When Mr. Pirzada Came to Dine

by

Jhumpa Lahiri

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Watches Symbol Analysis

Watches Symbol Icon

Watches represent the idea that rituals and shared time allow loved ones to connect with one another, even from a distance. While Mr. Pirzada, an East Pakistani man, eats dinner with Lilia and her family, he takes out a silver pocket watch that’s set to the time zone in Dacca (the East Pakistan city where his wife and daughters still live). As Lilia tries to understand this ritual, she realizes that life “was being lived in Dacca first. I imagined Mr. Pirzada’s daughters rising from sleep, tying ribbons in their hair, anticipating breakfast, getting ready for school. Our meals, our actions, were only a shadow of what had already happened there.” By allowing Mr. Pirzada to imagine his way into his family’s time-zone—and therefore into their lives—this watch represents the importance of shared time and rituals in keeping family connections alive.

In addition, watches help Lilia and her father connect to stay connected, no matter where they are. Just as Mr. Pirzada looks at a watch in Dacca time in order to imagine his daughters’ routines, Lilia’s father, despite living in the same place and time zone as his daughter, asks her to synchronize her watch with his whenever she leaves the house without a parent. Even when these two fathers are not in the same physical place as their daughters, then, a sense of unified time allows them to feel close to their girls.

Watches Quotes in When Mr. Pirzada Came to Dine

The When Mr. Pirzada Came to Dine quotes below all refer to the symbol of Watches. 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

Unlike the watch on his wrist, the pocket watch, he had explained to me, was set to the local time in Dacca, 11 hours ahead. For the duration of the meal the watch rested on his folded paper napkin on the coffee table […] Life, I realized, was being lived in Dacca first. I imagined Mr. Pirzada’s daughters rising from sleep, tying ribbons in their hair, anticipating breakfast, preparing for school. Our meals, our actions, were only a shadow of what had already happened there, a lagging ghost of where Mr. Pirzada really belonged.

Related Characters: Lilia (speaker), Mr. Pirzada
Related Symbols: Watches
Page Number: 30
Explanation and Analysis:

It was only then that I felt Mr. Pirzada’s absence. It was only then, raising my water glass in his name, that I knew what it meant to miss someone who was so many miles and hours away, just as he had missed his wife and daughters for so many months.

Related Characters: Lilia (speaker), Mr. Pirzada
Related Symbols: Watches
Page Number: 42
Explanation and Analysis:
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Watches Symbol Timeline in When Mr. Pirzada Came to Dine

The timeline below shows where the symbol Watches 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
...“what makes him different”—“not an Indian.” She notes that Mr. Pirzada always takes out a watch and puts it on the coffee table while they eat. The watch is set to... (full context)
Family, Ritual, and Shared Time Theme Icon
Diaspora, Alienation, and Loss Theme Icon
...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 the entire night. (full context)