Priya once mentioned in a class discussion that there was a review that described the Interpreter of Maladies’ stories as being filled with examples of carelessness. The thought of carelessness throughout the book was one that I did not consider before hearing that response. Specifically, the idea of carelessness in relationships is evident throughout the collection.
The book opens up with a story entitled A Temporary Matter. In class discussions, this story has seemed to uproot the most conversation of any of the pieces. A young married couple hardly speaks to each other and concentrates on their own personal lives without thinking of the other. It is not until a blackout that they try to connect once again only to find out that she is leaving him and he shares the deep, dark secret of the sex of their dead baby with her. These characters are filled with carelessness for each other, never once feeling the stereotypical feelings that once would imagine a marriage to contain. When darkness takes over the house, there is an attempt to rekindle the flame that used to be alive in their marriage, but it seems almost a disgrace since these feelings can only be felt in the dark without each other’s gaze. And when the lights come back on and their secrets game is over, the reader learns that their relationship means nothing to her and she is willing to erase everything is if she is editing the papers that she gets paid for.
The Interpreter of Maladies also presented moments of carelessness, this time in the relationship of two different families. The Das family hardly felt like a family at all. The parents did little to control the actions of their children and seemed to care less about any of the antics they got themselves into, including provoking monkeys with a stick. Mr. and Mrs. Das were even oblivious to each other’s actions for the whole of the story; Mr. Das hardly ever looking up from his India guide map, and Mrs. Das having no interaction at all with the family but rather the tour guide, Mr. Kapasi. Even Mr. Kapasi thinks thoughts that show no care about his family waiting at home, expressing an interest in Mrs. Das as an adventure to pursue. But even more specific, is the example of food that is present in the story. Mrs. Das carries with her an Indian rice snack that she never cares to offer to any of her family or the driver. It is this food that is carelessly spilled on the dirt, leaving rice for the monkeys to eat. The food sparks a climactic moment in the story in which the monkeys attack a child that has been provoking them with a stick and starts beating him. The parents do nothing about this incident, calling on the surprised tour guide to interfere with the scene and save the child from any more harm. The whole moment seems odd because it is hard for me to see any care in any of the characters for each other at all.
The example of carelessness in A Real Durwan is just sad. Boori Ma is blamed for an incident that she had little control over and was forced out into the streets because of her tenants greed and blame. When the tenants decide to contribute more and more to the improvement of their living space, Boori Ma is practically relieved of her duties of security and stairwell maintenance since the workers performing the tenants’ desires are constantly moving through the building. Boori Ma cannot do her duties and thus falls asleep on the roof, and then robbers come and raid the building because she was not awake to do anything about it. Her actions seem to be careless to the tenants, but I would have put up a fight for her. She is then thrown into the streets by her tenants and left with nothing about her shawl and a broom.
I would like to skip ahead to the last story in the collection, The Third and Final Continent. The narrator moves to America where he attends MIT and lives with an elderly woman named Mrs. Croft on very low rent. For the first half of the story, the carelessness lies in the narrator’s relationship with Mala, his arranged wife. She is still in India, but when she arrives in America, he does little to welcome her and has a hard time warming up to her as his wife. She acts the part of an Indian wife but he still does not love her until a trip to Mrs. Croft’s home where Mrs. Croft labels Mala the “perfect lady”. It is then that the “arranged” boundary begins to break down and reveal the love and respect that is deserved in their marriage.
The collection does show signs of carelessness throughout, and the examples can be overcome as in the case of The Third and Final Continent, but other examples never seem to resolve for the better.