Home Book Review Twilight in Delhi, a novel of 1940

Twilight in Delhi, a novel of 1940

Twilight in Delhi, a novel of 1940

The novel ‘Twilight in Delhi’ portrays themes of colonialism, love, peace, unity, dispersion, alienation, nostalgia, and the passage of time.

Ashfaque Ali Zardari

“Twilight in Delhi” is Ahmed Ali‘s first novel, originally published in English by Hogarth Press in Britain in 1940. Later, four other editions were published, the last one in 1994. The novel is set around 1911 and 1919 in Delhi. Ahmed Ali has depicted the old picture of Delhi and highlighted the Muslim inhabitants of that era. Ahmed Ali was born on July 1, 1919, in India and died in January 1994 in Karachi. He is considered the father of Modern Pakistani Literature. He wrote many short stories, for instance, “When the Funeral Was Crossing the Bridge,” “Mahavaton ki Ek Raat,” “Angaray,” “Sholay,” and “Our Lane: Hamari Gali,” etc. Ahmed Ali was a Pakistani poet, novelist, critic, translator, and diplomat, a pioneer of modern Urdu short stories.

Twilight Delhi book“Twilight in Delhi” is fraught with historical events and memories. The leading character is Mir Nihal, a Muslim man who undergoes critical changes in his life, and his family also experiences fluctuations during this era. Mir Nihal’s son, another major character, faces issues related to his marriage. India undergoes emasculation under British rule, and King George is appointed as the newly conquered ruler, bringing the glory of Delhi to an end. The novel portrays themes of colonialism, love, peace, unity, dispersion, alienation, nostalgia, and the passage of time. Characters express ideas against British colonialism.

The story begins in a hot summer, with everyone’s breath waning due to scorching heat. In the night, Mir Nihal enters his house and sees his wife awake. She had already thought about the marriage of his son and daughter (Mehro). Mir Nihal compels his wife about Asghar’s marriage first. While they are talking, a snake disturbs them by entering, and they hear fluttering of wings. After all, the snake is killed. Having smashed it, Mir washes his hands for food, and at that time, Mir Nihal is encountered by his son. Mir is a bit short-tempered and taunts his son in a reprimanding way. Asghar does not argue with his father and listens like a statue. He goes to his room, and Mir is angry because of his lifestyle, as Asghar follows the English way of style.

Asghar’s mind is displaced and filled with thoughts and feelings for Bilqeece, a girl from a lower class. Asghar knows his father will never approve of his marriage with Bilqeece. In the difficulties of life, he sends a letter to his sister to assist him and make a shortcut for his marriage. He wants his sister to make a way for him. Finally, Asghar shares everything, stating that if he can’t succeed in his aim, he will commit suicide.

Begum Jamal succeeds in making her mother (Begum Nihal) agree. She decides to talk with her husband, who is worried about their son. When she talks to Mir, he becomes furious because he’s worried that this will defame the family’s honor. Then Asghar goes to see his mistress, Mushtari Bai, along with his friend Bari. Bari reveals Asghar’s love for Bilqeece, causing Mushtari to become jealous as she is in love with Asghar herself. After spending some time together, Asghar goes home and learns that his mother has agreed to help him marry Bilqeece.

Twilight-Delhi-Book-1994 editionBegum Waheed suggests that Asghar should go with her to Bhopal and wait for his marriage. After some time, Mir returns home to find his family suffering from heat stroke. The heat is so terrible that many of his beloved pigeons have died. He buys new ones from the market, and one of his servants gives news about her beloved mistress, Babban Jan, whom he had an illicit relationship with; now she is going to die. He immediately goes to her home; he forgot to lock the pigeon coop. He returns to find that Babban Jan has passed away just minutes prior. At home, he finds that his pigeons were killed by a stray cat. He decides it is time to skip and let the pigeons go. After skipping, he spends time focusing on his old hobby of Alchemy. This is when King George is crowned King of Britain and rules over India. Mir and his family go to the parade, but Mir has a flashback to the violent takeover of India by the British. Excusing himself, he walks home and comes across a beggar who he realizes is one of India’s former rulers. He gives the man money before walking home, reflecting on the changes in his life.

Asghar and Bilqeece get married in an elaborate, days-long ceremony, slightly spoiled by a member of Asghar’s family disgracing the bride’s family. At the end of the ceremony, Bilqeece’s family dolefully says farewell to her as she leaves to be with Asghar. The marriage has some problems from the start, with the two finding themselves awkward around each other, and Bilqeece not feeling at home around her husband’s family. She tries to adjust, seeking to please his father, but with little result. Asghar wonders if there is a true spark between them, but when they talk about getting their own home and Asghar getting a job, things improve. They move out and get their place, filling it with English items. This causes controversy with their families, but they don’t care. Soon, they have a daughter named Jehan Ara.

product-imageslarge-imagesbb-fa780dc1-e9d0-4bd6-aa03-2b3493978355-2After the death of Bilqeece’s father, she goes into depression, giving birth to conflict between Asghar and her. Soon, she comes down with tuberculosis and dies. Asghar is left to be a single father to their daughter. Bilqeece’s younger sister Zohra helps him, and eventually, they fall in love with each other. They keep their relationship secret at first, but soon Asghar talks to her parents about marrying her. They agree, but Begum Jamal denies it and says that Asghar didn’t behave very well with his late wife. Zohra’s mother refuses to accept the marriage. At the same time, Asghar’s older brother Habibuddin comes home as he suffers from an illness, and Mir is consumed with sorrow as he sees India turning into trouble at the same time his eldest son dies. After the funeral, Asghar receives a letter from Zohra, telling him she’s being married off to someone else. He leaves with a broken heart. Mir returns to his room and reflects on all the misfortune that has befallen his family and dies in his sleep.


Ashfaque Ali Zardari is student of English Literature at Benazir Bhutto University, Nawabshah Sindh



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