Interpreter of Maladies


Interpreter of Maladies is a book I will not read again since I have read it twice already and the stories left me wanting more. For the latter point, I knew it was a collection of short stories so the idea of being left wanting more, I guess, was expected.

Nevertheless, this book is recommended as the stories were well written and able to provide a different perspective on human experiences. Though told from the point of view of Indians, it can resonate to all human experiences from my point of view.

Book description

From Amazon webpage –
Navigating between the Indian traditions they’ve inherited and the baffling new world, the characters in Jhumpa Lahiri’s elegant, touching stories seek love beyond the barriers of culture and generations.

Lahiri writes with deft cultural insight reminiscent of Anita Desai and a nuanced depth that recalls Mavis Gallant. She is an important and powerful new voice.


Interpreter of maladies speaks of human experiences from the point of view of Indians or, at times, Bengalis.

It shared the story of the following:

a. Shoba and Sukumar, which gave a glimpse of a couple divided by a loss – death of a baby; loved how the lights were used in this story;

b. Mr. Pirzada, which showed a Bengali man away from his family while a war is ongoing. He found comfort in an Indian family, who openly shared their home to this professor;

c. Mr. Kapasi, to whom the book title is referring to. He was an Indian tour guide who suddenly dreamt of creating a relationship with his client when she expressed interest in her work as translator for a doctor. As she spilled her heart though, he realized she has her own burdens to carry. He does not have a solution to what she was confessing;

d. Boori Ma, whose story got me confused, especially how her fortune has unfolded;

e. Mrs. Sen and Eliot, wherein Eliot, a child, saw Mrs. Sen’s struggle as the wife of an academics professor and unfamiliar with the foreign place;

f. Sanjeev and Twinkle, whose story also confused me a bit but it featured a strange dynamics between husband and wife;

g. Bibi – a lady prone to seizure left by family but embraced by the community. She had a mysterious ending to her story that even the community was baffled; and,

h. Mrs. Croft, who was the century old landlady of an Indian guy during his time at the university. It was reminiscent as it talked about how one person vividly remembers his first interactions in a new world.

There is no consistent theme across the stories and that is ok since it is allows it to cover mutiple themes. It was a nice short peek to the lives of these individuals.

My favorite quote can be found at the end of the book:

Still, there are times I am bewildered by each mile I have traveled, each meal I have eaten, each person I have known, each room in which I have slept. As ordinary as it all appears, there are times when it is beyond my imagination.

As I keep saying to myself: Life is just full of surprises and each one has their own stories to tell.


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