Its a Collection of nine stories, most of them narrated in first person, ranging from the life in kolkata to US to UK . All 9 of them in a typical Jhumpa style which 1) leaves u with a sense of incompleteness at the end of each and 2) Makes u wonder why Jhumpa focusses so much on explaining the scene and setup so specifically and in detail like she secretly conspires to get u distracted from the main story plot . Well most of the times u wont even feel it was a complete story. Albeit , I must say some concepts of the "stories" were quite interesting and new , but i felt a bit dragged in a few portions here and there.
Although going by the title , I was sure expecting a lot of depression shots :)
The "Temporary Matter " talks about a Bengali couple , who try and get back the lost spark in their marriage using the pre-notified power failures for a week and playing a game to disclose things to each other they havent told ever. They eventually end up deciding something else altogether. The 1st half of it is depressingly slow which beats up a bit in the latter half .....
"When Mr Pirzada came home" is the flashback narration of a woman , about a phase in her life when she was a kid and when Mr Pirzada visited her parents home everyday to watch TV and have meals as he was living here in US all by himself ( without a TV ofcourse) while his wife and kids were back in the war torn Bangladesh / East Pakistan then. Its about her empathy and concern she had for Mr Pirzada as she realises that he must be too worried for his family whenever he saw the news about the war on the television.
"Interpreter of Maladies" is about a a gujju driver Mr Kapasi who is also a part time interpreter at the local doctors. He takes this young NRI couple to visit the konark temple and ends up fantasising about subtle interactions with the young , mother of three , wife. He is happy about the conversations she has with him while her husband and kids are busy getting themselves clicked enroute or getting amused by the monkeys.All the thoughts are fluoroscent till she ends up telling things to Mr Kapasi which she hadnt told anyone , which leaves Mr Kapasi a bit thinking towards the end.
"Real Durwan" is a boori maa ( guess its the bong pronounciation for a boodhi maa ) who lives under the stairs of a kolkata apartment occupied by not so affluent bengali families , about her life what was now and what she claimed it used to be. How she was the undesignated "darbaan" of the building and how she is undeservingly treated towards the end.
"Sexy" is more of a todays story ... this firang girl who falls for a married Bengali and how eventually her life zeroes down to waiting for sundays when he used to come visit her ( In his jogging attire ) to sleep with her and say " sweet things in her ears".
At "Mrs Sen's" is an encounter of this young american boy who has to spend some time at Mrs Sen's ( she was the baby sitter ) after school while his mom had still a few hours left to end the day. It highlights how imoportant it was for Mrs Sen to be able to cook a whole fish and to learn to drive a car so as to be able to go alone to anywhere she wanted and not call Mr Sen who was always so busy at the university.
"The Blessed house" - Twinkle & her husband shift to this new house where she is thrilled to discover hidden catholic symbols/idols which her husband completely hates. She infact finds it beautiful & wishes to display it in prominent places so that guests at the housewarming party could appreciate it.How her husband deals with it and how the housewarming party turns into a treasure hunt is "The Blessed house"
"The treatment of Bibi Haldar" - Bibi Haldar is a 29 old girl who is the victim of epileptic fits ( I guess thats what it was ) and how at 29 her life was far from normal. Though she lived with her Bro and Sis in law but her actual home was the store room, where "it was difficult to stand with ur head straight" . One day she realises that she wants to get married and expectedly her guardians assumed no one wud marry her. One fine day her bro abondons her and runs away after which Bibi Haldar was mostly inside the store and no one saw her much. Till one day the narrator discovers her inside in a state that eventually cures her.
"The third and final continent" was the least Ironic of them all and flows "normally" from India to London to US. In all the stories above.. u can clearly see the brilliance of Jhumpa Lahiri to narrate the minute specifics of the scene setup but "ironically" it doesent help the reader much to relate more to the stories. By and large the feel throughout was that this work of fiction is more of a hype.
Rating : **