Interpreters of Maladies – Sensuous signs

Jhumpa Lahiri won the Pulitzer Prize and received literary fame for her series of short stories. There are several signs in one of her short stories, Interpreter of Maladies. The major signs are: the strawberry necklace around Mrs. Das’ neck, which rested between her breasts, the naked intimate statutes at the temple which she admired, and the paper with Mr. Kapasi’s address, which blew out of her pocket book and into the wind.

The short story, Interpreters of Maladies, focuses on an Indian-American associate, Mr. and Mrs. Das, who are on vacation in India with their three children. They are chauffeured by an Indian taxi driver who developed an immediate fondness for Mrs. Das. His imagination focused on comparing Mrs. Das with his wife in a sensual manner.

The strawberry necklace around Mrs. Das’s neck, which rested between her breasts serves as a symbol of her sensuousness. Mr. Kapasi’s infatuation for Mrs. Das started at this point. He found her irresistible. The strawberry resting between her breasts on the firmly fitted undershirt styled blouse, reminded Mr. Kapasi of the ripeness of her breasts as a symbol of her femininity. He watched her by the rear view mirror. This allowed him to daydream of an irresistible relationship with Mrs. Das, one he never had with his wife.

The naked statutes at the Sun Temple were signs of intimacy to Mr. Kapasi and Mrs. Das. Mr. Kapasi watched her responses to the naked statutes and their love making locaiongs. He was pleased that she stopped every three or four paces and stared at the carved lovers and topless females. He also gazed at the topless figures as his mind wandered on Mrs. Das with intensity while he afterward gazed with fondness upon her profile. This led to his continued daydreaming about her. He saw her in a more sexually alluring way than his wife.

The slip of fragment paper with Mr. Kapasi’s name and address which was in Mrs. Das’s pocketbook signified a connection between them. He already daydreamed about having future contacts with her. However, when she revealed to him her secret of infidelity regarding her son Bobby’s birth, it changed their relationship from positive to negative. She was not pleased by his reaction, walked away, and went in search of her husband and children. When they re-entered the taxi, the paper with the address blew out of Mrs. Das’s pocketbook and into the wind. The only person who noticed the paper as it blew away was Mr. Kapasi. This served as a symbol of loss infatuation to Mr. Kapasi. The event signified the ending of their relationship.

This short story by Jhumpa is authentic, original, and enjoyable to read. I like this story because it is closely related to reality. It touched on events that could possibly occur on a daily basis between individuals in various settings. The signs in the story provided enrichment to the text and enhanced its interpretation. It is a great story which should be read by individuals interested in understanding various cultural myths and symbolism.

© Joseph S. Spence, Sr. All Rights Reserved

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