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South Asian Diaspora

Updated on August 5, 2015

“When Mr. Pirzada Came to Dine”: South Asian Diasporas

“Diaspora by definition is dispersion, which effectively compresses time and space such that it enables the experience of many places at what would appear to be one moment. And today such multiplicity and simultaneity have become particularly pronounced (Appadurai 1996, Sessen 1998, Schiller et al 1994, Kearney 1995). Homeland, land of settlement, space of travel, all undergo significant reworking through the concept and object of diaspora. (551, “Locations For South Asian Diasporas”. Sandhya Shukla)”

Sandhya Shukla explains an excellent definition of Diaspora and she also claim on her article “Location for South Asian Diaspora” that when the immigrant came from South Asian Country that is called South Asian Diaspora. And Indian American author Jhumpa Laihiri’s short story “When Mr. Pirzada Came to Dine” has an interesting relationship with the idea of Diaspora located in South Asian perspective. Jhumpa Lahiri illustrates in her short story, “When Mr. Pirzada Came to Dine” the theme of South Asian Diaspora through the portrayal of the characters because the characters of the story figuratively live in two different places in the same time, they practice their traditional culture as well as American culture in Boston, again the narrator feel empathy for a Bengali man Mr. Pirzada though she born and raise up abroad of the land of Bengal.

“When Mr. Pirzada Came to Dine” is a short story of Indian American author Jhumpa Laihiri’s immense creative creation, Interpreter of Maladis. This book published in 1999 and it won Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and Hemingway Foundation/ Pen Award in the year 2000. At first glance the title, “When Mr. Pirzada Came to Dine” suggests the relationships between identity (of Mr. Pirzada, a Muslim bangle name) and dining customs of a particular culture. The short story is told by a 10 years old girl and is about her memories and emotional attachments to the time while Mr. Prizada, a Bengali man came from East Pakistan, came to their family in Boston in the Autumn of 1971, in the middle of the civil war of East Pakistan and West Pakistan. The cover of the book, Interpreter of Maladis, a blurred portrait of a girl or a woman whose expression is unestablished also relates with the short story, “When Mr. Pirzada Came to Dine” because it shows the emotional attachment of 10 years old girl with the puzzling situation.

The characters of the short story “When Mr. Pirzada Came to Dine” figuratively live in two places at the same time. The narrator stats about Mr. Pirzada, “Unlike the watch on his wrist, the pocket watch, he had explained me, was set to the local time in Dacca, eleven hours ahead.” (30) This quote represents that the time of the Boston is important for living in Boston but at the same time Mr. Pirzada wants to remember the situation, the environment, the practices what people do or what his family do in Dacca. Moreover, though Mr. Pirzada lives in Boston but most of the time his conversation is about his family, his daughters, and his country. For example at the first page of the story the narrator explains that Mr. Pirzada carries “a black and white picture of seven girls at a picture” in his wallet. On the other hand, the narrator states that her father claimed “More importantly, Mr. Pirzada in no longer considered Indian,” (25) The narrator’s father born in Calcutta, west Bengal in India. This expression of the narrator’s father asserts that he wants to make a distant relationship with Mr. Pirzada as because Mr. Pirzada came from East Pakistan that was divided from India after colonialism. Even though, the narrator’s father lives in Boston but he can’t forget his identity as an Indian. Those example claims that the Mr. Pirzada’ and narrator’s father’s behavior represents that they live in Bengal and Boston at the same time and that makes the characters of the story are closely related with the issue of South Asian Diaspora.

The characters of the story practice their own bangle traditional culture such as religious perspective, language, dining customs, humor though they live in Boston, a state of America. The narrator stats in 25 page that, “They are pickled mango with their meal, ate rice every night for supper with their hands.” ‘pickled mango with their meal’ and eating rice are the two customs of Bengali supper tradition and they continue that custom in Boston. Moreover, 12 days before 4th December, 1971, the liberation of Bangladesh, the family of the narrator became single, “Most of all I remember the three of them operating during that time as if they are a single person, sharing a single meal, a single body, a single silence, and a single fear.” (41) That signify they were getting freedom with the liberation of Bangladesh. All those paradigm supports that practicing and holding the Bengali culture though they are in the another world from Bengal is strongly influenced by South Asian Diaspora.

However, practicing their own traditional culture, they appreciable the American culture as well. In hallowing, the narrator and her mother bought pumpkin and they decorate the pumpkin with whole family and Mr. Pirzada. Moreover, the narrator’s family gives permission to narrator to celebrate the hollowing party with black witch hollowing dress. That is an excellent example of South Asian Diaspora.

The narrator becomes empathetic through the whole story for a Bangle man Mr. Pirzad though she doesn’t born or live in bangle in her live. Jhumpa Lahiri born in England, and lives in America but through the whole story she feel a strong empathy for Mr. Pirzada. She studied about the history of America with American geography (27) but when she sow the word “Asia” she can’t stop herself not to be acquainted with “Asia”, “I return to the blond-wood shelves, to a section I had noticed labeled ‘Asia’ (34) she was enthusiastic to know about Dacca from where Mr. Pirzada came. Moreover, She claim that, “I had never prayed for anything before, had never been taught or told to” but she prayed for Mr. Pirzada every night with candy and she didn’t brush her teeth because she thought if she brush the pray wouldn’t work out. Though, she don’t know about Bengal but she feel strong sympathy for a Bengal man who use to came to their house in Boston at her 10 years old that represents the charecters of the story is closely related with the issue of South Asian Diaspora.

In conclusion, the characters of the short story “When Mr. Pirzada Came to Dine” represent the South Asian Diaspora by continuation of their traditional Bengal behavior and thoughts in Boston, the other side of Bengal as well as practicing the American Customs.

Work Citation:

Lahiri, Jhumpa. “When Mr. Pirzada Came to Dine.” Interpreter of Maladies.

UK: Flamingo, an imprint of HarperCollins, 1999. Print

Shukla, Sandhya. "Locations For South Asian Diasporas." Annual Review of Anthropology

30.1 (2001): 551-72. Print.


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