When Mr. Pirzada Came to Dine

by

Jhumpa Lahiri

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Lilia’s Mother Character Analysis

Lilia’s mother—who, like Lilia’s father, is originally from Calcutta—now works at a bank in Boston. While Lilia’s father fears that his daughter does not know enough about the world, Lilia’s mother is grateful for Lilia’s particularly American kind of innocence. She remains troubled by her own memories of childhood in India during Partition (the division of British India into India and Pakistan), when she ate “rationed food,” “watched riots from [her] rooftop,” and hid “neighbors in water tanks to prevent them from being shot.” Lilia’s mother is also an excellent cook, and she is almost always preparing or serving traditional South Asian dishes to her husband and daughter—as well as Mr. Pirzada—throughout the story.

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

The When Mr. Pirzada Came to Dine quotes below are all either spoken by Lilia’s Mother or refer to Lilia’s Mother. 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:
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Lilia’s Mother Character Timeline in When Mr. Pirzada Came to Dine

The timeline below shows where the character Lilia’s Mother 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
Family, Ritual, and Shared Time Theme Icon
Diaspora, Alienation, and Loss Theme Icon
Independence, Revolution, and Violence Theme Icon
...his presence that she assumes he will come over every night. One evening, while her mother cooks fried spinach and radishes, Lilia asks her father for “a glass for the Indian... (full context)
Diaspora, Alienation, and Loss Theme Icon
Independence, Revolution, and Violence Theme Icon
...is not, but she does not want her to father to know this. As Lilia’s mother drains the rice, her father asks Lilia what she’s learning at school, as she is... (full context)
Food, Culture, and Connection Theme Icon
Youth and Innocence vs. Maturity and Responsibility Theme Icon
Lilia’s mother reflects on her own childhood, which was filled with violence, food rations, and educational pressure.... (full context)
Family, Ritual, and Shared Time Theme Icon
Food, Culture, and Connection Theme Icon
...follows Lilia’s father into the living room, where the TV is playing local news. Lilia’s mother offers Mr. Pirzada a kebab, and as Mr. Pirzada eats, he wonders if the refugees... (full context)
Family, Ritual, and Shared Time Theme Icon
Diaspora, Alienation, and Loss Theme Icon
Food, Culture, and Connection Theme Icon
Independence, Revolution, and Violence Theme Icon
...living room, to have an unobstructed view of the TV news. As they watch, Lilia’s mother brings out a variety of traditional Indian dishes. Lilia helps with water, lemon wedges, and... (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... (full context)
Diaspora, Alienation, and Loss Theme Icon
Food, Culture, and Connection Theme Icon
Independence, Revolution, and Violence Theme Icon
...on to other topics, like the men’s work and “the peculiar eating habits” of Lilia’s mother’s American co-workers. (full context)
Family, Ritual, and Shared Time Theme Icon
Diaspora, Alienation, and Loss Theme Icon
...people’s doorsteps, so Lilia explains the concept of a Halloween jack-o’-lantern. The next evening, Lilia’s mother brings a pumpkin home, and Mr. Pirzada tells Lilia he will help her carve it.... (full context)
Family, Ritual, and Shared Time Theme Icon
Diaspora, Alienation, and Loss Theme Icon
Both Lilia and Dora dress up as green-faced witches for Halloween. Lilia’s mother gives them old basmati rice sacks to trick-or-treat with—this is the first year the girls... (full context)
Family, Ritual, and Shared Time Theme Icon
Independence, Revolution, and Violence Theme Icon
...father warns Lilia to be safe, and Mr. Pirzada worries that trick-or-treating is dangerous. Lilia’s mother assures him that it is “tradition,” and that all the children will be safe. (full context)
Diaspora, Alienation, and Loss Theme Icon
Independence, Revolution, and Violence Theme Icon
Dora’s mother gives the girls popcorn and cider, and she reminds Lilia to call home. When Lilia... (full context)
Diaspora, Alienation, and Loss Theme Icon
Food, Culture, and Connection Theme Icon
Independence, Revolution, and Violence Theme Icon
...no longer asks her to watch the news, Mr. Pirzada stops bringing candy, and her mother only cooks rice and eggs. Some nights, Mr. Pirzada sleeps on Lilia’s family’s couch; other... (full context)
Family, Ritual, and Shared Time Theme Icon
Diaspora, Alienation, and Loss Theme Icon
Food, Culture, and Connection Theme Icon
Lilia’s mother suggests a toasts for Mr. Pirzada, but Lilia does not feel like celebrating. Instead, though... (full context)