top of page
  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Why Indo-American kids bee good

Nihar Janga and Jairam Hathwar were co-champions at the 2016 Scripps National Spelling Bee. Illustration: Eda Akaltun/Harper’s Magazine

In Bee-Brained, in Harper’s Magazine, Vauhini Vara, a former spelling champ, visits the all-Indian-American North South competition, which includes spelling, vocabulary, math, essay writing, public speaking, “brain bee” and geography contests.

A father named Kalyan Mysore told other spelling dads why his son was competing in vocabulary but not spelling.

“You expend effort in this, you won’t get anything out of it beyond doing well in the spelling bee. Because these days, we have word processors, spell-check. So I decided to keep him away from spelling bees.” The spelling dads nodded in a we-hear-you-but sort of way. “We used to feel that,” Satish said. “The difference is, my daughter is really good at it.” […]

Later Vara asks North South coordinator Mirle Shivashankar, the father of national spelling bee winners, “What, after all, is the point of this?”

Mirle turned to me with derision. “Tell me, what does Usain Bolt use the hundred-meter dash for?” . . .  “Nothing,” he said… Later, Mirle told another spelling dad what I’d relayed to him about the question of purpose. “No, no, no,” the man said. He turned to me with an apothegm at the ready. “As Mahatma Gandhi said, ‘Everything you do is insignificant, but you have to do it.’ ”

I think that’s cool.

4 views0 comments


bottom of page