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When Mr. Pirzada Came to Dine by Jhumpa Lahiri

          The short story by Jhumpa Lahiri is essential because it explores themes of cultural displacement and the impact of political conflicts on individuals and identity. It is a story set in the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War, and it follows a young girl of Indian descent, Lilia, who lives in the United States, and a Bengali man, Mr. Pirzada, who is temporarily residing in the U.S due to the ongoing war in his homeland (Sahu, 60). It is clear that assimilation, independence struggle, revolution, and food and culture are pertinent to current global issues. Even though many of these subjects are heavy and complicated, their application in a condensed story seems to leave them with enough room to grow. I cannot quite describe the range of feelings the story evoked in me curiosity, regret, sadness, and fulfillment. Although the story seems similar to many stories of immigrants today, I believe it perfectly grounds itself in an understandable human reality (Sahu, 62). Therefore, this paper aims to discuss the short story about the complexities of an immigrant’s life and the impact of political turmoil on personal relationships. Given that the story’s main theme is identity and belonging, we look at its importance in today’s society, given the current debate on cultural diversity, immigration, and the quest for a sense of belonging in an increasingly interconnected world.

          The story’s overall theme is the identity and belonging of people and nations. It is clear from the story that although Lilia’s parents migrated from India to escape a complicated life, Lilia is an American of the first generation (Sahu, 63). These two nations have very distinct traditions and customs from one another. Lilia is torn between the ways of thinking and acting in India and America despite her parents’ ardent devotion to their own Indian culture. The interaction of Lillia with Mr. Pirzada shows her delicate balance between her American identity and her cultural roots. However, the title of the story itself displays an ordinary act of having dinner it is laden with meaning. It indicates that the sense of belonging and connection between the two through shared meals transcended the boundaries of ethnicity and rationality (Sahu, 64). There is also the theme of displacement in the story because both Lilia and Mr. Pirzada live in a foreign land, an experience that has made them feel a sense of displacement. The story highlights how the pursuit of identity and a sense of belonging transcends national boundaries and involves the places we live in as well as the people we interact with.

          In today’s society, the story’s theme of identity and belonging holds immense relevance. In the current globalized society, immigration, the struggle to find one’s place, and the immigration of people to a new environment have significantly impacted society today. Immigrants improve culture by bringing fresh perspectives, knowledge, traditions, culinary arts, and other elements (Demireva, n.p). They enhance the current culture rather than erasing it. In fact, in a country like the United States, immigrants have played a significant role in helping the country to grow in the economy by filling labor needs, purchasing goods, and paying taxes. More importantly, immigrants’ diligence and entrepreneurship boost economies (Hirschman, n.p). Although immigrants have played a significant role in the country’s economic and political development, it has been indicated from the story of Mr. Pirzada and Lilia that there are numerous challenges that immigrants face in adapting to new cultures while preserving their cultural identity (Demireva, n.p). The story has underscored the importance of embracing cultural diversity and promoting inclusive societies. This is one of the significant aspects of today’s society because diversity has made native Americans exist harmoniously in the United States.

          Also, the backdrop of the Bangladesh Liberation War in the story has shown the profound impact of political conflicts on people’s lives. It is important to note that political conflict has contributed to several damages to human life. As history has repeatedly demonstrated, conflicts cause enormous economic and social costs and unimaginable human suffering (Compaoré et al., n.p). Investment and economic growth can be hindered by conflicts due to the death toll, damage to institutions, human capital, and infrastructure, political unrest, and increased uncertainty. These factors can occur during and after a conflict, making breaking free from the conflict trap challenging (Compaoré et al., n.p). Furthermore, wars often make matters more difficult for the government’s coffers; they reduce revenue by destroying a portion of the tax base while increasing military spending. It is important to note that political conflict is still detrimental to human suffering. Thus, from the story, it is clear that as a society, we need to value diplomacy, international cooperation, and diplomacy to avoid human suffering (Ouedraogo, p. 1940). In addition, as has been indicated in the story, the power of human connection in building bridges across cultural and national differences is essential in the current society. In an increasingly polarized and divided world, the narrative serves as a helpful reminder of the value of developing deep connections with people from different backgrounds (Ouedraogo, 1940). Building bridges across differences has played a significant role in the current society in ensuring an inclusive and empathetic society where people can find a sense of belonging.

          In conclusion, the story has indeed conveyed themes of identity and belonging through the narrative. The narrative explored by the story resonates with contemporary societal issues experienced today, such as cultural diversity and human costs of political conflicts.   It forces us to reflect on the value of bridging gaps and developing empathy for the struggles faced by people who, like Mr. Pirzada, must negotiate the difficulties of identity and belonging in a strange place.




Works Cited

Compaoré, Ali, et al. The impact of conflict and political instability on banking crises in developing countries. International Monetary Fund, 2020.

Demireva, Neli. “Immigration Diversity and Social Cohesion – Migration Observatory.” Migration Observatory, 2016,

Hirschman, Charles. “The Impact of Immigration on American Society: Looking Backward to the Future.” Items, 28 July 2017,

Ouedraogo, Rasmane, et al. “The impact of conflict and political instability on banking crises in developing countries.” The World Economy 45.6 (2022): 1937-1977.

Sahu, Padmini. “Merging Identities: A Study of Jhumpa Lahiri’s Interpreter of Maladies.” The Creative launcher 6.3 (2021): 60-65.