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Twilight in Delhi

1. The novel Twilight in Delhi depicts India's changing social, political, and cultural climate following colonialism. It depicts the life of a family living in the walled city during the first decade of the twentieth century. The book is divided into three parts - each describing a different period in the life of this family. Through detailed accounts of weddings, funerals, and political protests, one learns about the customs and other facets of Indian life during that time. 2. In this novel, the sounds and smells of Delhi, the flutter of pigeons' wings, the call to prayer, the scent of jasmine and frying ghee come to life. Twilight in Delhi, set between two revolutionary moments of change, depicts the changing way of life and culture. In the backdrop of Delhi, it comes alive as a memoir of times gone by and mannerism long forgotten. There is a wonderful interlacing of details and nuances spread across the story. 3. There is truly an ensemble of casts. Although the son, Asghar, plays a role larger than others, however the seasons also play as big a role as any person in the story. Often a description of the weather sets the scene for the upcoming chapter and as the chapter comes to an end, so does the day or the season. This is where the poet in Ali - the writer - can really be seen. He describes the oppressive Lu (or Loo ) that blows through Delhi, the sandstorms that rush through the city and the way the city comes alive at night as it gets cooler. His descriptions are extremely vivid - the cultural elements (in this case - the male) love early-morning sports of pigeon flying and have penchant to often quote from poetry during conversations. The set-up & lay-outs of a household, a typical Muslim marriage in the early twentieth century, classes and prostitutes, the continuous mention of anti-British feeling among the old generation and the early adoption of Western ways by the young, the long meandering by-lanes, the Hakims, the azans & the quality of voice this book reads like a ruin, movingly depicting the decay of an entire culture and way of life. 4. The main element of the novel lies not in its plot but in its culture, history and language. The story finds its way with a religious backdrop as well. With extremely religious notions (as that of the Heaven) and the very mention of the green lit sky - this is a constant mention traces its way to the Muslim culture and belief in Allah, the Almighty. With its main theme being set in a Muslim neighbourhood, it finds mention of the marriage traditions. Marriage in Islam is a civil contract. A man may have up to four wives - if he believes he can treat them equally, while a woman may have only one husband. The complex relationship between women and Islam is defined by Islamic texts, the history and culture of the Muslim world. The Quran states that both men and women are equal, but also, as in 4:34, it says that Men are the protectors and maintainers of women, because Allah has made one of them to excel the other, and because they spend from their means . Therefore, the righteous women are devoutly obedient and are to guard, in their husband's absence, what Allah orders them to guard. Although the Quran does say this, the superiority of men is interpreted in terms of strength by the context -

men maintain women. Besides, the notion of marriage in a pure blooded family is also highlighted.

5. The next 50 pages throws light on the history of Delhi, the savagery of the British at the time of 1857 War of Independence (or The Mutiny as British like to call it) and the Coronation in 1911. 6. The Coronation Honours 1911 for the British Empire were announced on 19 June 1911 to celebrate the coronation of George-V, which was held on the 22 June 1911. The recipients of honours are displayed as they were styled before their new honour, and arranged by honour, with classes (Knight, Knight Grand Cross, etc.) and then divisions (Military, Civil, etc.) as deemed appropriate. 7. The British Empire forever lingers in the backdrop of the novel, but it never threatens or displaces the focus from Mir Nihal and his family. 8. Twilight in Delhi is mere description of the daily life of the time gone by, but today it allows us to have a glimpse of life in those days. We look at those days as majestic - when everyone lead luxurious life and all they did for living was to enjoy life, while like every other time in the history of human kind, there were hardships and prejudices that people faced every day. Author paints a very balanced picture of the joys and sorrows of the people of Delhi. He described people from various walks of life, of all age groups and genders and talks about what they looked forward to and what they detested. 9. There is also an emotive description of his relationship with his mistress and his dejection after her death. There is an explanation of the whole phenomenon of men having mistresses and spending their evenings with them. The wife was supposed to carry husband s family lineage and possess good virtues of a good woman by remaining in purdah and spend her life with other women in the family zenana - an area marked for women living. Her life revolved around taking care of the house and bringing up the children. She was often ignored by the husband, who compensated her by presenting her with gifts of fine clothes and jewellery. 10. Mistress, on the other hand, provided the much needed companionship to men including intellectual stimulation - as they were well trained, if not well read, women. They knew various arts and crafts - the most important being the art of entertaining men through singing, dancing and poetry. Most of them were poetess themselves or at least they had good knowledge of the poetry and could recite well. They were not just prostitutes who merely offered the physical pleasures. Today, men look for a combination of a wife and mistress in their partners. 11. The novel Twilight in Delhi contains lengthy description of all the traditions and rituals that were being followed by a Muslim family both on daily basis and also on occasions like marriages, deaths, child births and religious festivals. Every detail of different rituals is described. For example, during Ed - starting from the period of fasting (known as Ramzaan) to the celebration of Ed - every possible detail has been provided. (Ramzaan: Ramadan is the

Islamic month of fasting, when participating Muslims refrain from eating, drinking, smoking and sex during daylight hours. This period is intended to teach Muslims about patience, spirituality, humility and submissiveness to God. Muslims fast for the sake of God and offer more prayer than usual). 12. There is a dreaded description of the Delhi heat - how everything changes (including the tempers of the people), how it impacts the pigeons, daily routines, eating habits and moods. Delhi becomes almost like a dead city during the summer months (even now). Description of the weather comes very often in the book. 13. Ahmed Ali also talks about the filth on the streets of Delhi, which is a common sight even today. 14. The author also explains an underlying love the people have for their city Delhi - a city built by their forefathers. They are proud of its culture which flourishes within the walls of this city. They are proud of their language and the influences of other languages, specially the English, worry them. 15. As and when Delhi falls to British, they attribute various factors to it - some being superstitious (like building Mohammad Shah s grave between the grave of Hazrat Nizamuddin and Amir Khusro - who was put in between the lover and his beloved). 16. Distant drums sound pleasing to the ear. Delhi looks like some enchanted place in those times, with all its crudities, violence, uneasiness and the urge for independence surging within a halo of nostalgia which not even communal strife could tarnish.