books, school, throwback thursday, writing

Throwback Thursday: “A Temporary Matter”

Throwback Thursday, where, essentially I post old writing samples, essays and short stories that I dig up from my pile of hoarded papers and school assignments or from the depths of my computer. So everyone can see how my writing has changed/improved over the years.

“A Temporary Matter”

  1.    What is the significance of Shukumar seeing the neighbors walking past as he looks out the kitchen window after Shoba has told him that she has found an apartment?

The significance of Shukumar seeing the neighbors walking past after Shoba tells him she has found an apartment is that he will never again have that with Shoba, he will never again walk home with her, they have a relationship that he and Shoba no longer have.

  1.    How would you explain the symbolism shown in the short story “A Temporary Matter”? There is a great deal of symbolism, so take your time and be specific.

Many things in “A Temporary Matter” can be taken as symbols in the story. The major symbol being darkness. For the four days that the power is out for an hour every night, Shoba and Shukumar finally begin to talk to each other again. They  cannot face each other in the light, but they can in the darkness. They are in the dark physically, and to each other’s feelings and motivations. Shoba is working up courage to tell him she is leaving, he wants to reconcile with her. He knows the gender of their child. They are in the dark, but are exposing secrets of themselves to each other, really seeing each other for the first time in months.

The repair of the downed power line is also a symbol. The line fell in a storm and is being repaired. As the line is being repaired in that hour of darkness each night, Shukumar feels he is repairing his relationship with Shoba. Just as the repairs are finished early for the power line, Shoba ends their relationship earlier than their vows would have suggested.

Throughout their dinners, Shukumar stacks Shoba’s plate on top of his own. A symbol for how he puts her grief before his own, shouldering her mother’s blame of the stillbirth being an example, because she needed her mother. At the very end, he stacks his own plate on top of hers, acknowledging his own grief.

They way they are with each others mothers can also be a symbol. When Shukumar’s mother comes to visit for two weeks, Shoba cannot fully tolerate it, she goes out drinking with Gillian instead. When Shoba’s mother stays for two months, Shukumar expects this fully, and tolerates the blame Shoba’s mother puts on him, ignoring that he lost his child too. He has patience with her mother, and with Shoba herself, giving her time to grieve, putting her grief before his own many times. Shoba has less patience, is more inclined to give up rather than deal with a difficult thing, shown when she decides to leave him after six months of avoiding talking about what had happened.

  1.     The ending of this short story is very uncertain.  How do you feel this story and ends and what in the literature supports your position?

At the end, Shoba and Shukumar have not reconciled. Shoba intends to move out, but they have finally told each other their greatest secrets, Shukumar’s being the gender of their child, which makes Shoba finally understand that he feels the loss of their child ust as acutely as she does. Because they are finally getting to a place that they can talk to each other about their grief, about their stillborn child, there is hope for them to reconcile fully later on down the line. Shoba was obviously torn up about leaving him but she also looks at him in the light in more than passing at the end. Shukumar still loves her, it wouldn’t hurt him as much if he didn’t. It is very likely they they will try and work things out. In terms of support from the literature, at the very end they “wept together”, grieving as a couple instead of separately as they had been doing the past six months. Neither reached any peace or ease to their grief suffering alone, grieving apart only drove them further apart, for the first time they grieve together. Shoba also obviously still cares for him, having spent five days building up courage to tell him she was leaving, she obviously wanted to minimize the hurt she caused him, she didn’t just up and leave as she could have. That is what she would have done if it was a matter of no longer caring for him.

  1.    Do you feel that Shoba is unfair in how she treats Shukumar? If so, why?

Every attempt made by Shukumar to engage Shoba is rebuffed, until he begins to avoid her completely, until the power outages. Shukumar begins to take care of the house and cook the way Shoba used to, aware that she is grieving and still having trouble, but Shoba makes no effort with him. Shoba’s mother is rude to Shukumar, blaming him for the baby’s stillbirth, and Shukumar takes it because he knows Shoba needs her mother at the time. Shoba is unfair to Shukumar she keeps her grief to herself. She doesn’t want to talk to Shukumar about it, doesn’t acknowledge that the baby’s death affected him to.

  1.    Examine a significant theme that arises from the story. What can we learn from it?

Grief and the effects it can have on individuals and relationships is a major theme of the story. The stillbirth of their child is a killing blow to their relationship, though it takes six months for Shoba to decide to leave him and work up the courage to tell Shukumar so. Both are depressed, and feel their grief in different ways. Shoba avoids the would be nursey, but Shukumar finds solace in it for example. They had different experience with their child; Shoba carried the baby that died at birth and Shukumar wasn’t there for that, but Shukumar held their child and guarded the secret that it was a boy to spare her the knowledge, until she hurts him and he throws it in her face. Grief and hurt can make people lash out. Over the days of the power outage, their relationship once again begins approaching normalcy, but it is after six months of feeling their grief and guilt separately and it isn’t enough to reconcile by the end. Grief doesn’t have a time limit, it doesn’t go away if you ignore it or wait it out.

  1.    What indications in the story prepare us for the eventual breakdown in the relationship?

Before the stillbirth, there are indications that their marriage isn’t completely solid. Shukumar rips a photo of a woman out of a magazine, and is disgusted with himself, but feels it is “the closest he has come to infidelity”. Shoba goes drinking with Gillian instead of spending time with his mother. For their third wedding anniversary, Shukumar is depressed when she gives him a sweater vest, when for their first she cooked a ten course meal. He lies about losing it, exchanging it for money to go and get drunk midday. These are not indications of a completely healthy relationship.

  1.    How does the stillbirth of their child affect the relationship between Shoba and Shukumar ?  Is the stillbirth in and of itself significant?

The stillbirth of their child completely destroys Shoba and Shukumar’s relationship. Shoba leaves before he gets up and comes home late, doesn’t speak to him when she is home, stops caring about things she once cared about, like their home and his degree. Shukumar whose perspective we see, is wracked with guilt, we learn because he wasn’t there for her, and because he learned their child’s gender, and held him. Shukumar avoids Shoba, not knowing how to face her. He hides in the would be nursey because the room pains her. Problems existed in their marriage before the stillbirth, but it was a fatal blow to them. After the stillbirth they were both depressed and grieving in different ways and could communicate with each other about it; Shoba likely feeling slightly resentful that he wasn’t there despite having pushed him to go to the conference, and Shukumar for the secret he harbors that their child was a boy.

  1.    Examine the significance of the title, “A Temporary Matter.” After reading the short story, what do you consider its meaning to be?

“A Temporary Matter” most immediately refers to the temporary maintenance of the electricity, the temporary inconvenience. This is of course the vehicle of the story, not the point of the story. The “temporary matter” can also refer to the four-day period in which Shoba builds up the courage to tell Shukumar the truth, and Shukumar attempting to rebuild their fractured relationship; a temporary mending period. It could refer to their relationship, their love, their marriage, as a temporary matter because it is coming to an end. The title could refer to their son’s life as well.

  1.     Discuss the relationship between Shoba and Shukumar in detail. How would you describe it before the death of their baby?

Shoba and Shukumar got married quickly, having met four years before the story and being married for three years. They didn’t know everything about each other, they had their secrets, but they loved each other. They went shopping and spent most of their time together. Shoba cooked elaborately. Shukumar took pictures of her all the time; she recorded when they first ate different meals together. Before the death of their baby they had a good relationship, even if Shoba did keep some of her money in a separate account, Shukumar respected it. After the death of their baby, their relationship nearly entirely disintegrates, they avoid each other nearly completely, from Shukumar’s perspective, because he is wracked with guilt and grief when he sees her. They relationship was fracturing before the stillbirth, as evidenced by Shukumar’s account of their third wedding anniversary, and his exchange of a sweater vest for drinking money. Shoba goes drinking with Gillian because she cannot stand to be with his mother. They didn’t have a perfect relationship before the stillbirth, but they loved each other.

  1. Why do Shoba and Shukumar fail to reconnect? Do they fail to reconnect?

At the end of A Temporary Matter, Shoba and Shukumar have not reconnected. Despite their attempts over the last four days, Shoba informs Shukamar of her intentions to move out, effectively dismantling all progress they have made. This failure to reconnect comes from never having spoken about the tragedy they faced – the stillbirth of their child. Shoba and Shukumar couldn’t face each other – Shukumar didn’t want to hurt her with the knowledge that their child was a boy until she hurts him in the end. Their guilt and grief separates them. There is always a chance for them to reconnect properly after the end of the story, because they have finally begun to communicate truthfully again, even if it hurts.

  1. What is a major idea that comes out of the themes of “A Temporary Matter?”

A major idea that comes out of “A Temporary Matter” is that marriages are hard, and require effort to maintain a good relationship and communication is a major role in that. Grief can be a major breaking point.


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