If you know me, you know that on every Monday, for the last two years, I have gone to a Kumon center to do math worksheets.

If you know Kumon, you know that it is, at its core, a place where children are sent to be tortured.

Somehow, the little basement area has always reminded me of a hospital. Perhaps it was something about the sheer whiteness of the walls. Only posters that endorsed the Kumon method were hung, and a shelf stuffed with books sat uninvitingly in a corner. The spacious room seemed cramped when it was filled with fidgety children and long tables. Take a tentative sniff while you’re there: that is the rank smell of dying creativity.

I have always been an unusual sort. While many were forced into Kumon, I was the one who wanted and asked to be admitted. Maybe I have always felt that the regular education system couldn’t match my capacity to learn. Naturally, I relished the thought of the challenge that Kumon promised.

Each child is placed within the neat little structure that they had created: finish the level, pass the test, move on…finish the level, pass the test, move on…finish the level, pass the test, move on…

Being one of the few that could survive (for a while at least!) in such a desolate environment meant that I unobtrusively crept up to the higher math levels with relative ease. A satisfied smirk would plant itself on my face with each correct answer on “high school” questions. I gained more self confidence in academics. My father was the one who would take me home after each session. While we were in the car, I told him about what I had learned each day.

I never had many people that I could openly talk to. Kids like me are faced with constant pressure from all fronts to achieve something grand before adulthood snatches away the brilliance of youth.

Those who were once seen as geniuses become mediocre with age.

These expectations created a barrier between my relatives and I. My mask, the face of the ideal child, was stitched on to put them at ease. Many years had passed since I had seen them, and I was slowly forgetting my past. Memories of the aunt who would always spoil me, the grandmothers who held my hand and the grandfathers that would tease me – where did they disappear to?

Because of this, an awkwardness followed me whenever I interacted with my family.


Hello, how are you? Me? I’m doing fine.


Are you doing well at school? That’s great!

Finally, there was silence.


My only living grandfather, from my dad’s side, changed that conversation completely. He asked for a portrait.

He is the type of man you see talking to people from all walks of life. The chicken seller, the apartment owner, and his boss remembered him as the man with the smile. Bitterness was never a part of his personality; He had reached that elusive enlightenment of character that wisdom provides.


He is a dying man. This is the first thing he has every asked of me.


No other thoughts ran through the chaotic whirlwind on my mind at that moment. I hesitantly agreed. Certainly I could fulfill this one request from a man that I so greatly admired?

Except I didn’t. Weeks passed before we conversed again, and he immediately asked if any progress have been made.


“Will this picture be done before I die?”

A laugh danced at his lips.

“No promises!” I answered, only half-jokingly.


We had several variations of this same talk between the two of us. I felt closer to him, yet I was pushed away by the disappointment that coloured his voice every time. When I think back to those exchanges, it becomes clear to me that we had a strange relationship. I never began to work on the portrait.

Eventually a sort of agreement was reached. I would draw the portrait, and he would see it before passing on. Life went on for both of us.

I remember calling home to ask my father to pick me up from Kumon. A question had kept me confined in the building for much longer than I would have liked. I paced around the office area impatiently. The call was picked up by my mom.


Her tone was a calculated sort of calm. I regret not having paid more attention to it.

“Can you walk home, Tarannum? I’m not sure your dad can come today…”


With a crease in my brow, I insisted. I was not expecting the night to become so cold, and hadn’t dressed for the weather. After sighing, she relented.

I went to the upper area of the building and leaned against the wall near an entrance. I lightly tapped my foot as I flipped through the homework worksheets that I had received.

Eventually my dad pulled up near the entrance and we drove home. There was none of the regular chatter today. Instead, I watched the passing streetlights, seeing explosions of yellow through my fingerprint-coated glasses.

He slumped down on the couch with his face in his hands as soon as he was through the door. My mother was beside him, patting his back. I saw wrinkles in her eyes – I hadn’t noticed them in a long time. She was the one who delivered the news.


Your grandfather is dead.

He wasn’t feeling well after he had eaten breakfast, so he decided to walk around the apartment.


He suddenly collapsed and died.


With those words, my father started to sob in the darkness of the living room.


I had never seen him cry before.

I had hoped I would never have to.


When I woke up the next morning, My father had already left for Bangladesh. I stayed home with my brother that day. He had never been close with our grandparents-he was not held captive by those sorts of relationships. We all pity him because of that.

I had never finished the portrait of my grandfather. Now he will never see it, and I will never get to experience his delighted smile again.

To be honest, I never had any intention to finish the portrait. The fact that there was no intention to fulfill the promise is something I regret immensely.


Drawing is a much more painful experience now.


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2 thoughts on “Regrets

  1. Dearest Tarannum,

    First of all, I would like to sincerely apologize for not commenting on this wonderful piece a long long time ago. There really is no excuse.

    Wow!!! Are you sure you are in your first year of AP? I absolutely loved this post. There are no words to describe how in awe I am with your excellent writing. I cannot wait to read your newest piece!!

    To start off, I would like to comment on your wonderful voice throughout your writing. While getting to know you even more over the last month, I have been in awe of your maturity and depth of thinking. I think you encompass the feelings of many of the students in the class when you talk about learning. I certainly connect to that side of you! 🙂 I hear your strong academic voice throughout this piece, and I don’t think it ever faltered once. Bravo!

    Another amazing attribute of your writing is your ability to engage your audience. Through your detailed flow from humour to emotional connection, I never felt bored. This is something I myself struggle to achieve, but you have conquered this feat with only one piece! Wowza.

    One tip for future is to perhaps balance your ideas a smudge more. 🙂 I think it would be a tad stronger if you could find a way to incorporate the idea of drawing throughout the beginning, middle, and end. Just food for thought. Also: are you still in Kumon? I’m curious now.

    Tarannum, I am so lucky to have you in my family group. You are so wise and knowing, and I feel blessed to have your voice with me every day. I look forward to reading more of your writing!!!

    Keep up the amazing work,

    Carmen 🙂

    1. Dear Carmen,

      First of all: I am honoured that you took the time to read and comment on my work. Thank you!

      I wasn’t very confident in this piece – on a whim, I decided that I disliked my original blog post and wrote this instead. In fact, I threw away the first piece precisely because I felt that my voice wasn’t as prominent as I would have liked! It pleases me very much to know that you enjoyed reading it for the same reason that I enjoyed writing it.

      To answer your question: No, I am not currently in Kumon – I reached the section on calculus (I only did math in Kumon. The reading section always seemed painfully simple to me) and sputtered out because I lacked the support of an actual math class. After all, how do you find derivatives when you don’t know what a derivative is?

      Anyways, I hope that you can continue to help me grow as a writer and learner. I am truly blessed to have someone as talented as yourself in my family group. You do not give yourself enough credit for your amazing work – your blog was beautiful.

      Once again, thank you so much for your support! It means the world to me.


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