The Das family is in India on vacation, and Mr. Das has hired Mr. Kapasi to drive them to visit the Sun Temple. The family sits in the car, which is stopped near a tea stall. Mr. and Mrs. Das are arguing about who should take their daughter, Tina, to the bathroom, and Mrs. Das ultimately takes her. Ronny, their son, darts out of the car to look at a goat. Mr. Das, who closely resembles Ronny, reprimands him but does nothing to stop him, even when he says he wants to give the goat a piece of gum. Mr. Das tells Bobby, the younger of their two sons, to go look after Ronny. When Bobby refuses, Mr. Das does nothing to enforce his order.
Mr. Das tells Mr. Kapasi that both he and his wife were born and raised in the United States. Mr. Das also reveals that their parents now live in India and that the Das family visits them every few years. Tina comes back to the car, clutching a doll with shorn hair. Mr. Das asks Tina where her mother is, using Mrs. Das’s first name, Mina. Mr. Kapasi notices that Mr. Das uses his wife’s first name, and he thinks it is an unusual way to speak to a child. While Mrs. Das buys some puffed rice from a nearby vendor, Mr. Das tells Mr. Kapasi that he is a middle-school teacher in New Brunswick, New Jersey. Mr. Kapasi reveals that he has been a tour guide for five years.
The group sets off. Tina plays with the locks in the back of the car, and Mrs. Das does not stop her. Mrs. Das sits in the car silently and eats her snack without offering any to anyone else. Along the road, they see monkeys, which Mr. Kapasi says are common in the area. Mr. Das has him stop the car so he can take a picture of a starving peasant. Mr. and Mrs. Das quarrel because Mr. Das has not gotten them a tour guide whose car has air-conditioning. Mr. Kapasi observes that Mr. and Mrs. Das are more like siblings to their children than parents.
Mr. Kapasi tells the Dases about his other job as an interpreter in a doctor’s office. Mrs. Das remarks that...