Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Told in the third person and limited to Kapasi’s point of view, “Interpreter of Maladies” depicts an epiphany regarding Kapasi’s mistaken belief that love can easily cross cultural boundaries. Though he has studied several languages and is proficient in English, Kapasi is a somewhat flawed observer of the bicultural issues raised by the visiting Indian American Das family.

Kapasi observes the Das family as a cultural contradiction. Because Mr. and Mrs. Das were both born in the United States of Indian parents, one would think their Indian heritage would be strong, but it is not; they seem unmindful of their heritage, behaving stereotypically as any other vacationing American family would. Mrs. Das, for example, appears oblivious of the attention she draws with her short skirt in this place where women customarily cover themselves.

Other details mark them as stereotypically American. Obsessed with his camera, Mr. Das misses out on his vacation because he peers at it only through a camera lens. In Kapasi’s view, neither of the Das parents seems at all Indian in their interaction with their children. For example, searching for his wife, Mr. Das asks his children, “Where’s Mina?” using her first name. Mrs. Das seems uninterested in her children, complaining about having to take Tina to the toilet, for example. Kapasi notices that the Das family, including the parents, “were all like siblings,” suggesting their customs differ significantly from those practiced in India.

Despite the “un-Indian” qualities of the Das family, Kapasi develops an...

(The entire section is 655 words.)