In "The Treatment of Bibi Haldar," Bibi Haldar's behavior and conversation are entertaining and disconcerting by turns. Her cruel treatment by her relatives, as well as her recovery from alienation and depression, enlist the reader's sympathy—as well as that of her neighbors, who decide she needs a man. She doesn't find one, but she does seem to be cured when she eventually and mysteriously becomes pregnant.
In "Interpreter of Maladies," Mr. Kapasi becomes infatuated with Mrs. Das, the Indian American woman whose family he guides around tourist destinations in Orissa, India. His intuition suggests to him that Mrs. Das may suffer from the same kind of unsatisfactory relationship with her husband as he does with his wife. Succumbing to fantasy, he dreams of a romance with Mrs. Das. Her unexpected confession to him of a prior affair, however, evokes his consternation and anxiety.
Lilia is portrayed as observant, intelligent, and compassionate—sometimes, even more so than the adults around her. When her family becomes close with Mr. Pirzada, a visiting scholar from East Pakistan (now Bangladesh), she sympathizes with Mr. Pirzada's concern for his family at the time of the Indian-Bangladesh war. She recalls his visits to her house with genuine affection.
In "A Real Durwan," the main character, Boori Ma, is portrayed as eccentric, expressive, and nostalgic, dreaming of the days when she may (or may not) have led a better life. The residents of the apartment building are somewhat sympathetic and indulgent toward her at first, but they then become resentful and vindictive, finally expelling her when she is down and out.
In "Sexy," Miranda is portrayed as naive, but also as gradually developing her powers of discernment. The story recounts her affair with Dev, an older married man. At first, her fascination with Dev resembles that of a child or a teenager with an adult. By the end of the story, she has learned to distinguish more insightfully between appearances and reality.
Young Indian narrator
In "The Third and Final Continent," the struggle of the narrator to assimilate successfully into American society is one of the major themes of the tale. The story chronicles his journey through London and then to Cambridge in Massachusetts, where he settles down, eventually welcoming his Indian wife, Mala. By the end of the story, the narrator has found a niche in American society, with a son who attends Harvard.
Mr. Pirzada is formal, polite, and considerate. In "When Mr. Pirzada Came to Dine," he forms an affectionate relationship with Lilia, the 10-year-old daughter of a couple who host him to dinner every evening. Mr. Pirzada misses his wife and seven daughters in Bangladesh and is very worried about their safety during the 1971 war with India. Eventually, he returns home to find his family safe. His American hosts never see him again.
In "Mrs. Sen's," the protagonist is set in her ways. She seems somewhat uncomfortable in the United States. The two things that give her the most pleasure are letters from her family in India and shopping for fresh fish—food that reminds her of her life back in India. Mrs. Sen is especially anxious about her driving lessons. A minor traffic accident leads her to quit her job caring for Eliot after school.
In "A Temporary Matter," Jhumpa Lahiri uses third-person limited point of view. Readers see most of the story's events from Shukumar's perspective. He has fallen out of love with his wife, Shoba, since the loss of their stillborn child, and his pain and anguish (along with that of his wife) eventually make the distance between them unbridgeable, despite the respite they find during the story.
In "This Blessed House," Twinkle is relaxed and open to new experiences—in contrast to her husband, Sanjeev. She is not at all disturbed, for example, when the couple discover a number of Christian images at various locations in their recently purchased house. Unlike Sanjeev, Twinkle is not preoccupied by what her peers may think about her.