Reading “The Treatment of Bibi Haldar” as the Reincarnation of Krishna: In Jhumpa Lahiri’s Interpreter of Maldadies

Sara White, Georgia Southern University

Description

Jhumpa Lahiri's "The Treatment of Bibi Haldar" is a short story belonging to her 1991 Interpreter of Maladies collection. As such, the story's female protagonist, Bibi Haldar, suffers from an unknown illness. Although unnamed, the ailment appears to be epileptic, which Lahiri later confirms in an interview. As the title suggests, a majority of scholarship surrounding the text focuses on Bibi's mistreatment as a women within traditional Indian society. This essay, however, offers a different reading. Instead of focusing on Bibi's disposition to convey a feminist interpretation of the text, this essay offers a reading of Bibi as somewhat of a heroine. Through a close textual analysis and examination of the work's religious context, this essay traces the parallels between Bibi and the mother of the Hindu God Krishna. All of which come together to portray Bibi as a reincarnation of Krishna's mother Devaki. In doing so, her malady can be explained by a curse placed on Devaki from a previous life. And as a Bengali-American author, the manifestation of Krishna within the text becomes evident through the social conscious of Lahiri's writing and the story's religious subtext. Ultimately, this essay concludes that contrary to popular opinion, Bibi conforms to the Hindu ideals of femininity while simultaneously embracing a powerful female identity.

 
May 7th, 12:00 AM

Reading “The Treatment of Bibi Haldar” as the Reincarnation of Krishna: In Jhumpa Lahiri’s Interpreter of Maldadies

Jhumpa Lahiri's "The Treatment of Bibi Haldar" is a short story belonging to her 1991 Interpreter of Maladies collection. As such, the story's female protagonist, Bibi Haldar, suffers from an unknown illness. Although unnamed, the ailment appears to be epileptic, which Lahiri later confirms in an interview. As the title suggests, a majority of scholarship surrounding the text focuses on Bibi's mistreatment as a women within traditional Indian society. This essay, however, offers a different reading. Instead of focusing on Bibi's disposition to convey a feminist interpretation of the text, this essay offers a reading of Bibi as somewhat of a heroine. Through a close textual analysis and examination of the work's religious context, this essay traces the parallels between Bibi and the mother of the Hindu God Krishna. All of which come together to portray Bibi as a reincarnation of Krishna's mother Devaki. In doing so, her malady can be explained by a curse placed on Devaki from a previous life. And as a Bengali-American author, the manifestation of Krishna within the text becomes evident through the social conscious of Lahiri's writing and the story's religious subtext. Ultimately, this essay concludes that contrary to popular opinion, Bibi conforms to the Hindu ideals of femininity while simultaneously embracing a powerful female identity.