May 21, 2013 | 04:35 PM (BD Time)
21 May, 2013 Tuesday
‘Interpreter of Maladies’ by Jhumpa Lahiri
Interpreter Of Maladies', a collection of short fictions by Jhumpa Lahiri , grips readers attention for its simple story-telling way and accumulating quality as it combines a number of diverse plots, characters and perspectives. Lahiri is excellent in every story; sometimes with a nostalgic first person point of view and sometimes as a far away observer. Either she interprets or someone else, the fact is to bring out the maladies of life with which life seems pale and without which life seems incomplete. Every story unveils new horizon of life but still there is a familiar essence which we can only feel if we dive deep into the real experiences of our own lives.
In the title story 'Interpreter of Maladies', Mr. Kapasi works as an interpreter to a doctor as a Gujrati specialist but in reality he interprets the real sufferings of human life that he can hardly realise. Therefore Mrs. Das appears whose discontent with life is interpreted to Mr. Kapasi himself. But this time he feels vulnerable and only then he comes to realise that some maladies of life can never be interpreted to any language. Words come to be silent. Lahiri manages and portrays the irony superbly.
The story 'When Mr. Pirzada Came to Dine', explores a number of ideas. The division between India and Pakistan in 1947 and then the ultimate division of East and West Pakistan and emergence of Bangladesh in 1971 have been set as prior background of the story. An Indian little girl, migrated to America with her family, feels no difference between religions and for the first time of her life, prays for a Muslim family heartily.
While a division is being immensely depicted on basis of neglect and discrimination, an appreciation of humanity is also voiced through a little girl by the author. Above all it is the dignity of human being that should be ensured, and Lahiri proposes it quite sensitively.
A brilliant plot has been included from Indian cultural perspective in the story 'The Treatment of Bibi Haldar'. A sick young girl with as much hope as of a normal girl has been placed as the protagonist whose life seems to be a burden to her patrons, Mr. and Mrs. Haldar, her cousin and his wife. The girl desires for a life as a counterpart of any male person and deeply intends to do all things to maintain a happy conjugal life.
At the end of the story, Bibi conceives a baby but hides the identity of the father of the baby. Meanwhile her cousin also leaves her as they consider her as a bane. An immature girl radically turns into a completely mature with all responsibilities of rearing a child.
As Lahiri tentatively develops a mystery of the real identity of the child, she reveals the universal character of motherhood that is always well-prepared and sensitively dutiful enough to bring up her child.
At the same time the author also unfolds the enigma of the vulnerability of an Indian girl if she is not under the guardianship of any male. In the story 'The Third and Final Continent', the protagonist encounters different countries for survival. How a man faces everyday ambiguity of the world and adjusts himself to such changing new environment, works as the inspiration of the story. Throughout the story, first human landing on moon is a prominent feature.
I think, Lahiri here allegorically signifies mortal endeavour that can even suit to outside of the planet. In fact, the author tries to symbolise that such expenditure needs courage but a normal man should not be considered less courageous who steps into an outer part from his known world and mingles with a completely new environment. While a man struggling hard to be accustomed to new culture, he may feel that cultures clash but similarly, this very clash makes a new mutual relationship the basis of which is just empathy for each other.
Lahiri embodies a darkness which is really the ultimate brightness of human life in the story 'The Temporary Matter'. Shova and Shukumar have been continuing a conjugal life for many years but there is a lack of clarity and trust in their relation.
They can not properly confess their shortcomings to each other. But shortage of electricity for five days as a 'temporary matter' of an hour makes themselves close to each other and they speak frankly in darkness what has been impeded by brightness of those many days. This dark-bright irony seems inevitable for the story to portray a confusing love which gets the real words in a pervasive silence.
Human life is so obscure; sometimes even while leading a life, we can not specify the real identity of it. A single life seems anonymous often in our very known world; often it roams around as a sojourner even not deciding where to end.
The real puzzle lies here. Rather than drawing a world of abstraction, Jhumpa stresses on a concrete world with acute problems of multicultural identity, immigrant confusion, real status of being and mostly a true search of our existence. And I assert, she succeeds as she leaves at least a little bit food for thoughts to her readers.
-Reviewed by Barnali Talukder
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