This collection of short stories was a tribute to the complexities of human relationships and feelings. I adored the way the characters lives were often scattered across the world. In many stories, people were dealing with the fact that they had one foot in India and the other in the United States. Where do we belong? 

There were other factors: regrets, diseases, emptiness, a lack of love in some form in every story. It made me appreciate the more tender, lovelier moments within the pages such as the candlelit dinners between Shukumar and Shoba in "A Temporary Matter" (pages 1-22) It didn't matter that in the end they divorced, because that week of secrets and dimly-lit passion between them meant they would never have to wonder "What could have been?" again. That week freed them to go their separate ways. The Interpreter of Maladies has helped me to better understand that just because circumstances can crumble, sins can be committed, people can feel HURT, doesn't mean it isn't beautiful or okay. 

People, their interactions, emotions, and the resulting situations are what communities are all about. These things tend to be bittersweet, just like in "The Treatment of Bibi Haldar" (pages 158-172) when it turned out that the cure to her illness somehow came in the form of rape. How is the reader supposed to view this? Look at it from both ways. On one hand, there is a miraculous healing, the lifting of a lifelong burden! However, on the other hand, it comes at a painful price. Life works in peculiar ways. Sometimes it seems so alluring to just stop feeling, stop caring, but The Interpreter of Maladies displays loveliness in tragedy, simplicity in complication. 

It was a weary book to read, but, in some strange way it showed that life goes on. People adapt, we're excellent at it! Nearly all the characters in all the short-stories had some sort of deeper, sometimes bizarre connection with one another. Shallow, surface-level interactions would never have worked with the various plots. This is relevant in our lives, our communities. We need to acknowledge our deeper ties to each other in order to understand and love. This doesn't mean happy endings, beginnings, or middles are needed. Things are good just the way that they are, as long as people are growing from the struggle. 

The Interpreter of Maladies continually reminded me of Rumi's poem "The Guest House", which is about honoring whatever comes your way. "The Guest House" has been a source of inspiration for me and is one of my favorite poems ever, so I can't resist sharing it here. It goes like this:

"This being human is a guest house. 
Every morning a new arrival. 

A joy, a depression, a meanness, 
some momentary awareness comes 
as an unexpected visitor. 

Welcome and entertain them all! 
Even if they're a crowd of sorrows, 
who violently sweep your house 
empty of its furniture, 
still, treat each guest honorably. 
He may be clearing you out 
for some new delight. 

The dark thought, the shame, the malice, 
meet them at the door laughing, 
and invite them in. 

Be grateful for whoever comes, 
because each has been sent 
as a guide from beyond."

Everything that happens, the easy, difficult, dire, transfixing, glorious mix of what we find being thrown into our experience, is meant to be. We are being pushed to see if we can keep our faith. We all have different perspectives so we can learn to see each others diverse ideas in order to coexist. In the end, everything that was, was for a reason beyond you or me. I believe we are the writers of our own fates. Do you think so?

We're all figuring ourselves out, observing each other, making mistakes, and finding our right places. That is life, it is beautiful. Jhumpa Lahiri has an outstanding way of showcasing difficulties and triumphs and love and hurt all wound up together in a tangled mess that sometimes seems like it has no rhyme or reason and yet are perhaps precisely as they should be. Her writing has SOUL. I was grateful for this example in literature, so much goodness can be taken from the short-stories and applied to our community, particularly in valuing each other. I see the good in you all, and the places you could go. One of my favorite blogs to follow is Paulo Coelho's, and a couple weeks ago he posted this story: http://paulocoelhoblog.com/2010/12/08/the-porcupines-and-solidarity/ about why we need each other. This is inspirational when living in close-quarters with people. Thank you Paulo!