Jhumpa Lahiri’s portrayal of the diasporic life

‘Interpreter of Maladies’ and ‘The Third and Final Continent’ by Jhumpa Lahiri focuses on the culture differences between India and America and the struggles of Indian immigrants. In the ‘Interpreter of Maladies’ the author narrates the story of the Das family of an Indian-American origin who is on a vacation in India. The purpose of the story is to bring to surface the culture divide and to display interactions between people with different backgrounds. In the ‘The Third and Final Continent’ the author describes the struggles of Indian immigrants. Through both the stories the author unfolds the reality of cultural disparity and experiences of Indian immigrants thereby painting an over exaggerated yet realistic picture of the diasporic life.

 

In the ‘Interpreter of Maladies’ Mr. and Mrs. Das along with their three children are on a visit to India where they meet Mr. Kapasi who is in charge of driving them to the Sun Temple. Mr. Kapasi is a man with authentic Indian roots and is appalled at Mr. Das calling his wife by her first name in front of his daughter. Mr. Kapasi is able to find a common connection with Mrs. Das over her unhappy marriage because he himself is in a similar state. However, the connection breaks when the marriage differences are highlighted. While Mr. Kapasi settled for an arranged marriage having nothing in common with his wife, Mr. and Mrs. Das fell in love and got married. Mrs. Das exposes the infidelity in her marriage that startles Mr. Kapasi. Moreover, learning about their sexual behaviors during courtship leave him stunned as he has never seen his wife naked. These differences in marriage go on to show the differences in culture between two countries.

 

The danger of romanticism is highlighted in this unconventional story. While Mr. Kapasi feels Mrs. Das could be his perfect partner in his loneliness and failed marriage, Mrs. Das looks upon him as her confidant and views him as a father figure. They both fail to dismiss the notion that both were misfits in these expected roles. This difference in thinking shows yet another aspect of cultural disparity.

 

In the story ‘The Third and Final Continent’ the author brings to surface the struggle faced by an Indian immigrant. The author explains the hardships of immigrants to adapt to a new culture. The protagonist of the story is forced to use the word ‘Splendid’ by Mrs. Croft thereby showing the dominance of one culture over the other. His reaction on seeing his wife in sari displays the change in his thinking after arriving in America. The story gives the reader an insight into the life of an Indian immigrant and the struggle to fit into a new culture.

 

The two stories may seem as an exaggeration of the cultural differences and the struggles faced by an Indian immigrant but the themes infused in the stories definitely display the differences between the roots of two different countries in a realistic way.

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