Lilia, a 10-year-old daughter of an Indian American couple is the narrator of the story which is set in 1971 at a time when there was a civil war going on between East Pakistan and West Pakistan. Her parents who had recently migrated to America had the feeling of separation.
Father of Lilia found Mr Pirzada’s name in the university directory and befriended him. Mr Pirzada had come to study “the foliage of New England”. This term is quite symbolic as the same foliage was about to happen in East Pakistan (Bangladesh) as well. Mr Pirzada would use to visit Lilia’s home every day.
Lilia begins her story by telling that she doesn’t know when Mr Pirzada started coming to her house as she was quite young. Every day he would use to bring candies for Lilia.
Mr Pirzada belonged to Decca and was a Bengali. Thus there was a strong bond between Lilia’s parents and Mr Pirzada because of the same culture, language, food, attire etc.
Being unaware of Indian history and polity Lilia was of the view that both her parents as well as Mr Pirzada belong to the same Nation. This oneness is one of the primary features of the Diasporic community living in foreign.
She is surprised when her father tells her that Mr Pirzada though a Bengali is also a Muslim and belongs to another Nation. Her father does not like her ignorance regarding India but her mother defends her by saying that they are living in America now and there is no need to think about curfews, riots, mass-killings, and food scarcity.
The statement of her mother made in the father of Lilia marks the reasons why a large number of Diasporic people had to leave their motherlands though it is quite difficult for anyone to do so. The communal clashes, poverty and other such issues were the main reasons for the migration of people to developed nations.
Lilia starts searching for differences between her parents and Mr Pirzada though she hardly finds any. This strangeness of the culture of the Indian subcontinent is quite common among the 1st generation of Indian Americans. Being born in America they are more aware of American history, language and culture rather than that of their parents. Jumpha Lahiri has also suffered the same and this is well reflected in this story.
Mr Pirzada tells that in Decca he owns a three storey home and has seven daughters whose names start with A. Every evening the TV is turned on and the news of Bangladesh becomes the centre of attention. Mr Pirzada has not heard about his family since last 6 months and is quite upset about them.
The war becomes more violent. Pakistani army does all types of atrocities on the Bengali people. At School, Lilia once tries to read about Bangladesh in the library but her teacher reprimands her as it does not relate to her assignment.
In October the day of Halloween comes and Mr Pirzada inquires about the pumpkins on people’s doorsteps. Lilia tells him about the festival. Mr Pirzada joints the family to carve a jack-o’-lantern out of a pumpkin bought by her mother. However soon the news of Decca flashes the TV and knife in the hands of Mr Pirzada slips, creating a gash in the pumpkin. This also symbolises the
In the evening Lilia prepares to go to her friend’s home. This upsets Mr Pirzada. However, Lilia’s mother tells him that it is safer to roam around in America. The worry of Pirzada is perhaps more about his own daughters when he makes this statement.
Lilia remains upset about the safety of Mr Pirzada’s family. Every night she takes out a candy given by Mr Pirzada and keeps it in her mouth. For her, it is a kind of prayer and she follows it every night.
The prayer done by Lilia is quite new and does not match to any customs of established religions. This reflects how the 1st generation having new country, culture and language quests for new types of beliefs.
In January Mr Pirzada returns back to home. After several months Lilia comes to know that Mr Pirzada’s family is quite as during the war his in-laws took her wife and daughters to a safer place. Mr Pirzada also thanks her family for the warm hospitality. Upon knowing this Lilia gives up the practice of keeping candy in her mouth.