‘Interpreter of Maladies’ explores how one culture adapts to living with another. ’ Discuss. In Jhumpa Lahiri’s short story collection ‘Interpreter of Maladies’, the writer silhouetted the adaption of one culture to live within another in the form of allowing differences to exist and reaching a compromise. Lahiri drew the readers into the witness of different people battling with the obstacles they encounter.
While some people like Mrs Sens, fell to the abysm of culture-displacement because of her unwillingness to adjust herself into the new society; whereas for individuals like Mr Kapasi, are stopped by the hindrance of misunderstanding on the way of bridging the culture gap. However, tolerance can resolve the difficulty in the coexisting culture, which is evident in the marriage of Sanjeev and Twinkle. To begin with, the unwillingness to adapt into a new culture will not allow two cultures to live with one another.
This stance was clearly built up in Lahiri’s depiction of Mrs Sen, she came to America with her husband, a professor who adjusted himself finely into the new culture and barely had an understanding of her malady- including the fear of learning to drive and finding the equilibrium of facing new life and homesickness. Learning to drive symbolised to live independently and finally integrating into the American culture, whereas for Mrs Sen, she voiced that she ‘hate it, (I) she hate(s) driving’ after being coerced to drive under Mr Sen’s instruction.
Mrs. Sen hatred to drive stemmed from her unwillingness to transform her fear into the courage to change to adapt into the new culture. Also, the fish that she often bought served to illustrate her resistance to accommodate into the new culture, as Mrs Sen recalled solemnly that “everything is there” in India, she relied on fish as a connection to her Indian culture rather than cooking American- style dishes. Under the third-person perspective from Elliot, Mrs.
Sens’s story demonstrated that it was not impossible to allow two cultures to coexist within each other, but instead, the potential of reconstructing a person’s feeling of belonging and a sense of self can be pumped through his willingness and the effort that he put in. The story was depicted in a chronological order with dialogues and third person narrative being weaved in. Hence, the unwillingness to change will not satisfy the need of integration of two cultures. Moreover, due to misunderstanding, the adaption of two cultures may not be a success.
In ‘Interpreter of Maladies’, Mr Kapasi gave a tour to the American-Indian family, they “look Indian but dressed as foreigners did”, as their tour advanced Mr Kapasi was flattered by Mrs Das’s compliment on his job as ‘romantic’, and soon he was driven wild by his fantasy with Mrs Das in his head. For Mr Kapasi, he interpreted Mrs Das as an Indian woman who remained at least the slightest trace of conservation in an unhappy marriage since he assumed Mr Das had ‘a bad match’ with her husband. He failed to comprehend Mrs Das’s offering of sending him photos was a mere courtesy, rather than revealing any skerrick of interest on him.
Whereas for Mrs Sens, her seek for someone to console her guilt on infidelity was seemed to be embark on the pier of confidence when she met Mr Kapasi. As an Indian growing up in America, she defined interpreter as someone providing advice for patients like her. Their conversation finally demonstrated their fundamental misunderstanding with each other, Mr Kapasi considered that he and Mrs Das had ‘no language barrier’, whereas Mrs Das walked away with disappointment and guilt because of her incorrect elucidation of an interpreter—it was merely a job as a translator.
Mr Kapasi and Mrs Das, which represented two distinct cultures, explored the pathway of bridging with one another based on the assumption of their own culture. Later on, the monkeys which ‘hurting Bobby’ poignantly pointed out that there was no further wriggle room for culture gap between Mr Kapasi and Mrs Das. Monkeys served as a distancing tool that drew the Das family back together, while leaving Mr Kapasi alone, witnessing ‘the picture of the Das family he would preserve forever in his mind’.
The story was structured in a chronological order under the third person perspective from Mr Kapasi, himself, along with the tour, experienced a roller-coaster of mood-changing until he realised the misunderstanding would disable two cultures to adapt with one another. In contrast, the key to the crux of integration of two cultures could be found from tolerance. Through ‘This Blessed House’, Lahiri explored both the complications of an arranged marriage and the adjustment that must be made to accommodate a couple’s disparate cultural background within marriage.
Twinkle and Sanjeev, were brought together under their parents’ arrangement. Sanjeev was charmed by Twinkle’s vigour, beauty and social statue, thinking ‘what was there not to love? ’ for such a perfect wife. As their marriage moved on he came to realisation that marriage was not just a fleeting sense of happiness within love, but instead, involving finding equilibrium of family harmony and diversification of culture and characteristics.
To Sanjeev, Twinkle should be a traditional Indian woman who would ‘sweep the attic and unpacking the boxes’ rather than ‘talking to one of her girlfriends in California even though the long-distance rates were at their peak’. Whereas for Twinkle, she was a second- generation Indian American who was not restrained by her original identity, she had a open mind ready to accept anything outside of her religion of Hindu, she valued ‘every day was a treasure-hunt’, and insisted to put the Christian paraphernalia in the garden.
This had sparkled an argument between Sanjeev and Twinkle as he believed this act was prohibited in Hindu, ultimately Twinkle’s crying provoked Sanjeev’s protective reaction and compassion, resulting the compromise they reached. It was noticeable that even before the argument, although the fire of discontent expressed by Sanjeev was overwhelming, he had done his best to avoid the arguments with Twinkle. Soon, Sanjeev learnt to understand tolerance was folded with appreciation and understanding, instead of grudging on the fact that Twinkle judged Indian cooking ‘was a bother’, he praised Twinkle’s dishes were indeed ‘unusually tasty’.
Sanjeev’s ‘pang of anticipation’ was finally triggered as he felt at the sight of Twinkle’s shoes, he made up his mind that ‘he and Twinkle should live there together, forever’. He had reached the final stage of tolerance—acceptance, allowing himself to accommodate with this culture-diversified woman. As the story approached its ending, Sanjeev ‘pressed the massive silver face to his ribs, careful not to let the feather hat slip, and followed her (Twinkle)’. The word ‘careful’ accentuated that tolerance was predominant over Sanjeev’s previous irritation for Twinkle in their marriage.
Hence, tolerance was a compass dictating the way of having two cultures living with one another. In conclusion, Lahiri’s short story collection revealed the proper ways to allow for coexistence of two cultures, the unwillingness to adapt and misunderstanding would only lead to the hamper of people themselves and others, whereas tolerance, would won the approval in connecting two distinct cultures within any relationships. Through different approaches dealing with distinct cultures, people would always found different position for themselves.