Ahmed Ali observers human nature quite minutely and then presents the true human psyche in his lifelong characters. His novel Twilight in Delhi expresses his pain, remorse, and disappointment on the destruction of the old order of life with all its notable values and norms and their replacement with the changing trends of society. He laments at the loss of old traditions, customs, manners and modes of behaviour in his novel. Through Twilight in Delhi Ali has been successful in bringing West and East on one page. He has created a relationship between two poles apart cultures and brought intellectual and artistic harmony in their ranks. From the very outset, the mood of the novel is clearly established by the novelist. “Night envelops the city, covering it like a blanket. In the dim starlight roofs and houses and by-lanes lie asleep, wrapped in a restless slumber, breathing heavily as the heat becomes oppressive or shoots through the body like pain…” The opening line is evident enough to reveal that twilight has prevailed already in the lives of the Delhiets and the novelist is going to bring that twilight in the lime-light by focusing the central character of Mir Nihal, his lifestyle, his ideology, his innermost thoughts, and his approach towards life and towards other people.
Mir Nihal, a Symbol of the Destruction of Old order
Ahmad Ali presents the character of Mir Nihal as a symbol. His character is symbolic of the destruction of old order of life in Delhi. The death of Babban Jan leaves a deep impact on his psyche consequently he also left his most favorite hobby of flying pigeons in complete dejection and afterward Asghar’s marriage against his wishes, shatters him completely. All these changes in his life forced him to withdraw from the world to find escape in alchemy and mysticism. In the end, he fell paralyzed and became physically and mentally crippled. He saw people suffering around him and he suffered more pain than the others.
Mir Nihal Symbolizes Strict Old Generation
As Mir Nihal stands for the old order of life which is not ready to give way to the changing conditions of time and eventually becomes crippled to keep pace with the time. He suffered defeat at the hands of the new order of life in the form of the character of Asghar. Mir Nihal symbolizes the rigidity and stubbornness of the old generation. They remain to stick to their old values and traditions which brought them the final catastrophe at all levels. Asghar is a representative of the new generation who wants to change himself according to the exigencies of time.
Mir Nihal, a Symbol of the Balance and Harmony
Mir Nihal is a representative of the balance and harmony of that society. But when this balance became responsible to create monotony and obstinacy in the society, it came to an end in the face of changing traditions of the time, being presented by the character of Asghar. He remains undefeated till the end of the novel which becomes a proof of hybridity in that society that things are still ambiguous but they might be sorted out in times to come. Despite the fact that Mir Nihal became paralyzed, at the end of the novel his advice to his grandson to struggle to win freedom shows that the writer wants us to have faith in the future when we will be able to carve out a new way of life, a new harmony at all levels.
Clash of Opinion
Asghar’s decision to get married in a different caste and Mir Nihal’s unwillingness to this proposal shows a clash of opinion between the old generation and the new generation. This also shows that it has been a caste-ridden society since ages till our times. Bilqeece becomes the target of insulting remarks when she wears English shoes. Small incidents like these reflect the resentment that is brewing in the hearts of many people at the colonial intrusion into their everyday lives.
Asghar, a Representative of British Culture
Ahmad Ali has presented Asghar as a foil to his father Mir Nihal. Asghar has adopted western ways of life. He wears western-style clothes and shoes. He also decorates his house in western style. Asgher symbolically represents the whole trading Muslim are the generation who desperately wanted something near because they in a hodge-podge of Indian and British culture. The disillusionment and not being able to foresee the coming circumstances and also show an uncertain attitude on his part because he hadn’t the courage to make a change. In this way, Asghar becomes a new modern man who not only chooses his own bride but also later opts for a nuclear family.
Mir Nihal,s family, a symbol of Middle-Class Muslim Community
Mir Nihal’s family is an embodiment and an avid picture of the Indian Muslim, who had spent the same type of lining for many centuries. Their skeptic approach, religious atmosphere belief in custom and traditions and superstitious thinking all can be packed by Ahmed Ali in one family Death of Mir Nihal’s pigeons. The death of Mir Nihal’s Pigeons is highly symbolic. That was a turning point in Mir Nihal’s life. A healthy tall and handsome person turned into the weakest person. The whole episode symbolically foretells the defeat of a certain traditional way of life; the life that showed the static side of Muslims. The habit of keeping pigeons was old nobody thought about at this time so Mir Nihal had to adopt the change but he didn’t comprehend the reality or the modern standards.
Mir Nihal, a Representation of Author’s own Nostalgia
The author’s own nostalgia for the old phase of life is seen in the representation of the character of Mir Nihal. The reader is given a glimpse of his existential dilemmas, his musings on the impermanence of the world, or the callous indifference of death, or how life goes on despite death and one’s personal grief. But Mir Nihal himself is not free from human frailties – there is a hint that he has fathered a child by the maid Dilchain, an incident, which affects the mental stability of his wife. The narrator mocks at Mir Nihal’s insistence on family honor by showing him, immediately after his outburst, to be thrown some fuel dust carried by a donkey and Ghaffoor’s parrot breaking into a peal of laughter.
Mir Nihal,s Paralysis and Death of his Pigeons
Mir Nihal’s loss of his youth and health mirrors the predicament of Delhi itself. Bedridden with paralysis, he lives in a “constant twilight of velleities and regrets, watching the young die one by one and gain their liberty from the sorrows of the world”. The devouring of his pigeons by the cat not only puts an end to his favorite hobby but can also be taken as a symbol for the intrusion of colonial forces into the heart of India. But though Mir Nihal is sensitive to all this, his daily life is unaffected either by British rules and policies or by nationalist struggles for freedom.
Begum Nihal’s Blindness.
Begum Nihal’s Blindness also shows her lack of comprehension in maintaining or in making proper decisions. Her Blindness also shows the Blindness of that age’s women who can’t able to manage the matters. Her blindness is also a symbol of the inefficiency of elderly Muslim women who, in by gone days were considered to the good household managers. Her blindness, as a whole, is an indicator of a sort of disorder in family matters.
Mehru, a Representative of the Women of Time
The situation in the novel definitely brings before us the mental sufferings of the women of that time. The women did not have a say in their marriage decisions and mostly, these decisions were made by keeping in mind the social tradition and the norm, not the will and the wish of the women. The consequences were great and the women continued to suffer by making compromise after compromise. Mehru of ‘Twilight in Delhi’ is the best symbol, representing the women of that time. She demonstrates how silently the women would obey the decision made by their males, especially when they were not consulted at all.
To sum up, Ahmad Ali has tried his utmost to present the true colors of the socio-cultural life of Delhi. He has proved himself marvelous to depict the material and non-material aspects of the culture of Delhi in Twilight in Delhi. He has left no stone unturned to show the world that how rich this soil has been in all spheres of life and also the damage which has been caused to her at all levels by the domestic as well as foreign rulers. The writer has shown his deep sense of pride for all those values and cultural norms of Delhi which have been asset of her past glory and remained travelling from generation to generation in face of threatening debasement of the society. Twilight in Delhi has proved a significant contribution to English fiction written by non-natives