How I Taught My Grandmother to Read by Sudha Murty
In How I Taught My Grandmother to Read by Sudha Murty we have the theme of love, independence, desperation and happiness. Narrated in the first person by an unnamed woman the story is a retrospective look at the narrator’s life with her grandmother and how she taught her grandmother to read. It also becomes clear to the reader after reading the story that the narrator and the grandmother love each other very much. Though Avva (the grandmother) left school early she makes up for her inability to read by giving so much love to her granddaughter. A love that is reciprocated by the narrator. It also becomes clear to the reader that Avva longs to be able to read. So much so that she asks the narrator to help her begin to read. A task which results in being successful.
The theme of independence is also evident in the story. Avva believes that should she be able to read she will be more independent and not as reliant on the narrator to read her stories from the magazine. Reading today is taken for granted and it can be difficult to imagine there are those who cannot read but due to Avva’s circumstances she never learned to read. She was orphaned young and married young and family life took precedence. It is only now through old age and desperation that Avva feels it is the right time to start reading.
There may also be some symbolism in the story which might be important. The fact that Avva cannot read may be Murty’s way of suggesting that some people slip through the education net. That some people are forgotten about when they cannot read. Since the Grandmother is sixty two years old Murty might also be symbolically suggesting that it is never too late for a person to learn how to read. Especially from someone they love, the narrator. It may also be case that the narrator despite originally laughing at Avva is the right person to help her grandmother. Murty by having someone who loves her may be suggesting that Avva and the narrator are fine bedfellows because they love one another so much.
The end of the story is interesting because Murty appears to be exploring the theme of happiness. The narrator successfully teaches Avva to read and she is able to read the novel that she wants to. No longer is Avva reliant on her granddaughter in order for her to read her stories. She has successfully learnt the alphabet and been able to understand exactly what she is reading. Where prior things looked very different for Avva. Thanks to the narrator’s hard work and Avva’s desire, Avva is able to read without hesitation. She has become independent of others.