Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Art of Characterization in "Twilight in Delhi"

In "Twilight in Delhi" Ahmed All has used descriptive method to show the characters in the development of novel's plot. Every character is close to the actual condition of Delhi. Ali's realistic mode of expression in describing the relation of plot and character is remarkable. The opening section of the novel and its first chapter seems as a prologue to city's actual condition and its inhabitants. When we go through the novel, we find that the writer has used the art of characterization as a nice tool to realize his end. He has a plot and for the completion of the plot the characters come at the stage at a particular time and then leave the stage. Still there is one central character that is most of the time there in one or the other manner. This is the main male character of Mir Nihal who plays the pivotal role in the book novel. All the events have a direct or indirect bearing at his character: all the characters are related to his character in one or the other way. So the spot light remains most of the time on Mir Nihal.
Mir Nihal's character has been portrayed with utmost precision and accuracy. He is a man who has witnessed the last event/episode of the surrender of Delhi on 14th September, 1857, the fateful day, with his own eyes. He is a patriot in the core of his heart. He feels pain and torture at Hindustan's slavery but he believes in direct use of sword (i.e., weapons) to liberate his country whereas people are resorting to some other "useless" ways and means, like rallies, marches, strike and non-cooperative movement.
Mir Nihal's character is a representative of the older generation who has seen the country going into the clutches of slavery with his own eyes. So he hates the rulers. On the other end is Asghar, his younger son, who likes the English fashion and ways. Although, he also represents Indian Muslim culture in his own way but he belongs to the younger generation and, as such, differs with Mir Nihal. Both of them are having their own singing and dancing girls: Mir Nihal has Babban Jan and Mir Asghar has Mushtari Bai but the former "keeps" Babban Jan till her death whereas the latter leaves Mushtari Bai in the lurch and starts loving Bilqeece so intensively that he leaves no stone unturned for her achievement as a wife. It is another story that he, even then, does not keep himself limited and goes out on his romantic adventures or errands to find out new women for him.
The novel is a collective novel. The advantage of this form is that the collective life of a whole society can be presented through the ideas and actions of a group against the background of a revolutionary movement or war, as is generally the case in such works. But to present a social whole in the mirror of everyday life where no extraordinary or exciting events take place, and yet produce a novel that is successful from the points of view of art and technique is most difficult indeed. But Ahmed Ali has done it. The author has taken one family and shown what its members experience in their day to day life. All these are simple, insignificant things, such as eating, drinking, sleeping, festivals and fairs, marriage, birth, death, naive love affairs, quarrels and arguments. The arrangement and selection of these incidents in the novel have been given a fundamental and universal significance.
Ahmad Ali is depicting the story of the dying Indian Muslim society in his novel, so he picks and chooses from the society only such characters that can be helpful to him in the context. These characters may be as overwhelming as Mir Nihal and Asghar and these may be as summarized as Kabiruddin, the elder brother of Asghar, and Habibuddin. We hardly see Kabiruddin in any scene of the novel. Similar is the case with Ashfaq, the nephew of Begam Jamal, who has married with the eldest daughter of Begam and Mirza Shahbaz Beg. These are the characters that perform their duty behind the scenes. Even Ahmad Wazir, the family barber of Mir Nihal, has to perform his duty at two places in the novel. Dilchain and Ghafoor do the duties of servants in zanana and mardana of Mir Nihal's house. Once Dilchain wears men's clothes (at the age of near about 60) and dances in a lewd manner on the occasion of the marriage of Asghar. But all this is done to represent the dying Indian Muslim culture.
As the society depicted in the novel is basically a male-oriented society, so we see that generally males are taking lead in all the matters of importance and generally females are lagging behind or following them. Strangely enough, if we look deeply into the matter, there are two trees growing in the middle of the courtyard of Mir Nihal's house. One is the date-palm tree. It is tall and manly. The other is the henna tree. It is small and womanly. And, as such, the "male" date palm tree has been talked about at more times and in more manners (although we never see any dates being plucked from the tree!) than the "female" henna tree has been talked about (although henna leaves are practically plucked from the tree and applied for practical utilization!).
Ahmed All also shows a complete picture of female class. Female characters like Begum Nihal, Dilchain, Babban Jan, Begum Shahbaz, Bilqeece, and Zohra—all of them are the part and parcel of this man-made community. They have their own ways of living which the outside world is unable to comprehend and they themselves are not able to understand their frustrated life. It seems that Ali has tried his level best to maintain a connection between the characters and the historical events. The events of the 14 September 1857 which are described in the Twilight of Delhi, have close relation with them. There are also many historical events which are portrayed in this novel like Mir Nihal and Begam Nihal's remembering about the pathetic conditions of British tyranny.
So if we look at Ali's art of characterization on large canvas we can say, he has used direct as well as indirect way of describing the characters. Every character, from its appearance to his way of life, is remarkably close to reality. we see that different characters of the novel Twilight in Delhi (by Ahmed Ali) advance the plot of the novel in their own peculiar manner So it can be said that Ahmed Ali has superbly portrayed the condition of Delhi and her inhabitants and his art of characterization shows his sagacity and brilliance of thought.

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