A Temporary Matter
Analysis of Jhumpa Lahiri’s Book, Temporary Matter
In the same fashion, Shoba and Shukumar share a similar lack of honesty in A Temporary Matter,” therefore causing their marriage to crumble. Their bond degrades to the point where Shoba prepares for a life without her other half. As the beginning of where things go awry, a stillborn baby strikes them, causing their relationship to expand infinitely greater. At a time where they had needed each other the most, an unbreakable tension forms instead. The inability between them two to address what was happening, had ultimately resulted in the loss of their marriage. They became deceptive with each other, and with themselves. Without cooperation to stabilize after a traumatic event, the lack of interaction and veracity between them creates a crack in their bond. This rift leads to minimal interactions, where neither are motivated to change the issue before them. Perhaps they thought the other person was too far gone to do anything about the problem at hand. With deceitfulness and an absence of communication, Shoba soon decides to move out, the ending point of their marriage. However, the sudden power outage results in communication, that was however awkward at first, grew heartwarming. WIth conversation being such an anomaly, the two are both fearful though excited of what was to follow. The darkness somehow strips away the fear and the distance for them, leaving them able to leave their secrets in the air. Their ability to only act with genuity, was in the darkness, though this displays the brokenness and distance within their partnership. The confessions and crimes the divulge to one another depict the real foundations of their marriage. Toxicity is extremely apparent here, therefore indicating how damaged and terminating it is. With fractured interactions being the medium of their relationships, there would be difficulty in recrafting what had been done before.
Finally, the interactions between people reveal the stability, and mutual support within a relationship, as the characters have emphasized. This can lead to a weak and toxic relationship, built on the pillars of insecurity. Events can trigger distance between two person. Without either person being completely honest, or being able to communicate their feelings properly, the vulnerable continue onto their destructive courses, until it finally ends completely. Without communication driven by honesty, aren’t all relationships doomed for failure?
A View of the Anxiety Associated With Handling Difficulties As Depicted By Jhumpa Lahiri in His Short Story, a Temporary Matter
In the short story “A Temporary Matter” Jhumpa Lahiri reveals how Shukamar is afraid of confronting is problems and Shoba does not like to talk about the baby. Shukamar cannot really relate to Shoba. He cannot because he never really went to India and Shoba did. They both try to isolate each other so they don’t have to confront their problems.In the short story they are slowly separating there is already a sense ofvsepartion but it gets worse. It causes them to be gone displaced. By the end of the story they a no longer together. Because of how Shukamar and Shoba deal with their problems it is separating their relationship.
These are issues shown by the author. Shoba and Shukamar barely spend time together Shukamar even said, “These days Shoba was always by the time Shukamar woke up” (Lahiri 4). They barely even see each other and when they do they try to keep themselves apart. They do not even celebrate, “Shoba and Shukamar hadn’t celebrated Christmas that year” (Lahiri 2). The reason they are like this is because they can not get past this one issue their baby. Shoba tries to completely avoid it “and partly because it was a place Shoba avoided” (Lahiri 8). While Shukamar just wants to completely forget about the baby by removing all of the baby items, He also stop caring about things like brushing teeth. Another problem with their relationship is they keep things secretive and lie. Shukamar even said, “He had held him until a nurse knocked and took him away, and promised himself that day he would never tell Shoba” (Lahiri 22). The only thing about this is he did tell Shoba. So Because of how secretive they and how they isolate themselves this ended their relationship.
The Setting in Jhumpa Lahiri’s Short Story A Temporary Matter
In “A Temporary Matter,” Jhumpa Lahiri creates an apartment that lives through the past actions and current stagnation of its inhabitants. Whether by Shoba’s “endless sealed pyramids” of now-eaten leftovers or the”lace she had once planned to turn into curtains,” the setting teems with reminders of busier, hopeful days bygone. The present is more defined by inaction, lack of apparent action; instead of working, Shukumar reads a novel that we know nothing of, and while Shoba takes on more and more overtime, that money goes nowhere that Shukumar can see.
The apartment is overwhelmingly defined by Shoba’s actions, not Shukumar’s; the way she takes off her satchel and shoes, the way she pays bills, the way she cooks. To that end, he might as well be living in her world. Much of the story comes from his memory and reflection, which all lend awareness that the house is distinctly Shoba’s. With that awareness and stagnation comes unwillingness to change, even though the apartment has been staged as a transitionary “elsewhere” which even Shoba now treats “as if it were a hotel.” “For some reason,” the narrator says of the room which was to house their baby, to nurse a better life, “the room did not haunt him the way it haunted Shoba.”
Something changes when the lights go off. A world that seems to float in backward- and forward-reaching timelessness in the light goes dark at precisely eight o’clock. Shukumar and Shoba now feel they can, maybe must, talk to each other as they never do otherwise but as a couple is “supposed to do.” Thus the nightly ritual is grounded in time and social tradition. This couples with the change in scenery to add tension to their nights, as the conditions of the setting build tension even without direct and bombastic conflict.
True Human Nature in “A Temporary Matter”, “Eleven”, “Love of Life”, and “Mr Pirzada Came to Dine”
Throughout the course of this semester my perspective on what the nature of human beings is has changed drastically. At the start I believed that the nature of human beings was to find ways to improve their lives and survive. After having read and analyzed the short stories of several authors throughout the semester I am now convinced that the nature of human being is to learn valuable lessons from one another and from struggles they encounter that will lead to a better understanding of each other, themselves, the difficult nature of life and it’s value.
In Jhumpa Lahiri’s “A Temporary Matter”, a husband and wife decide to ask each other questions and to give completely honest answers. The truths that unfold from this experience seemingly bring the two closer together. However, the husband ultimately discovers that “she had spent these past evenings preparing for a life without him.” (ATM, 18). The husband learns that sometimes situations can be deceiving, the whole time he thinks the experience is bringing them closer together but in reality his wife has decided to leave him. From this difficult situation the husband has the opportunity to reflect upon his past decisions. The husband gets to see from both perspectives how the truth can hurt people because he has received and told truths that caused sorrow to the person hearing about them. In addition, both the husband and the wife learn from the death of their unborn baby that life comes with many sorrows that are beyond a single person’s control. All of this as a whole shows that the nature of being human involves learning from both personal problems as well as observing or even sharing the struggles of another human being.
In “Eleven” by Sandra Cisneros the main character is put in a situation that shows her what injustice is. The girl’s teacher forces her to accept that she is the owner of an ugly sweater and is forced to put it on. This situation is very upsetting and unfair to the narrator because she knows it is not hers. After the event the true owner of the sweater is found out but no one in the class is ever told that it didn’t really belong to the narrator. This is when the narrator learns what injustice is first hand. To learn that life is sometimes unfair for no apparent reason is something that all humans learn eventually.
More specifically she learns that life can be unfair about even the littlest things, the ownership of an ugly sweater is not important to the grand scheme of the narrator’s life. In addition, the narrator learns about how identity can be everchanging. Throughout the story the narrator comments that it’s not her age that defines her rather it’s the sum of the experiences she’s acquired throughout her years that define who she is. With that she comes to realize an important lesson about the nature of humans that is our identities are ever changing and developing as a result of the experiences we have.
The more time we spend alive the more experiences we learn from, the narrator realizes this saying that “If I was one hundred and two I’d have known what to say when Mrs. Price put the red sweater on my desk.” (E, 6). The narrator’s experience in this story goes to show that the nature of human beings is to learn from the difficult situations they encounter and that even at a young age humans can learn about the sometimes cruel nature of life.
Jack London’s “Love of Life” shows how the nature of humans is to learn from their struggles through the journey of a man that turns into a fight to survive. In the story the man is abandoned by his fellow traveler after he sprains his ankle. He then has to go on by himself and barely survives; he is clinging to his last bit of life by the end of the story. From coming so close to death and seeing his fellow travelers corpse, it becomes easy to see how valuable human life can be. What the man learns through this struggle through the wilderness is willpower and perseverance.
The narrator notes that “Yet the life that was in him drove him on. He was very weary, but it refused to die” (LOL, 8) showing that the man discovered his limits and what he is truly capable of. Pushing yourself to your limits and succeeding is something that all people do at times in their life; this quality is part of what makes us human. Through this short story London also shows the value of human life despite the inherent hardships that come along with it.
In the short story “Mr. Pirzada Came to Dine” by Jhumpa Lahiri, the character Mr. Pirzada has to endure the struggle of worrying about the safety of his family in his home country while he is working in the United States. This struggle of his is observed by the narrator, who was a child at the time, because Mr. Pirzada would always come to their house for dinner and to watch the news throughout his stay in the United States. Through observing Mr. Pirzada worrying about his family the narrator begins to show a lot of empathy for him, she says she “prayed that Mr. Pirzada’s family was safe and sound. I had never prayed for anything before” (MPCD, 24).
The lesson that the narrator learns about being empathetic towards people in unfortunate circumstances is a valuable one. Empathy shows that one is conscious about the struggles other human beings are going through and can be a feeling that leads to a bond between humans. The narrator says “I knew what it meant to miss someone who was so many miles and hours away, just as he had missed his wife and daughters for so many months” (MPCD, 28) showing that by the end of the experience she had learned to relate to what Mr. Pirzada was feeling the whole time he was in the United States. The narrator’s development to show empathy and obtain a greater understanding of how another human feels strengthens my belief that the nature of humans is to be able to learn from difficult situations that occur in life and from the struggles of others around them.
In conclusion, these short stories have changed my perspective on what the nature of human beings is over the course of the semester. From these short stories I learned that the nature of human beings is to learn valuable lessons from one another and from struggles they encounter that will lead to a better understanding of each other, themselves, the difficult nature of life and it’s value. Lahiri conveys to readers through her short stories that in life things are not always as they appear to be and that life is inherently filled with difficult situations. Additionally, she makes the point that people can learn from struggles other than their own and can learn from sharing a struggle as well.
London’s short story “Love of Life” made the point of the value of life and how humans have an immense amount of willpower and determination to keep living despite the inherent struggles that come with it. Cisneros shows readers how humans learn through bad experiences that occur in life and more specifically the unfairness of life and that people’s cumulative experience define them. Overall these stories all share the message that naturally humans can learn from any difficult experience and that these experiences lead to a greater understanding of oneself, the nature of human life and it’s value.
Ordinary Things with Deep Symbolism: Food and Clothes’ Discourse in Interpreter of Maladies
Regardless of language or culture, certain aspects of life are present in every person’s life. Among these are love, food and clothing; because of their connection to all peoples, they are popular symbols in literature. Jhumpa Lahiri, in Interpreter of Maladies, uses these ideas to convey major themes in each of the relationships she crafts. In her collection of short stories, Lahiri demonstrates the healthy and unhealthy phases of relationships through the symbols of food and clothing.
In “A Temporary Matter,” Lahiri crafts the entire plot around meals; the temporary power outages are always during dinnertime. However, she illustrates the importance of food prior to Shoba and Shukumar’s current relationship. When the couple enjoyed a loving, healthy connection, the food was extravagant and comforting. Shoba had made a ten-course meal for Shukumar for their anniversary, symbolizing the warmth and care that was present in their relationship. During this time, Shoba also exhibited her interest in their life together through her clothing. She would put her coats on hangers and her shoes in the closet, and if she went shopping, she would buy two of whatever blouses or purses she might like. This illustrates the attention to detail that she used to hold not just in her life, but in their relationship specifically. Shoba used to enjoy spending time with Shukumar, and she was precise in her actions so that they would live happily together. However, after the loss of their child, she lets herself go, and Lahiri reflects this in the same symbols that once showed her true love. Instead of Shoba preparing new and interesting dishes, Shukumar cooks. Not only do their roles switch, but their motivations do as well. While Shoba cooked to provide Shukumar with pleasure, Shukumar cooks because it is “the one thing that made him feel productive” (Lahiri 8). He also uses up the preserved foods that Shoba had prepared years earlier, as opposed to Shoba’s use of fresh foods when she cooked. The food that he cooks, regardless of quality, is not even eaten with his wife. They eat their dinner separately, signifying their isolation within the relationship. Shoba’s clothing also reflects this. Instead of keeping her appearance nice and neat, she wears a raincoat over gym clothes, with smudged makeup and a satchel that she does not bother to put away after work. She has become the woman “she’d once claimed she would never resemble” (1), and it illustrates how she has let go of her and Shukumar’s relationship. The transition from comforting food and put-together clothing to the exact opposite symbolizes the deterioration of their once-strong connection, a connection that is now unhealthy and unsatisfying for both people.
The relationship between Miranda and Dev in “Sexy” follows a similar path, ending in the destruction of each person’s feelings for one another. At the start of their relationship, during the love-filled, healthy stage, they go on dates to fancy restaurants, eating a pig’s head and holding hands across the dinner table, symbolizing Dev’s extreme care for Miranda and their reciprocated feelings for each other. Even when their first week together ends, they stay happy for a while; Miranda buys all of Dev’s favorite foods, like baguettes, pickled herring, and pesto, for his Sunday visits. These visits, and the food that accompany them, signify luxury similar to a that of a honeymoon stage, and the couple is very obviously happy together. Miranda also buys herself some luxurious items, “things she thought a mistress should have” (92), such as a silk robe and a slinky cocktail dress, showing her devotion to the relationship and the value she places on their feelings for each other. Unfortunately, following Dev’s wife’s return, things slowly start to go awry, and the symbols follow. Miranda begins to eat sloppily, even eating “straight from the salad bowl” while waiting for the Sundays during which Dev visits her (97). As she tries to save the relationship, visiting an Indian grocery to find out what Dev’s wife looks like, she finds the food in the store unfamiliar and confusing, feeling extremely out of place. The worker in the store even mentions to her that the food is too spicy for her; this illustrates how Miranda feels out of place in her relationship with Dev. He can only visit her on Sundays, and his wife seems to be of more importance to him than Miranda is, hurting her subconsciously. Their clothing also reflects this shift, as Miranda’s new “mistress clothes” go unused, her dress in a pile on the floor of her closet and her lingerie tucked into the back of her underwear drawer. This signifies that what was once a symbol of hope for the future of their relationship is now gone, and the luxurious, loving stage is over. On Sundays when they meet, Dev wears sweats and Miranda wears jeans, showing that they do not care about their appearance, nor do they care about the relationship much either.
Lahiri uses the same symbols in “This Blessed House” in the marriage of Twinkle and Sanjeev. When the couple first met, they were at a party; their bonding moment was when they agreed on the lack of taste in the food they were eating, and Twinkle mentions that she was “charmed by the way Sanjeev had dutifully refilled her teacup during their conversation” (143). Their happy relationship, albeit short-lived, begins with this warm, inviting meal, one they can connect over. This connection unfortunately proves faulty as time goes on. By the time they move in together, the meals shared by the couple are not quite the same. The first meal shown in the story features a fish stew made by Twinkle, but this is no ordinary fish stew. The stew is made with the vinegar she found with the first Christ figurine, placed on a Jesus trivet, and finally covered with a dishtowel featuring the Ten Commandments. This infatuation that Twinkle has with Christian paraphernalia is the main issue in their relationship, and it manifests itself three ways in the first meal of the story. The first meal in the new house is the exact opposite of the first meal they had ever shared; instead of exemplifying hope for the future, it foreshadowed major issues to come. Clothing is also prevalent in this phase of the relationship, as Sanjeev notes that he hates the way she throws her undergarments at the foot of the bed instead of away in a drawer. This seemingly insignificant issue with her handling of her clothing demonstrates his inability to deal with all of her idiosyncrasies. Additionally, during their major fight over the statue of Mary, in which Twinkle cries and Sanjeev yells at her, Twinkle is wearing a simple bathrobe. She is not wearing real clothes, illustrating that a lack of care in clothing correlates to massive holes and misunderstandings in their relationship.
Interestingly, “This Blessed House,” although similar to the other two stories in terms of symbolism, does not follow the same plotline as them. While the first two stories end in the termination of the relationships, this story ends with Twinkle and Sanjeev staying together. The last scene shows Sanjeev caving in to his wife’s will, taking the bust into the living room even though he is against doing so. This saving of their marriage, this turnaround of what seems like the end of an unhealthy relationship has its own symbol in clothing as well. Each of the stories prior to this one have two major stages of the relationship, love and heartbreak, but “This Blessed House” introduces a new stage: reconciliation. Just before he agrees to carry the bust into his living room, he moves Twinkle’s high heels out of the way so that she will not trip. This is extremely significant because Sanjeev has previously noted that he hates when she wears high heels, yet he moves them out of her way. This suggests that the one piece that the other relationships are missing is not simply love but a willingness to work with one another. Sanjeev cares about his marriage, and so he is willing to work through his issues so that they might prosper. This idea is perhaps the strongest of the three stories, using the same symbol to flawlessly convey a completely new concept.
Food Metaphors and Identity Representation
Lahiri’s Interpreter of Maladies is a collection of short works that explore and examine issues of identity and assimilation between Indian and American cultures. Weaved into and between each story and each struggle is the presence of traditional Indian food and the nuances of its ritualized preparation. It serves as a metaphor for several things in interaction with the coping protagonists of her stories: community, normalcy, culture, love, and so on. The meaning of food, its implications and effects, is most prevalent in “When Mr. Pirzada Came to Dine,” “Mrs. Sen’s,” and “A Temporary Matter.”
“When Mr. Pirzada Came to Dine” exudes food symbolism from beginning to end, even in its title. “Coming to dine” is, in and of itself, a social event, a routinized gathering to share space and conversation over a meal. Sifting through phone books and university directories, Lilia’s parents search tirelessly for Indian surnames in an attempt to find dinner company – that is, until they find a Pakistani man named Mr. Pirzada. When he arrives at their home, he introduces a portrait of his daughters, “producing from his wallet a black-and-white picture of seven girls at a picnic… eating chicken curry off of banana leaves.” (23) Picnicking represents recreation and familial bonding, and his introduction of them through that particular snapshot of their lives frames them in a context that Lilia can relate to and empathize with. When Lilia’s father tries to explain that Mr. Pirzada “is no longer considered Indian,” Lilia finds it hard to recognize the differences between he and her parents, noting that they both “ate pickled mangoes with their meals, ate rice every night for supper with their hands… for dessert dipped austere biscuits into successive cups of tea” and interacted like any other Indians would. (25) Even at her young age, Lilia understands the meaning of food eaten between people of like-culture, the sense of security and the shared understanding that come with it. In several scenes, Lilia helps her mother prepare the table for dining or sets condiments and spices beside their plates, fully aware of the refined blend of tastes customary – even expected – of Indian meals. She describes her mother’s efforts in putting together a meal for her family, bringing forth a “succession of dishes” to the living room where they would sit across from the television and await news from Dacca. (30) The labor afforded by her mother is representative of Indian tradition and the women that spend hours in the kitchen concocting elaborate traditional meals for their guests on a nightly basis. By bringing the food out of the dining room and onto the couch, Lahiri signifies an informal scene; in this way, she uses food to break down the polite distance between family and invitee and creates a smaller, more special space.
In “Mrs. Sen’s,” Lahiri presents the significance of food in a much less communal setting, through the eyes of a young boy – Elliot – under the wary supervision of a lone professor’s wife. Separated by an ocean from her family, Mrs. Sen uses the ritualized practice of cutting vegetables, cooking stews, and hand-selecting fish to keep ties with her ideas of normalcy and sociality. Elliot observes that a great deal of Mrs. Sen’s day is occupied by her detailed preparation for grandiose meals she serves her husband when he returns from work. She lays out newspapers opposite the television and sits comfortably with a steel blade, peeling, slicing, and chopping an assortment of vegetables for nearly an hour every day. The procedure utilizes a cultural instrument and reflects, as Mrs. Sen explains to Elliot, a ritual of sorts in which neighborhood women celebrated an important event by “[sitting] in an enormous circle on the roof of [her] building, laughing and gossiping and slicing fifty kilos of vegetables through the night.” (115) Her recollection of the practice as a social event, a scaffold for bonding between women, juxtaposes her alternate practice, performed without need for occasion and with only the television to keep her company; it only emphasizes her estrangement from family and friends, and reiterates her day-to-day alienation. The lengths to which Mrs. Sen is willing to go to secure fresh fish for her dishes, and the precise care with which she portions and fillets each one, is extremely telling of how important cooking proper meals is for traditional Indian women. She pushes herself out of her comfort zone to travel to the fish market by the beach, even going as far as getting behind the wheel without a license when Mr. Sen is unavailable (or unwilling) to drive her all the way over. Lahiri also uses Mrs. Sen to draw a distinction between a traditional Indian woman and Elliot’s American mother and how their cooking, or the degree to which they do, signifies a pronounced difference in culture. Every evening, when Elliot’s mother comes to pick him up, Mrs. Sen extends the courtesy of inviting her into the living room and serves her something to eat; she always nibbles a bit on whatever she’s given, chalks up her small appetite to a late lunch, and then orders a pizza for she and Elliot when they arrive home. Mrs. Sen’s rigor toward preparing home-cooked meals is absolutely lost on Elliot’s mother. Correspondingly, Elliot feels much more involved and important when observing the effort by Mrs. Sen to prepare and cook dinner for her husband than when his mother orders takeout and leaves him to wrap leftovers on his own. The hours spent preparing traditional meals is indicative of a sense of appreciation and compassion by Indian mothers for their children, while fast food feels more indifferent, and speaks more to the weaker affections (or lack thereof) between an American mother and her child.
Lahiri explores the ideas of love and compassion as represented by food and cooking in “A Temporary Matter” through the experiences of a disjointed married couple, Shoba and Shukmar. Following the death of their newborn son, Shukmar witnesses a profound change in his wife – her intrinsic “capacity to think ahead,” her impulse to prepare and store ready-to-serve, home-cooked food for any possible visitor or occasion, suddenly disappears. (6) He recalls her ability to “throw together meals that appeared to have taken half a day to prepare… peppers she had marinated herself with rosemary, and chutneys that she cooked on Sundays, stirring boiling pots of tomatoes and prunes” and the gratification it provided her. (7) Shukmar’s testimony of the stark contrast of his wife before and after their son’s death is representative of the heart put into Shoba’s traditional home cooking; when her grief presides her efforts, she completely stops caring to even heat up meals from her prepared stock, leaving Shukmar to heat up what was left for the two of them and noting that, “if it weren’t for him, Shoba would eat a bowl of cereal for her dinner.” (8) He can just as easily purchase ready-made, microwaveable meals for Shoba to heat up, but his concern for her wellbeing and willingness – enthusiasm, even – to pore through her cookbooks and prepare full meals for their dinner indicates that he loves her, and still cares to extend the effort. Inversely, he notes that, “for their first anniversary, Shoba had cooked a ten-course dinner just for him,” but gifted him a lone sweater-vest for their third anniversary, and presently has stopped cooking for him altogether – a sequence symbolic of their depreciating relationship. (18) In this story, Lahiri uses cooking and preparation of food as a measure of sentiment and intimacy, comparing endeavors in the kitchen to the strength of the couple’s deteriorating marriage.
It holds true within any culture that a home-cooked meal brings people together and allows bridges to be built, but Lahiri takes the meaning of food to another level. Like many other things, traditional cooking and food tips the scales in the balancing act of maintaining a sense of both cultures and ties people to their roots. Through her characters, their meals possess a special symbolism and act as a means of grappling with the conflicting ideas of culture, identity, and emotion that come with being immigrants or first-generation members of a community.
Symbolism of Darkness in Character’s Relationships
In A Temporary Matter, Jhumpa Lahiri illustrates a temporary blackout that enables Shukumar and Shoba to reconnect only to find that they have long been disconnected from each other. Shukumar and Shoba face four states of light, which metaphorically represent four stages of their relationship. Before the blackout, they are ambiguously distant as they avoid confronting each other about their feelings. During the blackout, the couple takes the chance of reconciliation. However, when the electricity has been repaired, they realize that they can only talk in a temporary darkness. They finally wake up from ignorance when Shoba turns on the light and reveals the purpose of their secret ‘game’. Through these stages, Shukumar and Shoba come to admit that they are not happy to be together. Thus, the temporary blackout ironically leads to the permanent end of their marriage life.
Shukumar and Shoba’s relationship is in an ambiguous stage before the blackout. They are uncertain about their feelings towards each other but they also avoid confronting this uncertainty. As a result of seeking their own ways of resolving the stillbirth trauma, their lifestyles change as if there is a reverse in gender roles. Shukumar becomes passive in the house as Shoba interacts with the outside world. Shukumar does not find the motivation to finish his paper or even to brush his teeth regularly. “He would lie in their bed until he grew bored, gazing at his side of the closet”(4), while Shoba would be “sipping her third cup of coffee already, in her office downtown, where she searched for typographical errors in textbooks and marked them”(4). The contrast in their lifestyles highlights the distance that has grown between them. For months, Shukumar and Shoba pretend to live their normal lives while becoming “experts at avoiding each other in their three-bedroom house, spending as much time on separate floors as possible”(4). Shoba’s busy schedule allows her to be gone to work before Shukumar wakes up. Likewise, Shukumar pretends to write his paper in the room prepared for their child because “it was a place Shoba avoided” (8). Before the blackout, the couple is in an unresolved stage in their relationship, living an unhappy life together yet trying to ignore the fact that they are disconnected.
During the blackout, Shukumar and Shoba seem to be able to reconcile their love. Because there is no electricity, Shukumar and Shoba have no excuse to take their plates to each of their workrooms and so they have to dine together under the candlelight. When Shoba initiates the secret game, the two begin to share secrets and memories of their passionate love: “something happened when the house was dark. They were able to talk to each other again” (19). They start to revert each of their life patterns; Shoba “came home earlier than usual” (14) and Shukumar finally has the motivation to go out “through the melting snow” (14) to buy candles in preparation of their dinner. However, this reconciliation under the darkness is sudden and unsual. Despite not knowing Shoba’s intention of playing the secret game, Shukumar responds unquestioningly to the chance of reconciliation. He does not even know whether he still loves Shoba, and yet he is excited by the idea of reconnecting with Shoba: “All day Shukumar had looked forward to the lights going out. He thought about what Shoba had said” (15). As they “walked carefully upstairs…making love with a desperation they had forgotten…in the dark” (19-20), Shukumar and Shoba seems to be able to blindly reconnect their love.
However, when the electricity has been repaired, the house remains dark; Shukumar and Shoba could have turned on the lights but they choose not to. At this point, they realize that they can only talk in the temporary darkness. With the lights back on, they would have to return to their separate lives. “It wasn’t the same…knowing that the lights wouldn’t go out” (20), Shukumar thought upon being informed that the electricity has been repaired. That night, the couple refuses to turn on the light and eat in a darkened room, in attempt to retain this temporary reconciliation. This reveals how Shukumar and Shoba have been taking refuge from reality as they share secrets and make love in the dark for the past four nights. Even Shukumar who remains hopeful of reconnecting with Shoba knows that what they have been doing in the darkness is only a ‘game’.
The temporary matter finally leads to an understanding of their permanent end when Shoba turns on the light. Shoba finally takes the initiative to admit the reality of their failure to reconnect as she “blew out the candle, stood up, turned on the light” (20) and reveals her last secret to Shukumar. Upon discovering that Shoba is moving out and that “she has spent these past evenings preparing for a life without him” (21), Shukumar realizes that all along, even before the blackout, he has been in a state of darkness. He has not been happy with his marriage life, living in a house that has been neglected and living with a person who has neglected the house and him. It is finally time for him to let go of living with “a flashlight, but no batteries, and a half-empty box of birthday candles” (9), eating on a table full of “piles of mail [and] unread library books” (10), avoiding all “the friends and friends of friends” (9), and refusing all the liveliness in his life. The secret game that they have been playing during the temporary matter has not been a way of reconnecting, but it has been “an exchange of confession—the little ways they’d hurt or disappointed each other, and themselves” (18). When Shoba turns on the light, it is as if Shukumar finally wakes up from a dark dream. As Shukumar reveals the last secret about their dead child—a secret “he promised himself that day that he would never tell Shoba, because he still loved her then” (22), he finally admits that he no longer loves Shoba. Their relationship has ended.