Summary: When Mr. Pirzada Came to Dine
“When Mr. Pirzada Came to Dine” is a short story from Interpreter of Maladies from Jhumpa Lahiri. In this story, Mr. Pirzada is from Dacca, Bangladesh (once part of Pakistan), where the Pakistani army invaded and caused over three hundred thousand people died. He had been a botany professional at the university sent to America to study foliage of New England from the government of Pakistan. Back home he left a wife, seven daughters whom lived in a three-story home and a war was starting. The story is essentially about identity between the main characters, a young girl named Lilia and how she relates to Mr. Pirzada.
Lilia, an Indian-American girl who is ten years old, living in Massachusetts in 1971. Her family is Hindu and Indian-Bengali. They befriend Mr. Pirzada who is Muslim and Pakistani-Bengali, visiting from East Pakistan and regularly invited him to their home for dinner. Lilia identifies with the Indian ethnicity for the similarities in the physical attributes between her, her family, and family friends considered Indian. Lilia also identities with being American, learning of the history, reading literature, and living life as a typical ten year old American girl (during Halloween).
Mr. Pirzada becomes the ‘other’ during the course of his numerous visits to Lilia’s home. She analyzes the distinctions between him and her parents even though there are quite a few similarities. Her father informs her Mr. Pirzada is no longer Indian, showing her the geography on a map of the world taped over his desk to indicate the severed country and physical boundary line which separates her ‘people’ and his. It became evident to Lilia that Mr. Pirzada also realized his cultural identification when he struggled to understand an American saying and gesture ‘thank you’ after Lilia commented after receiving candy from him. She taught him about carving a pumpkin and the holiday of Halloween, all while he was worried about his family back home. The fact he is constantly around her family during dinner is symbolic to his connection with his home. It wasn’t until Mr. Pirzada went back to Dacca when Lilia realized although she could not recall the first or last time she had seen him, she missed him. She had kept a box filled with the candy he would bring to her. She would usually have one piece thinking of him, after receiving a card from him stating he was well with his family, she no longer had to worry and threw out the remaining candy.