Study Guide

Interpreter of Maladies

by Jhumpa Lahiri

Interpreter of Maladies Summary

Summary (Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

“The Interpreter of Maladies” chronicles a day during an Indian American family’s vacation in India visiting tourist sites with their Indian guide. On this summer day, Mr. and Mrs. Das, a young Indian couple born in the United States, and their three children, Ronny, Bobby, and Tina, as well as their Indian guide, Mr. Kapasi, travel by car to the Sun Temple at Konarak. When they stop at a roadside tea stall for refreshments, the middle-aged guide Kapasi observes the young family. Though the family is of Indian heritage, their manner, attire, and interactions are American. When Mrs. Das purchases a snack from a shirtless vendor, he sings a popular Hindi love song to her, but she does not understand the language and expresses no embarrassment.

During the ride to the temple, the Das family engages in mindless activity: Tina plays with the door lock, the two boys snap their chewing gum, Mrs. Das paints her fingernails in boredom, and Mr. Das tinkers with his camera. Kapasi observes them. Mrs. Das converses with Kapasi and learns he has another job as a translator for a physician and his Gujarati patients. Intrigued with Kapasi’s description of this job, Mrs. Das questions him further. Mrs. Das’s interest sparks in Kapasi a sexual infatuation toward her. Kapasi notices Mrs. Das’s sensuous appearance.

The group stops for lunch, after which the children leave the picnic table, and Mr. Das photographs his wife and Kapasi together. Mrs. Das asks Kapasi for his address so she can later send him a copy of the photo; he writes it on a scrap of paper, which she places in her handbag. Silently, Kapasi fantasizes how this photograph could...

(The entire section is 674 words.)