“Bridging the gap between the East and the West is a mere fantasy.” Referring closely to the ‘Interpreter of Maladies’ and how it presents the relationship between the American and Indian culture, discuss the validity of this statement, either confirming or raising questions about it.
The East and the West are areas in completely different sectors of the world, each with different people, different traditions, different religions, different lifestyles and different cultures. The ‘Interpreter of Maladies’ clearly highlights the discernible contrast between the American (western) and Indian (eastern) cultures, and affirms the prominent idea of the unbridgeable cultural gap between the two.
The writer demonstrates the relationship between the American and Indian cultures by raising two highly symbolic characters: Mr. Kapasi and Mrs. Das. Mr. Kapasi is a representation of the Indian culture, while Mrs. Das, with her extreme assimilation towards the American lifestyles, symbolizes the American culture. Mr. Kapasi is a very complex character in the story, as he is the only character that is in full and utter realization of the large gap between the American and Indian cultures.
“He would explain things to her, things about India, and she would explain things to him about America. In its own way this correspondence would fulfill his dream, of serving as an interpreter between nations.” This quote here further highlights the complexity of Mr. Kapasi’s character. Mr. Kapasi does not stop at his realization of the unbridgeable gap between the two cultures but is rather obsessed with incessant fantasies and dreams about becoming the man that is capable of maintaining a relationship between the western and eastern cultures and at the same time bridge the gap between those cultures by being an ‘interpreter between nations’.
However, because Mr. Kapasi is never actually capable of fulfilling his dream of becoming an ‘interpreter between nations’ and because the fantasies and dreams of his are as far as he gets, we realize that in this case, the statement made earlier is fully valid; bridging the gap between the two cultures is nothing but a fantasy.
We can now go on to interpret how each of the: American and Indian symbols perceive the significance of relationships. It is of uttermost prominence that Mrs. Das is a figure that represents a culture of which is extremely careless towards relationships. Mrs. Das is a married woman that has committed adultery, had a child from a man that is not her husband, was able to keep all of that a secret, and is still capable of living with her husband that she has deceived and no longer loves. The state of the relationship that Mrs. Das has with her husband proves to us how improvident and careless the American culture is towards relationships. Mrs. Das says: “I have terrible urges, Mr. Kapasi, to throw things away. One day I had the urge to throw everything I owe down the window, the television, the children, everything. Don’t you think it’s unhealthy?” Throughout the story, Mrs. Das never admits that she has done anything wrong and when Mr. Kapasi later on asks her whether it’s ‘guilt’ that she’s feeling, she ‘glares’ at him and walks away. This again highlights the extreme carelessness Mrs. Das and the American culture as a whole have towards their relationship with India and the east.
While the American culture seems careless and uncaring about their relationship with the east, Mr. Kapasi (the symbol of the Indian culture), on the other hand, is extremely careful and committed to maintaining a proper relationship between the American ; Indian cultures. Mr. Kapasi is a man that believes in relationship commitments, is very careful about the relationships he is in, and truly feels that maintaining a relationship with Mrs. Das will elevate him. Mrs. Das, as careless as usual, rips a piece of paper out of a magazine and gives it to Mr. Kapasi so that he writes his address onto it. “The paper curled as Mr. Kapasi wrote his address in clear, careful letters… When he finished writing his address Mr. Kapasi handed her the paper, but as soon as he did so he worried that he had either misspelled his name, or accidentally reversed the numbers of his postal code.” Even when Mr. Kapasi actually wrote his address in ‘clear and careful letters’ he was still worrying that he might have made a mistake which highlights his extreme care and desire for the relationship with the western world.
It is very conspicuous that an unbalance in the forces of desire towards maintaining a relationship between the American and the Indian cultures exists. The American culture is careless and uncaring while the Indian culture is extremely careful, committed and obsessed with the idea of maintaining a relationship with the west and bridging the large gap present between the two cultures. But because of the existing unbalance in the desire, a consensus can be reached upon the validity of the statement: “Bridging the gap between the East and the West is a mere fantasy.” because for this fantasy to become reality both sides should work together over maintaining a successful and long lasting relationship.