SUMITRA'S STORY by Rukshana Smith


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A sober chronicle of an Indian girl's teenage years as a transplant in London. Sumitra Patel is eleven when her family, fleeing Idi Amin's rabid Africanization policies, moves in with relatives recently established in London. Her father, a radio shop owner in Uganda, gets a low-paid job in England; and Sumitra, the oldest of four girls in a family accustomed to servants, must come home from the rigors of an English-language school to help her aunt prepare time-consuming Indian meals for the family. She is similarly burdened as social agencies more the Patels to a rooming house, a furnished flat, and finally a larger unfurnished home which they will have to vacate in two years. But in the rooming house they make two good friends--while enduring the bigoted remarks of other boarders as well as strangers on the street--and Sumitra, who bas also made friends at school, gets a Saturday job where she adopts ""cheeky"" manners with the males and enjoys a fashionable English wardrobe. And the more Sumitra accommodates to British lire, the more she resents the expectations of her parents, who won't let her go out at night or talk to English boys, and who take for granted that she will come home to help her mother make samosas until she marries an Indian boy of their choice to go on making samosas of her own. By the time Sumitra is 17, she leaves school, gets a series of jobs which bring her closer to her ambition to be an air hostess, and finally feels strong enough to make the inevitable break, moving into a flat with a friend from work. Repeatedly, between smarting over the Indian woman's inferior role, Sumitra puzzles over racial differences and discrimination, resolving the matter in a final, contrived dream. Only a modicum of fictional life emerges from Smith's drab narration; but as a depiction of the conflicts experienced by the many girls undergoing Sumitra's transition, the novel is balanced, sympathetic, and authentic.

Pub Date: March 11th, 1983
Publisher: Coward-McCann