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Interpreter of Maladies, fish and crepes

July 18, 2009

interpreter_of_maladiesI’ve become obsessed with crepes at Mr. Crepe.  Last time I got a crepe with chocolate, marshmallow and graham cracker.  It was the most amazing creation and I am going to gain 300 lbs now that I have discovered it.  Anyway, moving on to books…

I’m about 3/4 of the way through Jhumpa Lahiri’s “Interpreter of Maladies” and one of the stories jumped out at me and I just had to write about it.  “Mrs. Sen’s” is the story of Eliot and his afterschool babysitter, Mrs. Sen.  Mrs. Sen desperately misses her home in India and Eliot is her only companion and confidant.

“Mrs. Sen’s” struck me for two reasons: 1) The uncomfortable relationship between Mr. and Mrs. Sen, who are a fairly young couple, is heartbreaking when coupled with the loneliness and isolation Mrs. Sen feels.  I wanted to reach into the book and tell poor Mrs. Sen to get on the next flight to Calcutta and go back to her family.  2) The elaborate ritual of Mrs. Sen preparing dinner each night with her special knife from India is intriguing.  She goes to great lengths to get fresh fish from the only local market and elaborately slices and dices an endless supply of vegetables.  It is almost as though, in that time each evening, she is somehow once again connected to her home and family.

I wonder what Eliot, at 11 years old, thought of Mrs. Sen.  Did he understand her unhappiness?  Her reluctance to drive?  Her trips to the fish market?  Did he know how he helped her?  I like to think he didn’t understand it all, because that’s a lot of information for an 11 year old, but I do like to think that Eliot understood that he and Mrs. Sen both needed each other, for different reasons.

(Lahiri is a fave of mine – check out Unaccustomed Earth too.)

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