as Rumi struggles with self-discipline and the pressures that surround her. She soon begins to navigate her teen years which, often troubling enough, are especially difficult for a child with parents who are trying to raise her with Indian values.
This book was a joy to read. It’s not difficult to fall in love with this book from the beginning. The writing style is both fluid and poetic, while the characters are very distinct and complex. The book also has an intensity that is obvious from the start. I especially like the mathematical sprinklings throughout.
When we first meet Rumi she is growing up with a multitude of challenges. At school she doesn’t fit in as her skin colour, awkward social skills, and seemingly strange family all become things for other children to mock. As she grows, she seems to blossom a little but her parents seem to fight her at every turn as if afraid of what, or who she will become. I found myself often feeling sad for Rumi. While other children were attending parties, playing outside and regular kid stuff, Rumi was studying and had limited access to pleasurable activities and even then, the activities were things that her father believed would be more valuable to her educational development.
Though Rumi is the main character in this book, her father plays a very strong part throughout. His identity seems to be in a form of limbo. Wanting so much to be accepted in his adoptive country, yet shying away from all things western. He is very strong-minded and expects everything to be done his way, with no exception and very little thought given to the emotional cost. He is also a person who is unable to express his softer side. I felt wistful and sorry for him at points in the book but at the same time I wanted to reach into the pages and shake some sense into him.
Her mother is different again. Raised in Indian ways and then brought to the UK with the understanding that it was only for 3 years, she is constantly homesick for her homeland. She rarely fights or argues with her husband but when she does, it’s always about wanting to go back home. She worries about Rumi a lot and feels that Rumi is growing too bold, too shameless. An incident that really hit home with me was when Rumi asked her mum for a bra. Her mum turned on her, told her she shouldn’t be thinking of such things and that she was shameless for even thinking about it, much less talking about it. Rumi argued that she wasn’t saying anything wrong, that it was a natural thing to talk about but that, along with other incidents seemed to distance the mother/daughter bond still further.
The dynamics are often awkward between the characters, but never more so than when Rumi is accepted into university at a young age. Faced with a sense of freedom she has never known before, she begins a journey of self-discovery and it’s hard to tell if the Rumi, or her family, will survive.
A great read. I adored it for the most part. The ending was a tad frustrating but it was still an enjoyable experience.