Interpreter of Maladies Discussion Questions

“Throughout my life experience of being raised in different cultures, I learned that I am very comfortable in my own skin and no term defines the person that I am or who I am to become. Like millions of Americans, the immigrant story is also my story. And I find there is no pressure to have divided loyalties because the diversity of our culture is what makes this country great; it is in this immigrant tradition that our country was built. I am further reminded of this country’s promise which is contained in our nation’s motto E Pluribus Unum, Out of Many, One. It’s what allows us to pursue our individual dreams, embrace our different heritages and yet still come together as one American family.”

—Barack Obama, U.S. Senator from Illinois

  1. In Interpreter of Maladies Mr. Kapasi finds Mrs. Das at first selfish and irresponsible, and then intoxicating. Why does this shift take place?
  2. Was the ending of “A Temporary Matter” a surprise to you? What elements of the story lead you to believe that it will end differently than it does? What elements foreshadow the actual ending?
  3. What causes Boori Ma in “A Real Durwan” to lose her job and home at the apartment building? Is Boori Ma merely a casualty of changing times or could it be a class issue?
  4. What kinds of marriages are presented by Lahiri?
  5. How is the couple’s sense of alienation and lack of communication conveyed by their food habits in “A Temporary Matter”?
  6. The narrator of “The Third and Final Continent” and Mrs. Croft follow a pattern for six weeks. The piano bench ritual is one of many routines or rituals in Lahiri’s collection. What other rituals or routines do you find in her stories?
  7. Many of the stories show instances where the differences between American and Indian culture are expressed. What scene was significant to you and why?
  8. In “This Blessed House” Sanjeev finds Twinkle’s delight in the Christian objects found in their home both frustrating and inappropriate. Why do you think he reacts so strongly?

Content last updated: October 31, 2006

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