Thursday, December 24, 2009

Significance of the Title “TWILIGHT IN DELHI”

The name or title of Ahmed Ali’s novel as “Twilight in Delhi” is very significant in itself. This is the most proper and appropriate name of the story he has told in the novel. “Twilight” is a word that signifies the short span of time that spreads itself between a dying day and emerging night just as “dawn” is the opposite term that signifies the death of the night and the arrival of the day. “Twilight in Delhi” deals with the dying culture and civilization of Muslim India as such. If we take Mir Nihal as a symbol of that culture etc. which he really is, we can see the civilization crumbling with our own eyes. When we go through the novel, we find out that its main male character has passed his middle age and is almost knocking at the door of old age. We are talking of Mir Nihal who is nearing sixty in the beginning of the novel as he had witnessed the fateful day of the fall of Delhi, 14th September, 1857, as a ten-year old boy. Still he is so healthy and strong that he can pick up a running snake from the gutter of the house with a swift movement of his hand and he can break its spinal cord by hitting it on the floor of the house with a powerful jerk of his hand. But, later on, we find his health going to dogs. He gets a paralysis attack and is unable even to talk. Then, three days later, his power of speech is restored to a great extant but not so the physical or bodily power. Hakim Ajmal Khan comes to Mir Nihal twice or thrice a week and brings costly medicines from his home for him. Still his condition is not improved. Mir Nihal’s nice friend, Kambal Shah, advises “Pelican oil” for massaging on the body of Mir Nihal. A pelican is arranged from somewhere. It is slaughtered and the oil is prepared under the supervision of Kambal Shah himself. Later on, the famous wrestler of Delhi, Shammoo, is called daily for massaging but with no improvement at all. At last, Mir Nihal becomes totally bed-ridden. He lies drown and goes on remembering his past. Then his son Habibuddin falls sick and dies. This tragedy casts a terrible effect on Mir Nihal and he becomes almost unable now even to remember his past. He is in a living death, so to speak. The same is the case of the Indian Muslim civilization and culture that faces a living death.
When Mir Nihal is healthy and jovial in the beginning, he looks after his hobby: pigeon flying. He also earns more money because he also has to arrange for his beloved keep, Babban Jan. he also looks after the family name and honour because they are Sayyeds and Bilqeece is a Moghal. But when the conditions deteriorate, Mir Nihal loses his beloved keep, a very great extant. Mir Nihal leaves his hobby and asks Nazir to sell out all his pigeons. Mir Nihal leaves to work for extra income. He leaves to care for family honour and self-respect etc. and gives his consent to the marriage of Asghar with Bilqeece. The world has stopped caring for him: let him stop caring for the world! So we find out that Mir Nihal has been used as a top-priority symbol to portray the deterioration of the customs, traditions, ways and means of which he has been the proud representative.
We can find this deterioration in other characters as well, symbolically enough. Begam Nihal becomes blind slowly and steadily. Begam Jamal leaves her classical residence at Mir Nihal’s. Shams loses his wife. Hafizji does not get “pulao” on the very first uttering. Astghar stops loving Bilqeece and starts to find other women for his love.
This does not happen to the world of human beings alone. Even the buildings etc. are affected by time. The gutters of the city which were deep down are dug up and laid on a shallow level. The city walls are demolished. So the stink and sand attack on the city dwellers. The Jamia Masjid whose floor has been coloured redder by Muslim sacrifices on 14th September, 1857, wears a cheap garland to welcome the procession of King George V on the Coronation Day. Even the date-palm tree standing in the middle of the courtyard of Mir Nihal’s home throws away its leaves and becomes yellow and sered. All these things have been aptly and appropriately used by the writer to show us, symbolically, the dwindling and dying Indian Muslim Civilization and Culture. So we can justly claim that although there could be many other names or titles of the novel under discussion, but the most appropriate and the best title for the same could only be (as it is!) “Twilight in Delhi.”

1 comment:

  1. Perhaps the puppy will be heading off to healing centers to visit the wiped out, or to nurturing homes to visit the elderly.