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Twilight in Dehli as a Social Realist Text

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Social Realist Text

Social realism in literature brings out the visible rather than the invisible aspect of the society by exploring and portraying its norms, ideologies, customs and social structure, which is known to the inhabitants of that society, and shows to the world how that society or people in that society conduct themselves and it also demonstrates how culture gradually changes because of political or economic influences. Moreover, social realist text is not only written for the purpose of representing the realities of the society or its change but sometimes writer brings those aspects of the society to the peoples’ attention which they hypocritically overlook and conceal and in this way a social realist text challenges the stereotypical norms related to any culture and attempts to reform the society as well.

‘Twilight in Dehli’ as a social Realist Text

Ahmed Ali in his novel describes the physical and psychological turmoil of the Muslims and their loss of culture during colonialism and how in this era their lives were full of conflict as old generation wanted to stick with his traditional ethos while new brown English man were more inclined towards the western ways and culture. Writer first generally introduces the atmosphere of the Dehli and the hustle and bustle of its streets afterwards he moves towards the exploration of the life of Mir Nihal’s family, the middle class Muslims living in Dehli during colonialism. As a social realist novel it depicts the accurate life style and ethos of the Muslims of colonized India, specifically in Dehli where Muslims had been the rulers before but at that time were living as a colonized people.

Social Realities of the Muslims of the Colonized India

Following are the ways through which author explores the social realities of that time:

1: Description of the setting\ physical and social environment of that time: Novel starts with the picture of night in Dehli and describes the unique way Muslims of India used to sleep during hot summer: “In the courtyards, on the roofs, in the by-lanes, on the roads, men sleep on bare beds, half naked”. The description of the Mir Nihal’s house also indicates the typical household of middle class Muslim families: The words like “veranda” and “kotha” give this home a unique cultural identity. It is a Muslim home so it has palm trees and henna trees in its inner courtyard. “Dim light of a kerosene lantern” in the house Suggest that novel is set in the contemporary time of the author. The depiction of weather and people in the streets give a melancholic sense to the overall atmosphere: such as “wind began to blow, kites shrilly cried, Drowsiness came upon every living thing, desolate trees”, mad woman, a sad looking “oldish man in the crowd”.

2: Characters’ activities\ behavior, physical appearances: To represent the ethos of the Muslims Ali thoroughly examined and described the behavior and attitude of the characters. Physical appearance of Mir Nihal is described as well built, “wearing a white muslin coat reaching down to the knees, and an embroidered round cap is put at a rakish angle on his bobbed head”. This physical description along with his interest in pigeon flying and the way he eats his food “on the wooden couch” while sitting on his haunches, not cross legged” indicate that he is a traditionalist, masculine man who likes to stand by his values and loathed colonial rule as he says to Asghar: “You are again wearing those dirty English boots!... I will have no aping of the Farangis in my house”. Meanwhile Asghar’s character depicts the new generation of that time, a brown English man who lacks virility of his old generation and is wavering between east and west, this is very evident from his physical appearance as well: “His hair well-oiled” and he wears “red Turkish cap”, “sherwani” along with “jasmine garland” this depicts his eastern self. While “the English shirt that he is wearing under it” depicts his inclination towards west. “He looks an aesthete, and has a somewhat effeminate (feminine) grace about him”. Begam Nihal’s paan eating, Mir Nihal pigeon flying and the way Asghar’s sister in law was threading jasmine flowers into a garland shows the daily activities or interests of the people of that time. The character of Bari, “a charm tied round his bicep” and his passion to kite flying and his suggestion to Asghar to buy a charm indicates the exclusivity of the people of the sub-continent.

3: language style of the Muslims of sub-continent: He adds the literal or exact translation of the Urdu phrases in his novel. These Urdu phrases were used specifically by the Muslims of that time for example the start of the conversation with typical exclamation: “Hai, hai”, the way beggars in the street ask for money is the specific manner which only happens in sub-continent: “Give in the name of God, mother, and may thy children live long” and “Dhum! Qalandar, God will”. Asghar when laments about his problems says “only sorrow written in their kismet.” And when Begum Nihal says: “will he bring a fairy from the Caucasus”? “She is not one-eyed. Is she?” These expressions are characteristically used in the sub-continent and author literally translated these expressions purposefully because Ali says that he wrote this novel in English to represent the true picture of sub-continent to the whole world or specifically to the west.

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4: Customs, ethics and fixed gender roles: The cultural representation is done by showing how at that time marriages used to happen and it was usually about the decision of the parents rather than the one who was marrying. For example, Mehro is engaged to a man she has never seen in her life nonetheless she is happy when she thinks about her fiancé. It shows that marrying without knowing your future spouse was the norm of that time. Morning Azan, “calling the faithful to prayer, calling them to leave their beds and arise”, indicates the ways Muslims starts their morning. Asghar fall for Bilqeece just because of her one fleeting glance, this indicates at that time men and women were not allowed to interact with each other specially the youth. Asghar is worried that because she belongs to the Mughal family, his family will never accept her. His friend tells him that for the girl’s family his proposal will be an owner. This scenario depicts the culture of sub-continent where at that time inter caste marriages were taboos and so do considering the wish of a girl as here Asghar is not worried about Bilqeece rejection. Begam Waheed, a young widowed depicts the gender stereotypes of that time which dictate that for a woman staying single after her husband’s death was a remarkable deed which implies that the woman who used to consider second marriage was not honorable because of not sacrificing her womanhood for motherhood. When it comes to the depiction of fixed gender roles of that time Ali has not only described but also criticized the hypocrisy of that culture where women had to spend their whole life inside four walls but men could have extramarital affairs as well.

To sum up, this work mirrors the society of that time and shows the challenges of the Muslims with regard to colonialism and cultural decay and it depicts their hypocritical behavior in terms of social and religious life. It also depicts the lives of women of that time and shows how they were subjugated in the patriarchal society.

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