Interpreter of Maladies: Interpreter of Maladies

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Interpreter of Maladies: Interpreter of Maladies

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mar 8, 2017, 12:00pm

Here's our discussion thread for the third (and titular) story in Interpreter of Maladies. What did you think of it? Why do you think Lahiri named the collection after this particular story?

If you'd like to discuss themes across multiple stories, please feel free to create a new topic (see the "Post a new topic" link on the left-hand side of this page). For folks who've finished reading the whole book ahead of schedule, here's a thread where you can discuss the whole thing:

mar 8, 2017, 11:33pm

I did like this story though it was difficult for me to go along with Mrs Das confiding in Mr Kapasi to such an extent. Still, the attention Lahiri pays to the little details (as seen through Mr Kapasi's point of view) is breathtakingly beautiful to me.

I'm guessing she took this story's title as the title of the collection because, in a way, all the stories are about different kinds of maladies and about how the characters and we, the readers, might interpret them.

mar 9, 2017, 4:23am

My least favourite of the collection. While I didn't really feel any of hte characters were believable or engaging, Mrs Das is the least believable.

mar 9, 2017, 8:52am

>2 jennybhatt: I agree completely! Mrs. Das's confession felt contrived to me but I loved the way we saw things through Mr. Kapasi, his wandering mind and fantasies and all.

That's a great point about the title of the collection. While this story was okay, I thought it was the weakest of the three so far and I found it odd that she would have taken it's title for the collection when there were stronger stories available. But you are totally right that the title fits the theme of the stories.

mar 11, 2017, 10:42am

Jenny I agree with your enjoyment of Mr. Kapasi's rather romantic view of the world...
but disagree that Mrs Das is not convincing... you just haven't met many vain and self-centred people!

I used to travel quite a bit on my own and it's surprising how often people want to tell you their life story..intimate details and all...
I suspect the appeal is no repercussions.... they won't see you again.

As with the earlier stories discussed, the author is observing people who try to make a connection with others...while some characters are completely wrapped up in themselves.

mar 12, 2017, 7:42am

Mrs Das was hoping Mr Kapasi would bring the same level of understanding she thought he afforded to the doctor's patients when he was able to translate maladies into what amounted to metaphor and poetry. Mr Kapasi let her down badly and quite unexpectedly when he suggested what she felt was guilt and not pain, failing to interpret at all the complexity and depth of her 'malady', failing completely to offer anything like true understanding.

mar 12, 2017, 10:00am

What I took away from this story was the difference in families and how they raise children. Several times in the story K notices a child doing something he shouldn't do 'and mr,ms Das did nothing' was his thought. He thought nothing of judging them (tho I agreed with him) so I wasn't surprised when he wasn't really listener to her when he said she was feeling guilty. I could see K looking forward to the letters he thought he'd get from Ms Das. And while Ms Das infuriated me, I have met people like her so wasn't bothered by her over sharing. What I did wonder was at the end, did she drop his address, or did fate just blow it away in the wind.

mar 12, 2017, 10:55am

>5 Divasin:: From a cultural viewpoint, a woman -- even if she is from the West like Mrs Das -- confiding such private details in an Indian man in India seems anachronous to me. My sisters and I grew up mostly in the West too. But, none of us would dream of confiding such stuff to an Indian man in India -- especially not one we had just met. We might do that with an Indian woman, sure. And, though Mr Kapasi is an interesting and unique sort of person, most Indian men would not allow such dialogue to continue because of their own level of discomfort with it. Patriarchy rules. As do repressive social norms for how the genders interact -- even within families.

In the West, sure, it's different. I've had men I've just met tell me rather intimate things and I have, on the rare occasion and with a certain amount of alcohol in me, done somewhat similarly.

So, it's more a cultural thing for me. I think, given that this was Lahiri's first set of India-related stories, and she had not spent long periods of time in India yet (other than the short vacations as a kid), there were bound to be such anachronisms. Her latest novel, The Lowland, where she did spend a lot of time in India before/while writing it, did not seem to have such anachronisms, in my opinion, for the India-related segments. There were other problems with that novel but I'll save that for another time/thread. :)

mar 12, 2017, 11:56am

This story and "The Blessed House" both feature Indians raised in America, characters who are straddling two cultures. In this story, The Das family from America consists of two lazy self-absorbed parents and their wild children. Mr. Kapasi is judgmental, but he's also the only person in the car paying attention to what everyone is doing. In "The Blessed House", the wife is portrayed as much more Westernized in her personality than her husband. She's more extroverted and fun-loving than her more traditional husband, who is shown as being an unhappy man.

Redigeret: mar 12, 2017, 1:14pm

You make a very good point about the cultural differences
although Mr. Kapasi is an employee and somewhat powerless.
I look forward to your comments on The Lowland as I quite enjoyed it.

mar 12, 2017, 11:19pm

>10 Divasin:: I keep meaning to write a review of The Lowland on my blog. I will do that one of these days and share in a related thread so we can discuss. :)

mar 14, 2017, 11:37am

For me, the story was about people not always being who you think they are, especially if you don't know them well. We seem to have ideas and feelings about people we want to like but barely know. Usually we think positive things about them until they give us reasons not to.

mar 14, 2017, 5:16pm

I find each time I read this story, I find a new layer in it. It is a story about generation gaps, cultural differences, marital difficulties and parenthood. For me, the title works for the whole book, because all Lahiri's stories deal with communication/miscommunication between people. It is in the interpretation of someone's malady that people misunderstand each other. As Divasin mentioned, people in an unusual setting, free from the consequence of having to face the person they are confiding in again, often divulge very personal issues. Also remember, The Dases are second generation, born in the States, as are their children. This creates for me a believable cultural divide, as well as the age difference. A rich story.

mar 15, 2017, 12:34am

>2 jennybhatt: I think your second paragraph here nails it and my guess is that's why she named the book as she did.