Interpreter of Maladies

by: Jhumpa Lahiri

Important Quotations Explained

1. The family looked Indian but dressed as foreigners did, the children in stiff, brightly colored clothing and caps with translucent visors.

This quotation appears in the second paragraph of the story and highlights one of the story’s central themes: the difficulty of communication, particularly between Indians and Indian Americans. Here, the narrator describes the Das family, emphasizing the ways in which they are and aren’t Indian. The fact that the family seems both Indian and American forms part of what fools Mr. Kapasi into thinking he can communicate intimately with Mrs. Das. With his other tourists, who are foreign but non-Indian, Mr. Kapasi readily maintains an appropriate distance. He does not seek any sort of connection, nor does he expect to find one. However, the similarities between Mrs. Das and Mr. Kapasi lead him to mistakenly think they will find something significant in common. Their fraught interaction gestures to the idea that the cultural gap between Indian immigrants and those they leave behind in India can be enormous, a gap that widens further between the immigrants and second-generation Americans born in the United States. That gap leads to miscommunication and misunderstanding, which, in turn, leads to pain for everyone involved.