Short Story: A Temporary Matter
Collection: Interpreter of Maladies
Author: Jhumpa Lahiri
This story is quite different than my previous short story reads. For one, this is realistic...brutally so. The story is about an Indian couple who have recently had a stillborn child. This, of course, causes pain to arise in both the characters in very different ways. Shukumar watches as his wife, Shoba, cares less and less about their home (and even Shukumar) and becomes more self-absorbed. Lahiri offers the best metaphor for their relationship in the form of their pantry. Once full of food, the pantry supply slowly dwindles. Instead of filling it with what his wife cannot provide at the moment, Shukumar takes what's left and makes his wife dinner. While at dinner, they learn that their electricity will be shut off for one hour each day for a week. It's while having dinner together, in the dark, where they tell each other their secrets. And through these secrets, we learn just how far Shukumar and Shoba have let their union dwindle...just like that pantry.
Reader, you can probably guess that I loved this short story. I truly did. It made me so sad, but the language is so beautiful that I forgot for a moment or two that I was witnessing the end of a marriage. The pantry was a perfect metaphor for the situation between Shukumar and Shoba. It's everything a short story should be.
Read it! You'll either cry or just get really sad - but it's worth it :)