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Interpreter of Maladies (And Sexy Mr. Arora)

Though I enjoyed reading Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Namesake than her short story collection Interpreter of Maladies, these works helped me understand the Indian Diaspora. 

I was encouraged to read The Namesake when I heard that the central character of the novel is Gogol, who detested his name. I finished reading it within a few days and then gifted it to my friend’s brother-in-law.  

I don’t know whether Jija enjoyed the book or not, but I founded his photograph with the book on his WhatsApp Status. After a few days, another photograph was updated with the book Interpreter of Maladies. This time it was not a gift.

The Namesake

Coming back, here are a few details of The Namesake:

Gogol’s father Ashoke admired the works of Nikolai Gogol, a Russian writer famous for his play “Marriage” and short stories “Diary of a Madman,” “The Overcoat.”

We also hear Ashoke telling his son that “We all came out of Gogol’s overcoat,” a statement attributed to Dostoevsky. 

Gogol’s writing is famous for having a multiplicity of meanings.

In Russian literature, Nikolai Gogol has inspired many-many writers, including Chekhov, Tolstoy and Dostoevsky himself. 

And while talking about Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Namesake, we can sense that Ashoke quoted Nikolai Gogol because the meaning of his whole life was changed after surviving a train crash. 

So close to his death, having the book of Nikolai Gogol’s in his hands, Ashoke learned the significance of life. 

For that reason, Ashoke named his son on the name of Nikolai Gogol. The son, Gogol Ganguli, detested his name and later changed it to Nikhil Ganguli.

As with other works of the author, there are diasporic elements and cultural references throughout the novel; for instance, Nikhil is torn between India and New York.

Jhumpa Lahiri’s quest for defining identity crisis can be traced back to her short story collection, Interpreter of Maladies, winner of Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, 2000.

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Interpreter of Maladies

It’s a collection of nine short stories. As I read through the pages, I find its resemblance to Anita Desai’s Fasting, Feasting. So many of the short stories contrast between the two cultures the same way Fasting, Feasting does. 

I read this Pulitzer Award-winning short story collection years ago. It was an overnight read. Though I don’t recall all the short stories, I’ve studied one of them recently while doing research work on the Indian diaspora. 

So here are the nine short stories:

  1. A Temporary Matter
  2. When Mr. Pirzada Came to Dine
  3. Interpreter of Maladies
  4. A Real Durwan
  5. Sexy
  6. Mrs. Sen’s
  7. This Blessed House
  8. The Treatment of Bibi Haldar
  9. The Third and Final Continent

The book is translated into over twenty languages and has sold 15 million copies worldwide, establishing Jhumpa Lahiri as a successful commercial author. Her second short story collection Unaccustomed Earth published after eight-year in 2008. 

SEXY And Mr. Arora

My first glance at the chapter “Sexy” ignited my curiosity. I was thinking it to be erotica. To my disappointment, the story failed my expectations.

The chapter was about a sexy woman who fell in love with an older man. After realizing that it’s not a good idea to destroy the married life, the woman left the older man.

When I asked Mr. Arora, a seventy-four years old colleague of mine, to guess what was in the short story by looking at the title, he pondered a little before farting:

“Mein pade hui aa… Kuch Sexy ni haiga. Ainvein hai..” (I’ve read the story earlier. There is nothing sexy about it. Just a plain story).

Mr. Arora was one of the rare species I’ve found.

On the one hand, he encouraged his students to find delight in reading, and on the other hand, whenever we sat for evening gossiping, he had found one or two faults in the writers so much so that as if the author had done a mistake publishing the work.

Though he had problems with everyone, he didn’t dare to say any rubbish about the Chancellor. No matter how many times he had been called Kaam Chor, he found something sexy about the Chancellor. 

So, after listening to the scolding of the Chancellor for being a Kaam Chor for many years, Mr. Arora was made Vice-Chancellor of the University.

Patience well-rewarded!

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