When Mr. Pirzada Came to Dine

by

Jhumpa Lahiri

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Lilia’s Father Character Analysis

Lilia’s father is a university professor. Having immigrated to the United States from Calcutta, he often misses Indian food and culture. He is also concerned that Lilia’s education is too focused on the U.S., and he wants to expose her to other people and places. He and Lilia’s mother therefore seek to make with friends with people, like Mr. Pirzada, who are from “their part of the world.” The story also portrays Lilia’s father as a tolerant and accepting person. He is Hindu, and Mr. Pirzada is Muslim, and (as he explains to Lilia) these religious differences have been the source of great conflict on the Indian subcontinent. For many Hindus and Muslims, “eating in the other’s company [is] still unthinkable.” Lilia’s father, however, merely seeks to welcome and care for Mr. Pirzada, revealing both the extent of his alienation in the U.S. (as he is eager to connect with other South Asian people) and his generous spirit.

Lilia’s Father Quotes in When Mr. Pirzada Came to Dine

The When Mr. Pirzada Came to Dine quotes below are all either spoken by Lilia’s Father or refer to Lilia’s Father. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Family, Ritual, and Shared Time Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Mariner Books edition of When Mr. Pirzada Came to Dine published in 1999.
When Mr. Pirzada Came to Dine Quotes

It was a small campus, with narrow brick walkways and white pillared buildings, located on the fringes of what seemed to be an even smaller town. The supermarket did not carry mustard oil, doctors did not make house calls, neighbors never dropped by without an invitation, and of these things, every so often, my parents complained. In search of compatriots, they used to trail their fingers, at the start of each new semester, through the columns of the university directory, circling surnames familiar to their part of the world.

Related Characters: Lilia (speaker), Lilia’s Mother, Lilia’s Father
Page Number: 24
Explanation and Analysis:

[My father] led me to a map of the world taped to the wall over his desk […] his finger trailed across the Atlantic, through Europe, the Mediterranean, the Middle East, and finally to the sprawling orange diamond that my mother once told me resembled a woman wearing a sari with her left arm extended. Various cities had been circled with lines drawn between them to indicate my parents’ travels, and the place of their birth, Calcutta, was signified by a small silver star. I had been there only once and had no memory of the trip.

Related Characters: Lilia (speaker), Lilia’s Father (speaker), Lilia’s Mother, Mr. Pirzada
Page Number: 26
Explanation and Analysis:

We learned American history, of course, and American geography. That year, and every year, it seemed, we began by studying the Revolutionary War. We were taken in school buses on field trips to visit Plymouth Rock, and to walk the Freedom Trail, and to climb to the top of the Bunker Hill Monument. We made dioramas out of colored construction paper depicting George Washington crossing the choppy waters of the Delaware River, and we made puppets of King George wearing white tights and a black bow in his hair. During tests we were given blank maps of the thirteen colonies, and asked to fill in names, dates, capitals. I could do it with my eyes closed.

Related Characters: Lilia (speaker), Lilia’s Father
Page Number: 27
Explanation and Analysis:

I coveted each evening’s treasure as I would a jewel, or a coin from a buried kingdom, and I would place it in a small keepsake box made of carved sandalwood beside my bed, in which, long ago in India, my father’s mother used to store the ground areca nuts she ate after her morning bath. It was my only memento of a grandmother I had never known, and until Mr. Pirzada came to our lives I could find nothing to put inside it.

Related Characters: Lilia (speaker), Mr. Pirzada, Lilia’s Father
Related Symbols: Candy
Page Number: 29
Explanation and Analysis:

“See, children your age, what they do to survive,” my father said as he served me another piece of fish. But I could no longer eat. I could only steal glances at Mr. Pirzada, sitting beside me in his olive green jacket, calmly creating a well in his rice to make room for a second helping of lentils. He was not my notion of a man burdened by such grave concerns.

Related Characters: Lilia’s Father (speaker), Lilia (speaker), Mr. Pirzada
Related Symbols: TV
Page Number: 31
Explanation and Analysis:
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Lilia’s Father Character Timeline in When Mr. Pirzada Came to Dine

The timeline below shows where the character Lilia’s Father appears in When Mr. Pirzada Came to Dine. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
When Mr. Pirzada Came to Dine
Diaspora, Alienation, and Loss Theme Icon
Food, Culture, and Connection Theme Icon
...an invitation.” Lilia’s parents therefore try to make Indian friends at the university where her father teaches, checking the phonebook for other South Asian last names—which is what leads them to... (full context)
Family, Ritual, and Shared Time Theme Icon
Diaspora, Alienation, and Loss Theme Icon
Independence, Revolution, and Violence Theme Icon
...every night. One evening, while her mother cooks fried spinach and radishes, Lilia asks her father for “a glass for the Indian man.” Her father informs her that Mr. Pirzada will... (full context)
Food, Culture, and Connection Theme Icon
Independence, Revolution, and Violence Theme Icon
When Lilia is confused by this new information, her father explains Partition. In 1947, soon after India gained independence from Britain, India and Pakistan split... (full context)
Diaspora, Alienation, and Loss Theme Icon
Independence, Revolution, and Violence Theme Icon
...her parents speak the same language, look similar, and eat the same foods. But Lilia’s father insists that Mr. Pirzada is a Bengali Muslim, and that he might be offended by... (full context)
Diaspora, Alienation, and Loss Theme Icon
Independence, Revolution, and Violence Theme Icon
Lilia’s father assumes she is aware of the conflict in East Pakistan; Lilia is not, but she... (full context)
Food, Culture, and Connection Theme Icon
Youth and Innocence vs. Maturity and Responsibility Theme Icon
...thinks it is unreasonable to expect that Lilia will be taught about Partition, but Lilia’s father continues to worry, asking, “what does she learn about the world?” (full context)
Family, Ritual, and Shared Time Theme Icon
Diaspora, Alienation, and Loss Theme Icon
...six, having walked over from the dormitory where he lives. He shakes hands with Lilia’s father and, as always, Lilia takes his coat. Mr. Pirzada is always well-dressed, and he stands... (full context)
Diaspora, Alienation, and Loss Theme Icon
...Mr. Pirzada arrives, he jokes that he is “‘another refugee […] on Indian territory.’” Lilia’s father responds that there are currently nine million refugees from Dacca in India. Lilia notes that... (full context)
Family, Ritual, and Shared Time Theme Icon
Food, Culture, and Connection Theme Icon
...“the way a person feels for solidity behind a wall.” Then, Mr. Pirzada follows Lilia’s father into the living room, where the TV is playing local news. Lilia’s mother offers Mr.... (full context)
Independence, Revolution, and Violence Theme Icon
Usually, Lilia reads during the evening news, but tonight her father makes her watch it. On TV, she sees military tanks, burning buildings, and people fleeing.... (full context)
Diaspora, Alienation, and Loss Theme Icon
Food, Culture, and Connection Theme Icon
Independence, Revolution, and Violence Theme Icon
Youth and Innocence vs. Maturity and Responsibility Theme Icon
At the commercial break, Lilia’s mother goes to get more rice, and her father and Mr. Pirzada discuss politics. As Lilia’s father gives her more fish, he tells her... (full context)
Independence, Revolution, and Violence Theme Icon
Youth and Innocence vs. Maturity and Responsibility Theme Icon
...her room at the familiar yellow curtains and the place on the wall where her father marks her height. But she is unable to banish the gory images from her mind. (full context)
Diaspora, Alienation, and Loss Theme Icon
Independence, Revolution, and Violence Theme Icon
Youth and Innocence vs. Maturity and Responsibility Theme Icon
Mr. Pirzada offers to buy another pumpkin, but Lilia’s father carves around the gash, turning the pumpkin’s mouth into a gaping hole. The pumpkin, which... (full context)
Family, Ritual, and Shared Time Theme Icon
Diaspora, Alienation, and Loss Theme Icon
...first year the girls will be allowed to trick-or-treat by themselves, without parental supervision. Lilia’s father makes her synchronize her watch to his and tells her to keep the watch on... (full context)
Family, Ritual, and Shared Time Theme Icon
Independence, Revolution, and Violence Theme Icon
Lilia's father and Mr. Pirzada linger in the living room, listening to the sounds of other trick-or-treaters.... (full context)
Diaspora, Alienation, and Loss Theme Icon
Food, Culture, and Connection Theme Icon
Independence, Revolution, and Violence Theme Icon
During those 12 days of war, Lilla’s father no longer asks her to watch the news, Mr. Pirzada stops bringing candy, and her... (full context)