When Mr. Pirzada Came To Dine
This story is told from the first person perspective of Lilia, primarily in her 10th year. Choosing to tell this story through the eyes of a child somewhat mitigates the heavy topic. The war between India and Pakistan in 1971 is witnessed from a distance both geographically and emotionally. While Lilia’s parents fret over a skirmish thousands of miles away, Lilia is more concerned with her own life. The candy that Mr. Pirzada lavishes on Lilia becomes a prayer for the safety of his daughters. Her awareness of the contrast between her situation and Mr. Pirzada’s daughters opens her eyes to the complicated political struggle on a personal level. In this case, the lessons learned by Lilia are the same learned by the reader but in a more literary, less didactic way.
Time is an interesting construct in this story as well. Lilia remarks that events are unfolding eleven hours ahead of her time zone. She feels as if the events are playing out in the future and her life is somehow a ghost life. This has two separate meanings for Lilia. First, there is a remove between herself and the girls culturally as Lilia is a first-generation American born to immigrant parents. Second, since this is also a coming of age story, Lilia struggles for some semblance of maturity. As a child, she feels as if her life has already been experienced by others who have gone before her. Lilia also narrates from the present, adding yet another layer of remove into the story. All that is occurring in the time frame of the story actually has already happened. The facts of the war, she says, were a “remote mystery with haphazard clues.” Lilia narrates the story from the remoteness of childhood, only understanding after years have passed.
Lilia and her parents are on either side of a divide. Identity issues are typically compounded generation to generation. Though Lilia’s parents remember their own experiences in India vividly, Lilia is an