Difference Between Love and Lust In ‘Interpreter of Maladies’
We as humans often like to fantasize about having a more glamorous life than what we actually have. Most of the time, people like to imagine being with someone who thinks is good for them, but it’s the exact opposite. That’s the mistake Mr.Kapasi ended up making in the story “Interpreter of Maladies” by Jhumpa Lahiri. “Interpreter of Maladies” is a collection of stories about having an opinion or view that is incorrect because of thinking or understanding something that isn’t true. The picture of the Das family that will forever be in Mr.Kapasi’s mind is that when the paper with the address flies away at the end of the story, Mr.Kapasi finally realizes that Mrs. Das wasn’t the perfect woman that he thought she was, that his whole idea of her being the one for him was very unrealistic. This is why Mr.Kapasi is silent when the paper is flying away because he knew that keeping in contact with a woman like her wouldn’t be ideal.
When Mr.Kapasi went to his job of being a tourist taxi driver in India, he didn’t think that he would be going on an emotional roller coaster all because of a woman he barely knew. The Das family seemed like a pretty normal and happy family (from an outsider’s perspective) but they were far from that. Mr and Mrs Das always argued because of the lack of communication, which happens to a lot of couples. Both people don’t even bother to try to solve their issues and expect those issues to get solved on their own which results in one person being unhappy in the relationship and it becoming one-sided. They don’t really respect each other since they call each other by their first name which Mr.Kapsi notices and sees the lack of communication between the two, “Mr.Kapasi found it strange that Mr. Das should refer to his wife by her first name when speaking to the little girl.” (Lahiri, lines 103-105). Mrs.Das didn’t feel any love or compassion for her kids and husband “Leave me alone, Mrs. Das said, blowing on her nails and turning her body slightly.”(Lahiri, lines 196-197). All of these observations that Mr.Kapasi made shows him that they aren’t the ‘picture perfect’ family that they appeared to be on the outside.
Throughout the entire trip, all Mrs.Das does is complain and show absolutely no interest in Mr.Kapasi and even less interest in her own family. That is until Mr.Kapasi tells the family about his full time job of being an interpreter for an Indian doctor, which suddenly makes Mrs. Das become interested and excited about it and calls it ‘romantic’, “But so romantic, Mrs.Das said dreamily, breaking her extended silence.” (Lahiri, lines 287-288). This comes as a shock to Mr.Kapasi because she wanted nothing to do with him the first half of the trip and now all of a sudden she’s perked up and intrigued, also because of the fact that Mr.Kapasi never saw his job as ‘romantic’ or even interesting for that matter. He thought that it was just a regular day to day job. Mrs.Das’ change in attitude seemed a little suspicious, she probably got a sudden interest in him because she either wanted money that she knows he has since he gets paid very well, “And so when the doctor offered to pay him twice as much as he earned at the grammar school, he accepted.” (Lahiri, Lines 383-385) or she really found his job to be fun since it’s a type of job that she has never heard of. Mrs. Das would listen to Mr.Kapasi and ask him as many questions as she could, the author makes Mr.Kapasi seem like a hero to Mrs.Das because Mrs.Das thinks that he plays an important role in saving people’s lives but Mr.Kapasi doesn’t see himself as a big hero, he sees himself as a regular guy with a regular job just like everyone else.
As the story goes on, Mr.Kapasi becomes more and more fascinated by Mrs.Das, particularly because of the fact that he’s been lonely and has felt like he has no one by his side, his wife had completely isolated herself from him and found his job to be absurd ever since their son passed from typhoid, “He knew it reminded her of the son she’d lost, and that she resented the other lives he helped, in his own way, to save.” (Lahiri, Lines 387-389). Mrs. Das was the only person who has ever commented about his job in a positive way and actually acknowledged it, he had never felt so wanted and appreciated by a woman in so long. Mrs.Das’ action makes Mr.Kapasi fall head over heels for her and he begins to fantasize about her body, mind and having a life with her. Mr.Das ended up taking a picture of both Mr.Kapasi and Mrs.Das together which resulted in Mrs.Das asking him for his address, “He calculated: A week to settle in, a week to develop the pictures, a few days to compose her letter, two weeks to get to India by air. According to his schedule, allowing room for delays, he would hear from Mrs.Das in approximately six weeks’ time.” (Lahiri, Lines 649-654) This made him fantasize about her even more thinking about the opportunities that he will get to talk to her about the hardships they face with their significant others and also learn more about each other when they both part ways.
Mrs. Das tells Mr.Kapasi a deep dark secret that no one knew, he was the first person to find this out and it was that Bobby (Mr and Mrs Das’ son) wasn’t Mr.Das’ and how she had a fling with one of his close friends who visited them a while back, that’s now Bobby was conceived. “A brave little boy,” Mr.Kapasi commented. “It’s not so surprising,”Mrs. Das said. “No?” Mr.Kapasi said. “He’s not his.” she said. “I beg your pardon?” he said. “Raj’s. He’s not Raj’s son.” Mrs.Das said.” (Lahiri, Lines 746-751). Mrs. Das also explained how no one knew this information except for him and how Bobbys real father would never know. Mr.Kapasi was very confused on why she would be telling him this when they’ve only known each other for a few hours. ̈ Don’t you have anything to say? I thought this was your job.” (Lahiri, Lines 873-874). Mrs.Das thought that a person she barely knew would be able to give her best advice possible or maybe even give her medicine to make her ̈feel better ̈ , she was tired of holding in a secret like that and it was making her mentally and emotionally exhausted. She needed to talk and explain this big issue to her husband, he was one of the only people being affected by this besides Bobby. After Mrs.Das told Mr.Kapasi everything, he felt like his whole fantasy that he made involving the both of them had been crushed into a million tiny pieces. ̈Is it really pain you feel, Mrs.Das, or is it guilt?¨ (Lahiri, Lines 911-912), Mr.Kapasi was hurt and somewhat angry that all these wonderful thoughts that he had of her had been ruined.
Mrs Das was infuriated with him because she didn’t get what she wanted to hear, instead she got what she needed to hear. This made her step out of the car and that moment made Mr.Kapasi realise that he wasn’t important to her and he never will be. That all this time he wasn’t feeling love for her, only lust. Mr.Kapasi sees that Mrs.Das doesn’t feel like a normal person anymore because she’s tired of being miserable and guilty with her family and life in general, “Has already fallen out of love with life” (Lahiri). When they were all walking back to the car, Mrs.Das started reaching into her bag and that’s when the piece of paper with his address began to blow away into the wind, “When she whipped out the hairbrush, the slip of paper with Mr. Kapasi’s address on it fluttered away in the wind. He watched as it rose, carried higher and higher by the breeze, into the trees where the monkeys now sat, solemnly observing the scene below. Mr. Kapasi observed it too, knowing that this was the picture of the Das family he would preserve forever in his mind” (Lahiri, Lines 1012-1020). Mr.Kapasi had finally let his mind and heart stop playing games with him and he knew that if he would’ve acknowledged the paper being blown away, his future with Mrs.Das would not have been what he had imagined this entire time.
Overall, humans are still continuing to learn the difference between love and lust. It is something that has affected most of us and not being able to know the difference just sets us up for heartbreak. Mr.Kapasi set himself up for heartbreak when he made Mrs.Das out to be this perfect woman when that just wasn’t the case. The piece of paper that flew away represented the chance that he would never be able to get from Mrs.Das again.
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