Short Story - When Mr. Pirzada Came to Dine

Essay add: 30-09-2015, 19:16   /   Views: 1 246
Jhumpa Lahiri’s short story “When Mr. Pirzada Came to Dine,” is a beautiful story narrated by Lilia, an Indian American girl who is born and raised in the United States where people are sheltered from foreign affairs. The story takes place in 1971 in New England where Pakistan is in the process of civil war. Mr. Pirzada is a Pakistani man who visits Lilia’s family every night to have dinner with them and watch the news. Mr. Pirzada and Lilia’s family are from different countries, but they are all the same in nature. Lahiri gives us an elegant story about people of different cultures who are greatly alike in so many ways, but is also very different. She also gives us example to contrast American and Indian/Pakistani culture.

Mr. Pirzada came from Pakistan to study leaves in New England. And after Lilia’s parents recognized last names through the university directory that are “familiar to their part of the world,” they invited Mr. Pirzada to come and visit their home. Lahiri enlightens us about the kindness of Lilia’s parents to somebody they do not really know. The act of inviting someone to our home whom we hardly know is so uncommon for us Americans because we are not accustomed into doing something like this. Lilia’s family knew nothing about Mr. Pirzada but they still invited him to come and visit their home after talking to him over the phone. Mr. Pirzada’s visits establishes a bond of affinity with Lilia’s parents.

Mr. Pirzada comes from Pakistan; whereas, Lilia’s parents are from India. But both the food that they relish and their actions show that they are similar. As Lilia tells us in the story,

They ate pickled mangoes with their meals, ate rice every night for supper with their hands. Like my parents, Mr. Pirzada took off his shoes before entering a room, chewed fennel seeds after meals as a digestive, drank no alcohol, for dessert dipped austere biscuits into successive cups of tea.

At first, Lilia thought that Mr. Pirzada was Indian just like them, but his father told her that he is no longer considered Indian. The country was divided in 1947. “For many, the idea of eating in the other’s company was still unthinkable.” This made no sense to Lilia. “Mr. Pirzada and my parents spoke the same language, laughed at the same jokes, looked more or less the same.” But they were different somehow.

Lahiri also shows us how America’s people are sometimes sheltered from foreign affairs. After Lilia was caught reading a book about Pakistan, her teacher Mrs. Kenyon “lifted the book at the tip of its spine as if it were a hair clinging” to Lilia’s sweater. Mrs. Kenyon then slipped it in the slim gap on the shelf and told Lilia that there is no reason to consult it. During Halloween, after Lilia and her friend Dora were done trick-or-treating, they went to Dora’s house where she noticed that Dora’s father “was lying on the couch, reading a magazine, with a glass of wine on the coffee table, and there was saxophone music playing on the stereo.” Unlike her house where her parents and Mr. Pirzada watches the news every night, Dora’s father was relaxing at home, oblivious to the situation in Pakistan.

As India and Pakistan were drawing closer and closer to war, Mr. Pirzada and Lilia’s family were “operating during that time as if they were a single person, sharing a single meal, a single body, a single silence, and a single fear.” Lahiri notes the theme through a 10-year-old girl’s perspective. Different people can always find something in common.

It is amazing how we consider ourselves different sometimes. Whether it is our value in society, our goals and our dreams, and sometimes even the food we eat. Lahiri shows us what the common ground is through Lilia’s eyes. It is our reasons and our concerns about the people we love that should bring us together. Only then can we find a familiar ground.

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