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Quotes from "Twilight in Delhi" by Ahmed Ali

"Delhi was once a paradise,


Such peace had abided here;
But they have ravished its name and pride,
Remain now only ruins and care."
~Bahadur Shah
"I'm the light of no one's eye,
The rest of no one's heart am I.
That which can be of use to none.
~Just a handful of dust am I.
Why should they come to visit my grave
And waste upon my dust a wreath?
Why should they light a lamp at night?
The grave of helplessness am I.
For I am not a soulful tune
Why should anyone hear it?
I'm the cry of a sticken soul,
The pain of a broken heart am I..."
"The night is dark, the waves rise mountains high,
And such a storm is raging!
What do the pedestrians know my plight moving
upon the shore that is safe and dry!"
"If her heart has now become soft it matters not;
If the strong has become weak it matters not.
Granted your red lips are the source of life,
But if they serve not the lover they matter not."
"My despair does not know
The turnings of the wheel of time;
The days turned disastrous
knows neither dusk or dawn"
~Ghalib
"I've lost religion in quite a novel way,
Throwing faith for drunken eyes away:
And all my life in piety spent I've flung
At the altar for the idol-worshiper's joy.."
"Life inflicts wounds on men, but, they become whole and hale again. Fate treat
human beings with cruelty and is unconcerned. Death takes lives, part lovers,
bereaves mothers and children, husbands and wives, and ,with callous
indifference, goes about her ravages with the hard hearted grace of a fell beloved
who prides herself on breaking both hearts and homes."
"This world is a house of many mirrors. Wherever you turn, you see your own images in
the glass. They multiply and become innumerable until you begin to feel frightened of
your own self."
"For if it were not for Hope, men would commit suicide by the scores, and the
world would remain a barren desert in which no oasis exists. On this torturous
road of life, man goes on hoping that he next turn of the road will bring him in
sight of the goal. Thus from turn to turn...he keeps on hoping."
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"Great are the ravages of Time, and no one can do anything against its indomitable
might. Kings die and dynasties fall. Centuries and aeons pass. But never a smile lights
up the inscrutable face of Time. Life goes on with a heartless continuity, trampling ideals
and worlds under its ruthless feet, always in search for the new, destroying, building and
demolishing once again with a meaningless petulance of a child who builds a house of
sand only to raze it to the ground..."
"In the world there is love and beauty,
But there is only blame for me:
Along with the rivers I weep and cry,
The deserts are dreary dead and dry."
~MIR TAQI MIR

Style in "Twilight in Delhi" by Ahmed Ali


Twilight in Delhi provides a real and accurate portrait of the static and decaying tradition
of culture of Delhi while the British arranged the coronation Durbar of 1911 and draw up
plans for new imperial city, new Delhi, the novel has planned at reveal interconnecting
levels and has been praised for its lucid style, its use of symbolism and the manner in
which it merges the life of its main protagonist, Mir Nihal with that of the family. Much
attention has also been parcel to this feeling that it had universal appeal because it
focuses on the rhythms life birth marriage deaths, which are intrinsic to every culture.
Use of metaphor:
Twilight in Delhi maces extensive use of metaphor, it begins with the description of the
city,
Night envelops the city, covering it like a blanket_ in the dim straight roofs and
wrapped in a rustle slumber breathing heavily as the heat become apprentice or
shoots through the body like pain. In the by came on the road men sleep on bare
bed, half naked tired of for the sore days capture A few still walk on the other wise
deserted roads, hand in hand, talking and some have jasmine garlands in their
herds, the smell from the flower escapes scents a from yards of air around by
them and alias smothered by the heat dogs so about sniffing the gutter in search
of offal.
The linguistic deviation does, it may be concluded, present the ethos of the culture the
novel purports to portray. If this is the idiom which African and Indian ( I mean sub_
continental here ) writers want to evolve something not as bizarre as the language of
Amos Tutola nor as British as the idiom of V.S. NaipaulAhmed Ali has given them a
model of what may be achieved.
Ethos of Indian Muslims
Another way in which the ethos of Indian Muslims has been conveyed is by making the
characters quote poetry. As Coppola points out:

It is a custom of long standing among Urdu _ speakers to quote lines of poetry


copiously, appropriately, and energetically in order to emphasize, to make a point
in conversation, or to add elegance to speech and writing.
Use of couplet:
Thus it would be nave to look for existential despair in Asghers reply to his friend Baris
question as to where he has been. He replies by quoting someone elses couplet which
does not represent his real feelings but is merely an elegant way of replying to any
query:
Life has become a burden, the time is ripe for death.
The space of existence has shrunk into a narrow cell (P.28)
The couplet is merely used for ornamentation and factitious dramatization of
commonplace disappointment in love. The function of poetry was mostly rhetorical in
Urdu speaking culture and that is how been used by the characters. The couplets are.
Therefore, clichs which substitute a hackneyed formula for an intellectual response to
a given experience. But of course, the couplets prefacing chapters are intellectually
relevant and emotionally evocative.
Most of the couplets used by narrator express the ethos of the Urdu-speaking middle
class. And this class had a distinct world view. A world view which was essentially
romantic in eighteen nineties . Three qualities can be discerned in this special world
view: nostalgia, sublimation of sexual feelings into vague aestheticism, and world
weariness. A pose of wistfulness, ennui and jadedness complement these three
dominant qualities. And all these are found in most of the verses quoted. For instance:
I m the light of no mans eye,
The rest of no ones heart am I.
That which can be of use to none
Just a handful of dust am I.
These kinds of couplets the theme of regret for a dying culture directly. The self pity in
the poetry is, of course, a reflection of the self pity which was a part of the Indian ethos
before the partition. Ahmed Alis novel has been able to catch this aspect of Indian
culture faithfully.
False sense of diffidence
One aspect of the male-dominated Urdu speaking culture which has not been revealed
out of a false sense of modesty by most other writers, but which has been revealed by
Ali, concerns the sexual emotion. As I have mentioned above, sex was suppressed or
sublimated. But, mainly because women were in purdah (behind the veil), it took
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unusual forms. It took, for instance, the form of celebrating the beauty of boys rather
than that of women in poetry. Thus the sown on the face (khat) became a conventional
attribute of the beloved. One reason for doing this was that in Iran, where the ghazal
had its genesis; boys did actually become the beloveds of certain poet. The other
reason was that when Persian mystic poets started writing love poetry symbolizing the
souls quest for merging with the Soul of God, the symbol they chose for the beloved
was that of a beautiful youth rather than a woman. On the other hand the Indian
mystics, Muslims and Hindus, represented God as the lover and the soul as the woman
who desires union. As Urdu poetry followed Persian fashions the beloved was
addressed by the male pronoun and had some of the physical attributes of adolescent
boys (such as khat) though it was often clear otherwise that a woman was being
referred to. This literary fashion, and perhaps the absence of women, led to talk
between men becoming full of homosexual innuendoes. Ali, with relentless honesty, tells
us about this aspect of Muslim culture.
He tells us, for example, that when Asghar lives in Bhopal as an adolescent youth, he
was the beloved of men:
He had just to cast a glance and there were many who would have given their lives to
do his bidding. At the least sign from him they would have done anything. Then he was
the bestower of favours; there he was the loved one and not the lover. To be loved is
sweet, he thought, whereas to love is full of sorrow and grief and pain (TD, 23).
We are also told that a man called Huzoor Ali was devoted to him (p.23) and if Asghar
had happened to look at him kindly even one there had appeared such joy on his face
(p. 23). When Huzoor Ali invites Asghar or dinner and Asghar refused and refused until
the old man was brokenhearted (p.24) the lover recites these lines:
Would to God that You
Might also fall in love and suffer
As I am suffering now.
This special kind of homosexuality in which the youth or boy is sought as a female
surrogate by the male is also a feature of Greek, Persian and some Arab literature. To
distinguish it from the adult peer-group homosexuality common in modern Western
literature I have suggested elsewhere that is should be called pedophilia. It is this which
was a part of Indian Muslim culture and is not hypocritically dissembled in Twilight.
At its noblest the love between man and youth is described as a mystic or sacred
emotion. Kambal Shah, the mystic, tells Mir Nihal and his friends that the real cause of
the downfall of the Mughal Empire was that they had separated lover and beloved from
each other by burying Mohammad Shah between the graves of Hazrat Mahboob Elahi
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and Hazrat Amir Khusro (TD, 146). The audience listens to this with religious emotion
because the two saints mentioned are revered by all. At its most vulgar, of course, the
nature of the emotion is purely sensual. In Our Lane, for instance, Munno tells Aziz:
I had a cousin. The boy was rather handsome. It was about ten years ago. I sort of
fell out with him over a kiss (PH, 21).
This is said seriously but most allusions to sexual feelings of this kind are
fictitious. Sometimes there is open buffoonery:
As he [an old man] crossed Asghar, his stick unwittingly touched the old mans
behind. As once he turned round and remarked:
I say, moon-bridegroom, even with an old man? .
A eunuch who sat on the balcony just above in the hope of some stray customer,
clapped loudly in a vulgar way and gave a loud guffaw (p.79).
And sometimes the humour is more refined but, in fact behind the humour there
is sexual flirtation as in the following scene:
And the lovers found the opportunity of their lives. A middle aged man quoted
these lines of an young man with arms open for an embrace,
It is the day of Eid, my dear,
Ah come, let me embrace thee.
It is the custom and besides
Theres time and opportunity
What is even more remarkable is that the narrator offers no comment on these scenes.
That makes Ahmed Ali one of the few Indian writers who could reveal such tabooed
areas of Indian life without either falsifying reality or preaching as Muslim. However,
unfortunately, Ali does offer platitudinous comments of a moralistic kind at some places
and this flaw of his work must not go unnoticed.
Realism
To continue with the discussion of the quality of Alis realism in Twilight, it has been
noted that he present the corporate life through the minor characters who help to create
the illusion that one is in India, the land of the crowded houses in which something is
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always going on. As Niven says, the novel is full of servants, beggars and craftsmen. In
fact no other novel catches the nuances of the Muslims culture in Delhi as convincingly
as twilight. One can find out all about the details which make a culture come alive in
Alis descriptions. And the descriptions are not as if they were a part of a documentary,
they from an organic whole and are, therefore, artistically successful whereas those of
Scented Dust were intrusions. In this respect Twilight represents an aspect of Indian
culture as successfully as Chinua Achebes Novel Things Fall Apart represents African
culture, a point made by Anniah Gowda in as article.
Realistic portrayal of culture and traditions
The novel evokes the culture of Delhi through describing customs and ceremonies
minutely and says Brander the fine wedding chapter reads like an epithalamium in
which verse and prose alternate in wonderfully refreshing bridal music. Even the
beggars are described and their songs and mannerisms make them concrete presences
and not allude to the superstitions of the time he does so in a manner which reveals his
own beliefs. For instance, Kambal Shah, a Faqir who visits Mir Nihal, is described as
follows:
He was said to be high up in the mystical order although no one knew his hidden
spiritual powers, for such faqirs never reveal themselves to human beings .
The italicized line seems to suggest that the narrator shares in the belief or Mir Nihal
and his friends. Since there is no indication that the author was deliberately
distinguishing himself from the narrator in this instance, one may assume that Ali to
believes in this. On the other hand Mir Nihal also believes that mercury can be
converted into silver but here he narrator shows his own skepticism by correcting Mir
Nihal credulity when he says: Yet no one really did it. Still Mir Nihal believed in its truth
and went on hoping against hope (p.128). this suggests that the narrator, and by
implication the author, had shed off some of the beliefs and ways of looking at life of the
Muslim gentlemen of U.P but not all: a conclusion which will help us to understands the
theme of the novel.