The book “Sumitra’s story” is written by Rukshana Smith. The story takes place in Britain in the 1970’s. The book is about Sumitra and her family who is forced to leave Uganda because of President Amin, who wanted all the Indians out of Uganda. We follow Sumitra from she’s eleven till she is eighteen years old. In this period we get to know Sumitra and her troubles to adapt to the English culture. Sumitra’s story is actually a true story, based on the experiences of a young Asian friend Rukshana met while living in “The Homeless Families”.
The main character is Sumitra herself. She is a reflecting and bright girl in spite of her young age. She contemplates racial differences, and wonders why there have to be so much cultural boundaries. She faces prejudice and racism, and Sumitra struggles to combine following up her strict family’s demands and anticipations and her wish to live a free British life. Sumitra is not allowed to maintain any contact with British boys, and she is refused to go to any social gatherings.
In the start Sumitra wants to go back to Uganda. But eventually, she adapts to the English culture and is torn between the two cultures. Is she an Indian or an Englishman? Bap and Mai find it hard deal with the changes in their life, and become depressed. They miss Uganda and English Culture is not suitable for “good Hindus”.
The family’s social situation changes dramatically as they go from being rich and independent in Uganda to being poor and needy in Britain. First, Sumitra starts at a British school, get’s familiar with British customs and makes friends with British people. At that moment she lives temporary at “The Homeless Families”. She and her conservative family become friends with Martin and Maria. They show Sumitra that there is more to life than just obeying her parents. The action rises even more as Sumitra eventually get’s a Saturday job, she meets white boys for the first time in her life. They begin to hang out and they go to an English pub once a week.
The climax in this book is when Sumitra’s strict uncle in law, Jayant, sees her entering a pub. Jayant tells Sumitra's parents what happened and the mood in the family changes dramatically.
The problem is solved by Martin and Maria. They persuade Mai and Bap, Sumitras parents, to give Sumitra more freedom, which they decide to do. The book ends with Sumitra realizing that she needs to get away from the strict Indian culture, leaving her relatives and her old life behind.
I have different opinions around this book. In the beginning it was hard to pay attention of what was really going on. I think I read the first page ten times. I also didn’t like some of Sumitra’s thoughts and questions about why people of different colors were so different. One example is on page 37: “First they had been told to hate black people in Uganda now they had to hate white people in England. But back in Uganda, white people had been honored and respected”. I think these sentences are very cliché and she could rephrase it.
Rukshana Smith writes very well in most parts of this novel. Especially last chapter captured me. I think the paragraph “She closed the door behind her and took the small bag in her hand. It contained her nightclothes, radio, toothbrush and make-up. Anyone glancing at her would have seen a young, smartly dressed Indian girl off to work. But behind the smooth face, beneath the careful make-up woman making a small step into the unknown” was very well written. I will recommend this novel for others to read, but I think the reader must have a certain interest for cultural boundaries or minority cultures, and for instance how it is for people with minority backgrounds to grow up in a foreign country.