Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri

Mr. Kapasi feels that he has been a failure in life. His interest in himself and his capabilities emerges when Mrs. Das described his job as romantic. As Kapasi defines his job in a nonchalant manner, “It is a job like any other”, Mrs. Das added, “But so romantic” (Lahiri, 2000, p.50). He becomes enamored with Mrs. Das’s apparent interest in him and he starts fantasizing a deep friendship with her in the future. Mr. Kapasi uses his knowledge of English for translation but to Mrs. Das, he is more than just a language interpreter, “So these patients are totally dependent on you” and “In a way, more dependent on you than the doctor” (p.51). Thus, Mrs. Das allows him to take a glorified view of his vocation.

Mr. Kapasi is basically an honest character who takes time to break his shell which happened once Mrs. Das described his vocation as romantic. Instantly, his feelings for her transformed from nothingness to affection. However, eventually, this feeling vanished when he learned she is a liar and cheater to her husband.

1. Mrs. Das who is a self-absorbed character ends up making confession to someone she just met hours before without bothering to consider that he would rather she did not. Mr. Kapasi ends up feeling disgusted and all his yearning to befriend her vanishes. This relationship was apparently between two strangers who just met. It reflects Mr. Kapasi’s yearning to fulfill his dreams of a diplomatic interpreter through this American woman. This gets disturbed as she reveals her selfish and uncaring nature. His diagnosis of her confession shocks her as she ponders over what he said about feeling guilty, “She opened her mouth to say something, but as she glared at Mr. Kapasi some certain knowledge seemed to pass before her eyes, and she stopped” (p.66). However, he realizes eventually that the connection he felt with the woman had no real existence and was only in his mind.
This relation was a mutual eye-opener and life-changing for both characters. While Mrs. Das helped him take a new perspective of his life, he, on the other hand, made her come face to face with the consequences of her past deed.

2. With the confession of Mrs. Das, Mr. Kapasi’s perspective of the American woman changed instantly who so far for him was an ideal woman with whom he desired to develop a deep relationship. Her past depressed him as he watched her husband and children blissfully unaware of the truth enjoying the trip. His feeling for her had taken a positive shape a few hours back when she projected his job as interesting as opposed to his own disheartened view of life. However, her confession along with expressing her total uncaring attitude towards her family, “One day I had the urge to throw everything I own out the window, the television, the children, everything. Don’t you think it’s unhealthy?” (p.65) washed away all his feelings for her.
In spite of being entrapped in a loveless marriage, Mr. Kapasi did not cheat on his wife. Mrs. Das, on the other hand, is uncaring and selfish as was reflected in her refusal to take her daughter to the toilet or sharing her nail polish. His feeling of disgust from her confession made him watch as she accidentally lets his address get blown away which obviously means he no more feels the urge to continue any kind of relationship with her.

3. This story has a cultural theme that reflects how Indian Americans remain sandwiched between two cultures. Although the Das family is Indian, they have little knowledge about India as Mr. Das relied on a tourist guidebook and Mrs. Das expressed disinterest in her surroundings. It was apparent that Mr. Das took pride in his Americanism, “Mina and I were both born in America,” Mr. Das announced with an air of sudden confidence” (p.45). However, Mr. Kapasi finds similarity in the status of their marriage, both being unhappy. The connection fails when he finds out the vast dissimilarities; Mrs. Das has no guilt for cheating on her husband while Mr. Kapasi, although he has no love left for his wife, is still loyal to her. Mr. Kapasi’s yearning to continue a friendship with her gets shattered as his address slips away and as he watches nonchalantly it was apparent that his yearning had vanished. The final scene was Das couple fussing over Bobby as he was hurt by the monkeys, and this was the image Mr. Kapasi wanted to “preserve forever in his mind” (p.69).

 

References
Lahiri, J. (2000) Interpreter of Maladies, NY.: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

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