“Values” Discussion Post: Formative

“Interpreter of Maladies” is a short story centered on societal values. The story focuses on a family— Mr. and Mrs. Das and their three children— as well as Mr. Kapasi, their taxi driver. The small taxi that they explore Kolkata in serves as a junction between many different personalities and cultures. Though there are many different values to explore, the main ones that I observed as someone from different cultures myself, is the tension and love affair between American culture and Indian culture.

The first thing I noticed was the pride and patriotism in the Das family for America, even so far from home. Mr. Kapasi observes that when talking about where he was born, Mr. Das announces that he and his wife were born in America “with an air of sudden confidence”. On the other hand, Mr. Kapasi never boasts his love for India. Though I don’t doubt that he loves his country, he is not as outright with it as is the Das family. Even when visiting the temple, not once does he show a hint of his patriotism. It’s almost ironic that he is a tour guide. The sort of visible pride is more associated with the stereotypical American than Indian.

The story also focuses on the different relationships in the family. However, I don’t think this is separate from the other societal values explored. For example, Mr. Kapasi expresses that “Mr. and Mrs. Das behaved like an older brother and sister, not parents”. This point of view is coming from someone who is probably only familiar with Indian parenting. When compared to the relationship between American parents and their children, Indian parenting is much less casual (or so I have observed). It is likely that the way in which Mr. and Mrs. Das interacting with their children may be more exaggerated in Mr. Kapasi’s point of view than it really was, because he is much more used to a more authoritative style of parenting.

There is also an idea of classism that is encouraged on both sides. For example, despite being referred to as Mina by her husband, Mr. Kapasi still thinks of her as Mrs. Das, even when fantasising a romance between them. This indicates a level of superiority in Mrs. Das’s favour. Mrs. Das herself further emphasises this, Kapasi saying that when she glared at him, he “knew at that moment that he was not even important enough to be properly insulted”. This enforces the idea that there is a disparity between the two of them also in Mrs. Das’s eyes.