Chaithra Sampath


“If I had the opportunity to finish my school, I’d be a lot more grateful than you’d ever be,” my ever so cynical grandmother once stated when I wouldn’t stop whining about my homework during high school. It was something she’d often imply – her lack of education, the consequence of an early marriage that was anything but wonderful.

She went back to her kitchen work as usual, dicing onions or whatever vegetables she’d gathered in her plate while I decided to do the wretched assignment anyway. The TV9 blared in the background, dinner was ready and bedtime followed.

But now that I look back at it, something changed that day. Perhaps, it had something to do with the fact that the book I’d read still lingered in my mind and had me all introspective for a while. And I couldn’t help but to draw comparisons between How I Taught My Grandmother to Read by Sudha Murthy – a story that had struck a chord within me – and my very own resolve to teach my gran the English alphabet from scratch.

It was a feeble attempt on my part, half-heartedly trying to make Gran read the months on the English calendar and an old notebook of mine. She knew them, all right – like a Sanskrit shloka that we’d all recite when we were kids but couldn’t read or interpret a word of from the written script.

Jun-var-ree, Febra-var-ree, Marrch, Aprril, Mai, June, Julai, Aagusst, Ucto-bur, Supt-tum-bur, Num-vum-bur, Decum-bur.

She sometimes got the order wrong, being more concerned with the flow than the accuracy; her deliverance was apt, with a child’s determination and unsophistication. But twelve words hardly made a difference.

She’d snap back at me if I’d get too agitated with her nonexistent progress. Days were erratic, spirits differing from low to sour and I was no Sudha Murthy with success stories of my own.

It took me a while to realize that I’d long abandoned this misled mission of mine – we both lacked the drive and enthusiasm that were desperately needed in the first place and she was gradually losing me to the world of American Primetime TV shows.

The old notebook’s filled with rangoli designs now – elaborate flowers that branch out of geometric shapes and small, simple polygons with overlapping line segments – where the blue ink is almost blotchy in places. It’s overwhelming at times. The careless dots, the unsteady curves, the weird-looking flowers.

It’s inexplicable how people never finish what they start in the first place, never to go back, regardless of the reasons they give.

Some merely let meaningless doodles replace their plans and hopes.


Chaithra Sampath is a 17-year-old living in Bangalore, India, currently studying journalism, psychology and English. She has always found it easier to express herself through writing and enjoys reading books, irrespective of their genre.

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