Lahiri was born of Bengali parents in 1967 in London, and grew up in Rhode Island. She
has travelled several times to India. Both her parents were born and
raised in that country. Her father is a librarian and mother a teacher.
Jhumpa obtained her Bachelor of Arts degree from Barnard College, followed by a Masters in
English, a Masters in Creative Writing, and a Masters in Comparative Studies in Literature and the
Arts, as well as a Ph.D. in Renaissance Studies, all from Boston University.
On April 10, 2000, at the age of 32, she won the Pulitzer Prize for
Fiction for her collection of short stories entitled Interpreter of Maladies.
To Newsweek International she once said, "The characters I'm drawn to all face some barrier of
communication. I like to write about people who think in a way they can't fully express."
By incorporating Indian traditions into her work, Lahiri created tales of cultural differences and character
emotions that connect with readers from many different backgrounds.
The title of the collection of the nine short stories by J. Lahiri has the same title
as the central, and in my opinion, the best of them: Interpreter of Maladies. The setting is India.
The main characters are a couple visiting from New Jersey and the taxidriver Mr. Kapasi whose other job is to work as an interpreter
at a doctor's surgery where he translates for the doctor what his patients tell him in Gujarati language
which the doctor doesn't understand.
Kapasi's second job is to take tourists to sights like the Sun Temple in Konorak where he one day drives
the Das family with their three children. Mr. Das is Indian born, Mrs. Das is American. Their marriage is obviously
disintegrating. He (Mr. Kapasi) wondered if Mr. and Mrs. Das were a bad match...The signs from his own
marriage were there - the bickering, the indifference, the protracted silences....it was hard to believe
they were regularly responsible for anything other than themselves. Mr. Kapasi somehow falls in love
with Mrs. Das and in a kind of 'reported thought', he even imagines him exchanging letters with her between
America and India. Thus he would fufill his dream of serving as an interpreter not only between the doctor
and his patients but also between two nations. Later Mrs. Das confides to him that she has an illegitimate
son which she even hasn't revealed to her husband.
Marriage is at the core of almost all nine stories. Some of the marriages are arranged, some have
been rushed into, some are betrayed and some are exhausted. Communication between the couples is almost always as limited as between
Indians living in America and Americans.