When Mr. Pirzada Came to Dine by Jhumpa Lahiri
In When Mr. Pirzada Came to Dine by Jhumpa Lahiri we have the theme of conflict, connection, innocence, hope, loss, respect and family. Taken from her Interpreter of Maladies collection the story is narrated in the first person by a woman named Lilia who is looking back at past events in her life and from the beginning of the story the reader realizes that Lahiri may be exploring the theme of conflict. The Civil War between West and East Pakistan (Bangladesh) is about to happen and there is concern from Mr. Pirzada. He has a young family in Bangladesh that he has not seen for a long time. If anything there is no connection between Mr. Pirzada and his family. His only connection in America is with Lilia and her parents who act as a sort of family to Mr. Pirzada while he is in America.
How Mr. Pirzada met Lilia’s parents is also interesting. They went through the university directory and picked out names that were similar to their own. This may be important as Mr. Pirzada is not Indian, something which confuses Lilia. Who does not know about the partition of India in 1947. There is also a religious tone to the story with Lilia’s father explain those in Pakistan and Bangladesh are Muslims while she and her parents are Hindus. Two religions who fought a war before partition. With neighbours fighting neighbours before an agreement was reached. It may also be significant that Lilia’s mother cooks exotic dishes for Mr. Pirzada when he visits. This could symbolize respect. The respect that Lilia’s parents have for Mr. Pirzada.
There may also be further symbolism in the story which might be important. The watch the Mr. Pirzada keeps in his pocket is set to the time in Dacca and could represent a continued connection with his family. Likewise Lilia synchronizing her watch with her father’s watch also symbolizes connection. With Lilia’s father having concerns that she follow his instructions. The cultural difference between Lilia, her parents and Mr. Pirzada is noticeable when it comes to Halloween. An event or occasion that Mr. Pirzada is unaccustomed to. The fact that all four characters stand around the dining room table when Mr. Pirzada is carving the pumpkin also suggests a connection between all four. It is as though they are all family. Which is similar to when Lilia, her parents and Mr. Pirzada sit and watch the TV. Though at times Lilia’s father sends her to bed such is the bad news about Bangladesh. If anything ten year old Lidia is innocent. The wooden keepsake box that Lilia puts her sweets into could symbolize hope and prosperity. It is the only thing that she has which once belonged to her grandmother who struggled through life.
The end of the story is interesting as Lilia comes of age when she throws away all her sweets. She knows what it is like to miss someone. Something she previously didn’t understand and in many ways she is punishing herself by eating the sweets. They represent happiness to Lilia and by the end of the story she is not happy, rather she is extremely sad about the loss of Mr. Pirzada. Knowing how his daughters and wife may have felt while they were in Bangladesh. Which may be the point that Lahiri is trying to make. Lilia though knowing very little about world geography or history can identify with Mr. Pirzada’s family. As mentioned she too misses him and is unable to forget about him despite the passing of time. A period in whereby Lilia would move from childhood to adulthood and live her life to the best of her ability. Though Lilia will never see Mr. Pirzada again he has left a lasting impression on her mind.