Interpreter of Maladies – Jhumpa Lahiri


A Temporary Matter

He smiled in the kindest way it was possible to smile at people known only professionally.


…pried the sneakers from her feet without untying them.


When Mr. Pirzada Came to Dine
“We live here now, she was born here.” She seemed genuinely proud of the fact, as if it were a reflection of my character. … a safe life, an easy life, a fine education, every opportunity. I would never have to eat rationed food, or obey curfews, or watch riots from my rooftop, or hide neighbours in water tanks to prevent them from being shot, as she and my father had.


His ears were insulated by tufts of graying hair that seemed to block out the unpleasant traffic of life.


“I only spoil children who are incapable of spoiling.”


Most of all I remember the three of them operating during that time as if they were a single person, sharing a single meal, a single body, a single silence, and a single fear.


Interpreter of Maladies
Now only a handful of European phrases remained in his memory, scattered words for things like saucers and chairs.


The signs he recognized from his own marriage were there –the bickering, the indifference, the protracted silences.


It crushed him; he knew at that moment that he was not even important enough to be properly insulted.


A Real Durwan
She was sixty-four years old, with hair in a knot no larger than a walnut, and she looked almost as narrow from the front as she did from the side.


In fact, the only thing that appeared three-dimensional about Boori Ma was her voice: brittle with sorrows, as tart as curds, and shrill enough to grate meat from a coconut.


… when it started to rain. It came slapping across the roof like a boy in slippers too big for him and washed Mrs. Dalal’s lemon peels into the gutter.


She looked up the ladderlike stairs, and as the sound of falling water tightened around her she knew her quilts were turning into yogurt.


Knowing not to sit on the furniture, she crouched, instead, in doorways and hallways, and observed gestures and manners in the same way a person tends to watch traffic in a foreign city.


This Blessed House
The symphony, now in its third movement, had reached a crescendo, for it pulsed with the telltale clashing of symbals.  Mahler’s fifth symphony. The tender fourth movement, the adagietto, began.


The Treatment of Bibi Haldar
Each day she unloaded her countless privations upon us, until it became unendurably apparanet that Bibi wanted a man.


Her soliloquies mawkish, her sentiments maudlin, malaise dripped like a fever from her pores.


“No man wants a woman who dresses like a dishwasher.”

News spread between our window bars, across our clotheslines, and over the pigeon droppings that plastered the parapets of our rooftops.

Their rancor toward Bibi was fixed on their lips, thinner than the strings with which they tied our purchases.


Perspiration had already left black moons beneath her armpits.


“Frowning like a rice pot will get you nowhere. Men require that you caress them with your expression.”


He wrote letters to doctors in England, spent his evenings reading casebooks at the library, gave up eating meat on Fridays in order to appease his household god.


He created a chart of her symptoms with directions for calming her, and distributed it throughout the neighbourhood, but these were eventually lost, or turned into sailboats by our children.


I had never lived in the home of a person who was not Indian.


My mother refused to adjust to life without him; instead she sank deeper into a world of darkness from which neither I, nor my brother, nor concerned relatives, nor psychiatric clinics on Rash Behari Avenue could save her.

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