Interpreter of Maladies is a short story written by Jhumpa Lahiri. The story evolves around a married Indian American couple visiting their country of heritage India alongside with their children. During their visit to India, a lot of things started to cue on such as marriage problems between the Das couple to shocking secrets revealed by Mrs Das, the rollercoaster ride just never seems to be ending.
There are quite a few interesting themes that can be found in the short story itself. One of the many would be marriage. Mr and Mrs Das are both American born Indians brought up in America by Indian immigrant parents. They knew each other from a very young age and were high school sweethearts . They were inseparable at one point and got married at a relatively young age. A successful marriage is the actual contrast to the marriage of Mr and Mrs Das as seen in the short story. The duo are always bickering even for the smallest matter . For example Mr and Mrs Das were arguing on who should be the one to bring their daughter, Tina to the bathroom. Another reason on why Mr and Mrs Das’ marriage is a total opposite of a successful marriage is when tit was revealed by Mrs Das herself that she had an affair with her husband’s friends which ultimately resulted in the birth of an illegitimate child Bobby , of which his status as a product of the affair between Mrs Das and Mr Das’ friend is unknown by Mr Das himself . As we all come to know that a marriage signifies a beginning of a family and also a life long commitment. Such pureness can however take its toll and be the exact opposite . Unfortunately, toxic or troubled relationships varying from different types of situations and backgrounds does in fact exist. Some of the relationships may start off fine but slowly evolve into a troubled relationship but there are also some that are toxic to begin with in the first place. Now what we see is how people or specifically the couple themselves react to their relationship or situation. These group of people often times do not realize that they are in a toxic or troubled relationship and that they should in fact need to seek for help not only for the themselves but also for the sakes of people around them especially their family. There are also couples that are aware of the existing toxc relationship but gives little to none efforts in trying to sort things out. There are many people today who are in a troubled relationship in this case to be specific a troubled marriage, the high divorce rate in this era would be a stamp on the this issue that is faced by many. For example, it is not uncommon for people to find divorcees here and there as what it would be harder in the past to do so.
The second theme in the short story is communication. There are many events in the short story that portrays the theme of communication which often ends up in rather hurtful consequences. Mr and Mrs Das do not communicate well despite being married . It was shown through out their journey in India that the duo always seem to be busy with their own things or in other words not being involved with each other. Mrs Das has also never confronted Mr Das with her unhappiness with the marriage itself which wouldn’t in any way result in a resolution to their communication problems. Mr Kapasi the tour guide himself has his own set of communication problems with his own wife in where the signs of their marriage recognised by Mr Kapasi consists only of the bickering, the indifference and pro-tracted silences . Mr Kapasi find it hard to communicate with his distant wife which forces him to drink his tea silently at night and this leads to Mr and Mrs Kapasi’s marriage being a loveless marriage. All these portrays a hurtful consequences of bad communication between one and another. People often forget of how important good communication is. If a country were to rise as the victor of a war in past times, communication would be as important as war tactics and weapons as the leaders and soldiers need to have the same understanding of what they were fighting for and how it would be executed. Communication problems still exists in modern times, people often find it hard to effectively communicate with one another which ultimately leads to unwanted conflicts and the rise of other issues. Bad communication can cause many negative side effects such as frustrations, lack of understanding between one and another as well as broken relationships. It is not uncommon for people to advise people who have disagreements to sit down and talk things out to sort all of the miscommunications and in order to be able to solve the problem arisen . Hence it is crystal clear that good communication is needed in one’s life be it in the past , present or future.
Continuing on , another theme found in the short story is cultural identity. As we all know , The Das family and Mr Kapasi are both ethnically Indians however they clash in terms of their cultural identity. This is because of the fact that the Das family are all born and raised in America . They essentially grew up in with American culture with touches of Indian cuture due to the fact that their parents are immigrants from India. The Das family are Indians but not Indians from India but rather American born ethnic Indians. This is shown when they are dressed as wholly Americans when visiting India. The Das family are no more familiar with India and are not different from other tourist themselves. Mr Kapasi himself is a native Indian who is familiar with the Indian culture. Mr Das himself relies on his tourist guidebook to enlighten him more about India while Mrs Das seems to be uninterested towards her surroundings in India. Even though Mr and Mrs Das are children of immigrant parents native to India, the duo are foreigners in the land of India. Mr Das himself seems to take pride in his identity as an American born when he told Mr Kapasi about his American roots with an “air of sudden confidence”.
Confusion of cultural identity is something many today would be able to relate . especially those who are descendants of people who immigrated from another country or even mixed marriages. There are many children of immigrant parents such as Chinese Americans, Thai Canadians, Korean Americans that face identity crisis due to the fact that they are born and raised in a different place and culture compared to their parents . This often leads to confusion on whether to self identify with their parents’ ancestral cultural identity or with the identity that they grew up mostly upon. Often times, these group of individuals would either self identify with either one side or feel like none is a fit . At this very stage, it is important to enlighten people who encounter these types of problem to embrace the uniqueness of having two or more identities as it signifies our own background and it is something to be taken pride of.
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