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An Analysis of Social Realism in Ahmad Alis

Twilight in Delhi (1940)

M. Phil Thesis

Syed Hanif Rasool

Master of Philosophy

Department of English
Qurtuba University of Science and Information Technology
Peshawar (Pakistan)


Supervisors Certificate

This is to certify that the work in this thesis titled, An Analysis of Social Realism in
Ahmad Alis Twilight in Delhi (1940) has been carried out in my supervision by
Syed Hanif Rasool for submission in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the
award of the degree of Master of Philosophy in English Literature.

April 18, 2013

Dr. Muhammad Ibrahim Khattak



Qurtuba University of Science and Information Technology,

April 18, 2013







Committee of Final Examination:

External Examiner:

External Examiner:


I dedicate my thesis to Maulana Abul Kalam Azad (1888-1958), a scholar par excellence,
visionary statesman, master of the literati, and above all a personification of noble ideals of
the subcontinent during the twilight in the post 1857 Delhi.


When I started my study on Twilight in Delhi, I discovered the creative writings on
Delhi as interesting field of literary investigation. As I neared towards completion of the
thesis, my interest in and fascination with the histories and actualities of the city of Delhi
increased many times. This venture had never been possible for me without the guidance,
support, encouragements, and inspiration of the following:
First of all, I would like to thank my teacher and supervisor Prof. Dr. Muhammad
Ibrahim Khattak, Vice Chancellor, Khushal Khan Khattak University, Karak, Khyber
Pakhtunkhwa, for his whole-hearted encouragement, scholarly support, and his remarkable
contribution to my knowledge, learning, and research skills.
I would like to thank my intellectual guide, internationally renowned scholar and
writer in the history, politics, and literature of the subcontinent: Dr. Abu Salman Shahjahan
Puri (my co-supervisor) for his constant motivation and inspiration.
I would always remember the concern and support of Prof. Dr. Muhammad Kamran,
University of the Punjab, Lahore whose valuable research on Prof. Ahmad Ali and his
creative works was of great help to my thesis.
I would also like to thank my teachers Prof. Dr. Muhammad Saleem, Dean Faculty of
Social Sciences, Qurtuba University Peshawar, Prof. Dr. Abdus Salam Khalis, Dean Faculty of
Social Sciences, Islamia College University Peshawar, and Prof. Dr. Qadir Bakhsh Baluch,
Head Department of Management Sciences and Deputy Treasurer Islamia College University
Peshawar for their encouragement.
Finally, long live the inspiring and thought provoking companionship of my friend
Jahangir Khan.


Table of Contents




Table of Contents







Structure and Objectives of the Study


Statement of the Problem


Nature and Scope of the Study


Significance of the Study

Literature Review


Delhi: The Centre of Indo-Muslim Culture


The Fall of Delhi in 1857


Social Realism and Indian English Literature


Emergence of All India Progressive Writers


Movement and Social Realism


Professor Ahmad Ali (1910 1994) and the Indian

Literary Scenario


Social Realism in Twilight in Delhi



Delhi and Its People in the Mirror of Twilight in Delhi


Twilight: A Realistic Study of the Post-1857 Delhis Muslim Society


Twilight: A Realistic Study of Delhis Social Reaction to the British


Imperialism during the First Two Decades of the Twentieth Century




Work Cited





Ahmad Alis Twilight in Delhi is one of the first English novels about Delhi written by a
Muslim author. It was first published in 1940 in London. Retrospecting the post-1857
massacres of Indians by Imperialist British, Twilight vividly portrays facets of Delhis life
experienced during the first two decades of the twentieth century. The subject of this study
is how realistically Ali takes Delhi for a theme and mirrors the crumbling and devastating
city, its withering ways of life, its fading Muslim culture, and its social reaction to the British
Empire. The study focuses on the argument of social realism in the novel. The mode of social
realism in the fiction from the subcontinent emerged out of All India Progressive Writers
Movement (1930s) of which Ali was an intellectual and creative component. This movement
revolutionized the entire mood of both Urdu and English literatures produced in the
subcontinent. The social, political and economic aspects of life emerged as popular themes
in the literature of that time. Ali was well aware of such concerns. Twilight in Delhi brings the
environment, actualities, jollities, niceties, beauties, festivities, rituals, and social behaviour
of the people of Delhi. The motif is Mir Nihal who claims such values, the entire whole of
which is called Delhi The study deals with main argument from three perspectives:. First,
the research explores that in Twilight the city of Delhi emerges as a protagonist of the novel
beside its main character, Mir Nihal and his household, and highlights the peculiarities of
both the city and her people. Second, the research has found the novels realistic account of
Delhis overwhelming Muslim culture which had already been fading away. Third, the study
explores the novels realistic depiction of Delhis growing social reaction against the British
rule in the subcontinent during the first two decades of the twentieth century. Besides its
literary value, the study has cultural and social significance, and it aims at contributing to the
growing field of academic studies focusing on South Asian history, culture, and politics.


Chapter- 01
1.1. Structure and Objectives of the Study
Ahmad Alis Twilight in Delhi is one of the first English novels about Delhi. It
was first published in 1940 in London. Twilight in Delhi is an attempt by an Indian
Muslim writer to look realistically into the life and culture of the people of Delhi
during the first two decades of the twentieth century. The novel calls for truth above
all things. It stands on reality which is more meaningful, interesting, and appealing to
the modern readers. Ali takes Delhi for a theme. Alis depiction of the Delhi of the
first two decades of the twentieth century has changed, as he says, beyond nostalgia
and recognition. Nevertheless the novel mirrors the fading social aspects of the life,
culture and people of the post 1857 Delhi (Ali x).
After 1857 the city of Delhi and its people witnessed hard times. Among the
other communities, the Muslims were singled for punishment by the British. They felt
politically vulnerable but were concerned for their existence and identity. Twilight
in Delhi is a story of the pain and anguish of such difficult times (Ahmad 14-15).
Realism as a literary influence in the Indian English literature came from the
West but romanticism was a local Indo-Persian literary trend. However, the
progressive writers of the subcontinent preferred European realism over Indian
romanantism. Twilight in Delhi is an account of the fading Indo-Muslim culture and
the city of Delhi that used to be one of the greatest centres of Muslim civilization in
India. The story of the novel is a lamenting tale of the lost treasures of Delhi. It
interlinks the events of the 1857 War of Independence to the life and times of a

nobleman, Mir Nihal, right up to 1919, after World War I. Thus, it brings out parallels
between the private life of a family and the public life of a nation. The novel brings
the themes of both domestic and social life in a realistic manner.

1.2. Statement of the Problem

This study aims at a broad analysis of some realistic aspects of Twilight in
Delhi by taking into consideration the city and the people of Delhi, its withering
Muslim culture, and its reaction against the British Raj during the first two decades
of the twentieth century. The research explores its argument through the following
1. To analyze the novel as a broad realistic portrayal of Delhi and its people.
2. To analyze the novel as a realistic study of the post-1857 Delhis
Muslim society.
3. To analyze the novels representation of ant-imperialist, noncommunalist, nostalgic and modernist trends prevailing in Delhi during
the early twenties of the 20th century.

1.3. Nature and Scope of the Study

This is a qualitative research that analyses the text in the light of mode of
social realism incorporated in the novel. The study starts by giving an introduction to
the background of the novel and its author. Then, the research discusses the
significant impact of Muslims on the culture and society of Delhi. Next, the study
discusses the importance of Delhi as the centre of the Indo-Muslim civilization in

India. In addition, the study points out the 1857 War as a watershed event in the life
and culture of the Muslims of Delhi. Furthermore, the study evaluates the impact of
Progressive Writers Movement on the creative works of Ahmad Ali and vice versa. It
is from this point that the study discusses the emergence of the Progressive Writers
Movement and her adoption of social realism as a dominant mode of writing in India.
The study is post-colonial in nature. It is with this theoretical framework and the
above mentioned background elements that set the stage for the main argument of this
research. From this point further the study analyses the contents of the novel in three
sections. Each section addresses one of the main research questions.
The primary source of the research is text of the novel. Also, criticism and
research on the novel, and the contemporary literature depicting the history, culture,
and politics of the post 1857 War Delhi are used to explore the argument. There is a
dearth of research works on this novel. Still whatever creative research on the novel is
available in books, journals, anthologies and in Urdu literature are be explored. Works
and views of writers on both the novel and author, like E. M. Forster, Carlo Coppolo,
Edwin Muir, Maurice Collins, David Anderson, Brander, Bonamy Dobree, William
Dalrymple, Khademul Islam, Tariq Rehman, Muhammad Hassan Askari, Jamil Jalabi,
Kamran, and Iqbal on both the novel and the author are incorporated in the research.

1.4. Significance of the Study

Twilight in Delhi set the foundation of modern English novel in subcontinent.
Despite a creative work of literary significance, the novel has largely been neglected
by the Pakistani critics of English literature. The study is significant for the following
1. Criticism of works by progressive writers has been largely ignored in Pakistan.


Nationalist writers of subcontinent during the first half of the 20th century
have been overlooked by Pakistani critics.

3. The novel has a great relevance with the questions of Muslim politics, culture,
and society in the subcontinent.
4. Literature is a reflection of the society in which it is produced. Twilight is the
reflection of the Delhi of the early twenties and it has to be explored as a
realistic portrait of the then Delhi.
5. The fact that English is an international language calls for research on the
works of the English writers of the subcontinent.
6. The novel has been on the syllabi of several South Asian universities. It is
important to mention that it has been on the syllabus of M.A. English at the
University of the Punjab, Lahore.



Chapter 02
2.1. Delhi: The Centre of Indo Muslim Culture
Muslims left indelible imprints on the culture and civilization of India. During
their long history spread over centuries, both the Muslim rulers and common folks
gave India a new civilization. It was a blend of Vedic and Buddhist cultures with Arab
and Central Asian values. During the medieval period of Indian history, the process
of reconciliation and amalgamation started with the establishment of the Sultanate of
Delhi (Turks and Afghans) and reached its zenith during the Mughal era.
This unification gave birth to new models of taste in art, literature, language
and society. Muslim transformed, and were transformed by, India. India generously
opened her treasures to the Muslims who in turn gave her what she needed most:
democratic norms and equality (Azad 101). They gave India a unique cultural and
political unity. It was predominantly the religious thoughts, political system, and
Muslim Sufism that changed the ancient Indian culture into a vibrant Indo- Muslim
The qualitative effect of this process was unity and continuity of the ancient
social and cultural life painted anew. Kabir refers to this unification as Medieval
Reconciliation, elaborating that the Indian culture is the result of a unique process of
continuity, synthesis and enrichment.

In the early periods of Indian history the

reconciliation of many opposite strands was slow. With the advent of Islam in India
the process was intensified a great deal.

The conflicts during medieval India,

however, were due to struggles for political power and supremacy. We hardly find

any trace of conflicts based entirely on religion (37-65).
Delhi epitomized the splendid Muslim culture spreading over the immense
expanse of the subcontinent. It was the capital of an empire whose demographic
composition posed challenges and offered opportunities on a global scale. Delhi was
the nucleus and soul of the Medieval India. It was truly cosmopolitan both in tastes
and manners. Delhi, like a civilized human being, wore a civilized and cultured
temperament. Politeness, tolerance, mannerism, courtesy, sociability, and amiability
prevailed among its diverse populace. It was indeed the jewel of medieval India. The
very name stood as a great cultural metaphor among the Muslims of South Asia. At
that time the citys fame surpassed even that of Baghdad, Cairo, Samarqand and

It was lovingly called Hazrat e Dehli, meaning Delhi the Noble

(Zameer 9-10).
Ibn-e-Battuta, a great Arab scholar and traveler of the fourteenth century,
remembered Delhi as a vast and magnificent city, uniting beauty with
strengthsurrounded by a wall that has no equal in the world, and is the largest city
in India, nay rather the largest city in the entire Muslim Orient ( Singh 10).
The wealth and culture of Delhi was at its zenith during the Shah Jahan era,
probably the wealthiest man in the world of his time. He erected a new city at
Delhi; Shahjahanabad that took nine years to complete and cost 6.5 million rupees
(Singh 26). Samsam-ud-Daula, the eighteenth century historian in The Building of
Shahjehanabad quoted that one of Amir Khusros prophetic sayings that he long ago
had composed in praise of Delhi, was fulfilled: Verily if there is a Paradise on earth,
/ it is this, it is this, it is this (Singh 29).
The last phase of the Mughals was twilight in Delhi in the true sense of the

word. The city had turned into a passage to tragic events one after the other. Nadir
Shah and Ahmad Shah on one hand and Marahattas and Jaats on the other hand ruined
the grandeur of Delhi. Meer Taqi Meer, a great Urdu poet, lived in Delhi in the mideighteenth century, lamented on the fall of Delhi: There once was a fair city, among
cities of the world the first in fame; it hath been ruined and laid desolate, to that city I
belong, [and] Delhi is its name (Singh 56).

2.2. The Fall of Delhi in 1857

After the death of Aurangzeb in 1707, the Muslim rule in India began to derail
and finally it went off the tracks in the aftermath of the Sepoy Revolt in 1857. Of all
the other cities of Mughal India, Delhi, then still the symbolic centre of the IndoPersian Muslim culture and power, got the worst share of the English animosity.
Ghalib, one of the greatest Urdu poets of the nineteenth-century Delhi, was also a
witness to the fall of Delhi at the hands of the British. He saw them overrun the city in
all directions. He saw them cut and kill all whoever they found in the streets. He
found that every road in the entire city was a battlefield and the British slaughtered
the helpless and burnt their houses. They took every territory by force of arms. He
lamented at the pains, sufferings, and agonies of the people of Delhi:
At the naked spectacle of this vengeful wrath and malevolent hatred, the
colour fled from mens faces, and a vast concourse of men and women, . . took
to flight through the gates [of the city] . . .My lamenting pen, while the tears
fall from my eyelashes to mingle with the word of blood I write ( 57-58).
Thus, the Mughal Delhi was wiped out, while its culture lay out beyond the
confines of the ancient walled city and New Delhi of the British Raj with its wide
boulevards and European army uniforms, symbolic of a new order was replacing the

Delhis dominant Muslim character began to transform after the War of 1857.
Defeat of the last Mughal ruler at the hands of the British precipitated the process of
change. This British impact was alien to a great extent. The Mughals had established
balance, stability, unity and order in almost every walk of life. During their rule the
social and cultural aspects of Muslim civilization dominated in the prevailing
society. The introduction of this new element was a threat to the established Muslim
culture. The British impact was very different from all other previous cultural
interactions. The British deliberately alienated themselves from the native Indians
and clung to their own European lifestyle. Consequently the Indians as a nation could
not reconcile themselves with the British way of life for quite long after the 1857.
This absence of relation was itself a kind of relation (Kabir 78-86).
The West burst in with its growing capitalism and the development of a complex
social consciousness. Thus far-reaching changes in Indian modes of life were
inevitable. Many of these changes could be called as threats and challenges to the
established social and cultural values of Muslim society in India. The social,
economical, political and cultural institutions and values of the medieval Muslim
society were crumbling. India was literally in a melting pot. Everything from the
material conditions of life to the buttresses of tradition and faith was fading away.
The loss of Delhi was irreversible. Delhi had been devastated many a time but none
of those earlier looting and plundering was as deadly as the present one. The wound
inflicted this time went deep down to the soul of the city and its scars would be
visible for a long time to come. The face of the city would bleed for long (Kabir 7886).



2.3. Social Realism and Indian English Literature

Literature is a common human phenomenon but it depicts the concerns of each
society differently. It differs from History which is the external record of human
affairs. Literature performs two fold functions; it brings us not only the internal
history of a particular age but also the external peculiarities of the peoples of that
particular age. This function of literature is performed through a comparatively vast
canvass of the novel which reflects both the society and individuals, with their
external and internal conflicts and motives. Thus the novel is the intellectual and
ideological expression of a certain nation, or a society (Kashfi 62).
Realism became an important mode of literature in the subcontinent during the
first half of the twentieth century. The word realism is used in two broad senses. On
the one hand the term is used to refer to the kind of writing that expressed itself
during the 19th century in the works of writers like George Eliot, Charles Dickens,
Jane Austen, Leo Tolstoy, and Honore de Balzac. In this kind of writing, authors
explore lives of the middle or working class people whose lives are shaped by forces
beyond their control.
Nevertheless the term realism is used to identify a certain mode of writing
that has recurred in various epochs throughout the history of literature. Eric Aurbach
explores the second kind of realism in his monumental work on the subject, Mimesis;
A Study of Realism in Western Literature. Indian novelists in English in general
adopted realistic mode of writing from the very birth of Indian English Literature.
Writing under the influence of the 19th century European novelists, Indian English
novelists adapted realism to explore indigenous themes.
The British rule in India engendered Anglo-Indian literature. Broadly

speaking, the term Anglo-Indian literature includes literature dealing with India which
is written in English. Strictly speaking, it includes literature describing mainly the life
of Englishmen in India. A beginning had been made in this literature in 1783 with
the arrival of Sir William Jones, the first Anglo-Indian poet in India, a scholar in
Oriental studies and a translator of Shakuntala 1(Sareen 19).
In spite of making its first appearance in poetry, the Anglo-Indian literature
attracted wider attention of both the public and the writers in England in 1772 with
the publication of the first Anglo-Indian novel Nabob. The following years saw
another remarkable novel, Hartley House (1789). For the next several years there is
no record of any novel about India. Then, in 1811 Lady Morgans The Missionary
was published. During the whole nineteenth century the Anglo-Indian literature
acquired bulk and quality (Sareen 19-25).
English literature in India, like the other colonial literatures, began as a
consequence of the confrontation of India with the West. However, in the beginning
it was a literature of imitation rather than that of protest. Meadow Taylor (18081876), Henry Derozio (1809-1831), Kashiprosad Ghose (1809-1873), Michael
Madhusudan Dutt (1827-1873), and Bankim Chandra Chatterjee (1838-1894), were
among those who pioneered English creative writing in India. But this writing was
more derivative rather than creative (Rehman5).
The originality started with the emergence of Indian English Literature which
has also been documented as Indo-Anglian Literature or Indo-English Literature.
This literature began as an interesting by-product of eventful encounter in the late
eighteenth century between a vigorous and enterprising Britain and a stagnant and

The master piece of a great Sanskrit poet Kalidasa


chaotic India. As a result of this encounter, original writing in English emerged in
India (Niak 1).
Following the interaction of the Indian writers with the western writing
traditions and the freedom struggle going on inside the country, fiction writers of the
subcontinent adopted social realism as a dominant mode of writing. The writings of
this period sprang from a society undergoing a more massive upheaval under the
influence of the British-Indian confrontation. It was more prominent on the cultural
grounds rather than on any other bases. In the beginning of the twentieth century the
Britains political and cultural relations with her occupied world had changed.
The First World War, like elsewhere brought enormous social, economic, and
political changes in the life and society of India. The Indian took active part in the
freedom struggle. This struggle resulted into the growth of socio-cultural
consciousness and rise of the spirit of nationalism in India which led inevitably to
freedom of the country. Following this the educated Indians studied the British liberal
thoughts that were flourishing in England. The Indian English emerged and developed
out of the socio-cultural and political consciousness, nationalism and Independence.
Thus, the overall literature of subcontinent led to production of realist literature.
The conflict between the gaiety of the past and the gloom in the post 1857
India has been one of the most dominant themes in various works of Indian literature
since the start of the 20th century. Thus we see a growing emphasis on depiction of the
social, cultural, religious, economic, and political aspects of life. This tendency made
literature a sort of social criticism. As a result, a quick transition started from the
earlier dominant romantic traits (inherited from the Arabic, Persian and Turk
traditions) to social realism and progressiveness in literature of the subcontinent.



2.4. Emergence of All India Progressive Writers Movement and

Social Realism

The biggest aim of literature is to infuse the passion of freedom, love for humanity,
support of the working class, and democracy in a nation. It shuns tyranny, ignorance,
and superstitions (Sajjad Zaheer 36).

In the literary history of the subcontinent, 1930s was a remarkable period. The
Progressive Writers Movement, of which Ahmad Ali was one of the most creative
components, was found in this decade. It was in the air since 1930 but a practical
move of this literary movement was made in 1935 in London. It was there that a
number of radical Indian students and intellectuals met, discussed and formulated its
original manifesto and made plans to establish the movement in India. They included
Sajjad Zaheer (1905-1975), a young Oxford graduate and Barrister and a literary and
social revolutionary, Mulk Raj Anand, Jyoti Ghosh, Promod Sen Gupta, and M.D.
Tasir. Their plan came in the form of Manifesto of the Indian Progressive Writers
Movement2. The document opens:
Radical changes are taking place in Indian society. Fixed idea and old beliefs,
social and political institutions are being challenged. Out of the present
turmoil and conflict a new society is arising. The spirit of reaction, however,
though moribund and doomed to ultimate decay, is still operative and making
desperate efforts to prolong itself.
It is the duty of Indian writers to give expression to the changes taking place in
Indian life and to assist the spirit of progress in the country. Indian literature,

See appendix for the adapted draft of the manifesto


since the breakdown of classical culture, has had the fatal tendency to escape
from the actualities of life. It has tried to find a refuge from reality in
spiritualism and idealism. . . .
It is the object of our association to rescue literature and other arts from the
priestly, academic and decadent classes in whose hands they have degenerated
so long; to bring the arts into the closest touch with the people; and to make
them the vital organs which will register the actualities of life, as well as lead
us to the future.
While claiming to be the inheritors of the best traditions of Indian civilization,
we shall criticize ruthlessly, in all its political, economic, and cultural aspects,
the spirit of reaction in our country; and we shall foster through interpretative
and creative work (with both native and foreign resources) everything that will
lead our country to the new life for which it is striving (Russell 204-205).
In India the first meeting of the progressive writers was presided by a
renowned literary figure of the subcontinent, Munshi Prem Chand (1880-1936).
Sajjad Zaheer was appointed as the general secretary of the movement. In 1936 these
progressive writers formed their organization with other name; All India Progressive
Writers Association (AIPWA). Munshi Prem Chand presided this meeting of the
progressive writers in Lakhnow. The association welcomed all those writers who were
against Imperialism and who supported democracy. It was in her manifesto that every
progressive writer should support the freedom movement in the country (Zaheer 54).
As a result the leftist writers who were predominantly progressive stood
against Imperialism, Fascism, Nazism, economic exploitation, and superstitions that
were prevailing in India during the first quarter of the 20th Century. They promoted

Socialism and Internationalism. In fact this movement was supported by those writers
who on one hand were against the traditional literary conventions such as escapism
and art for arts sake, on the other hand they were trying to write against their imperial
masters so that literature breeds beauty, novelty, and nicety which are the assets of
such minds which are the products of social activism.
All India Progressive Writers Movement was the second most important
literary event after the Sir Syed s movement that transformed the whole thinking
patterns of the writers of the subcontinent. Nevertheless, the ant-imperialist and
revolutionary journalism of Maulana Zafar Ali Khans daily paper Zamindar (1903),
Maulana Muhammad Ali Johars English weekly paper Comrade (1910) and Urdu
daily Humderd (1912) in general, and Maulana Abul Kalam Azads Urdu weekly
paper Al-Hilal (1912) in particular had already challenged the Sir Syeds Proimperialistic political stance. These papers cultivated revolutionary and progressive
traits in India during the first two decades of the twentieth century. This made such a
splendid revolutionary and literary context for the progressive writers that even those
writers who were apparently against the movement found this ideology as a bridge
between Modernism and Realism. The following words of Munshi Prem Chand at the
presidential address to the progressive writers are thought provoking.
The literature that does not enliven our real taste, does not give us spiritual and
mental peace, does not infuse in us with a force, does not inculcate in us a
resolute motive to overcome the problems of life, is useless for us now. It
cannot be called literature. Our touchstone testifies that literature as true that
contains thoughts, passion for freedom, essence of beauty, spirit of creativity,
and the light of realities of life. Such literature should instigate in us
movement and activity. It should not lull us because now to sleep further

means to die (Siddique 19).
In the same conference Maulana Hasrat Mohani (1875-1951) added that our
literature should represent our freedom movement and it should stand against the
tyranny and Imperialism. It should support working class and all suppressed masses.
It should stand by the people in their soft and hard times. It should convey their best
desires, aspirations, and wishes in such a way that their own revolutionary force is
strengthened and they are united and disciplined to succeed in their revolutionary
venture. He added that progressive writers should not follow him in poetry (for Hasrat
Mohani was a follower of the traditional school of poetry in Urdu despite the fact that
he was a revolutionary and communist) albeit he himself will support them in creating
the progressive literature. All in all the progressive movement was a reaction against
Imperialism and her allies (Siddique 19-21).
The progressive writers stood for the rights of every community to promote
her language and literature to achieve greater inter-communal social harmony. These
rights could only be achieved if the conservative and tyrannical rule be shunned.
Imperialism and her allies divide the communities and rule them unjustly. Thus, they
divided the communities to weaken them and exploit their resources. Everywhere the
interests of the working class of a particular community do not clash with those of
another community. The working class wishes to procure national and international
co-operation, peace, and prosperity. The progressive writers were interested to
germinate the seeds for such a literature and civilization that would enhance the
scientific and intellectual trends and traits of freedom loving communities of the
subcontinent. They rejected communalism, feudalism, and religious fanaticism that
were the by-products of colonialism. The progressive writers on one hand were in
favour of promoting the compassion, high-mindedness, tolerance, and candidness of

the great civilisation of the subcontinent and on the other hand they denied her
escapism, irrationality, and passivity (Zaheer 29-30).
The progressive literature is not a monopoly of a particular age, nation, and
language. The writers in every age encouraged to promote healthy trends in society
and denounced oppression and tyranny. Progressiveness polishes the creative
tendencies in society. Literature is the intellectual creativity of life. As life changes so
change the aspects of literature. This is true of the progressive literature. The
Progressive Writers Movement was not an accident or a conspiracy. It was rather the
product of the socio-political outcomes of the First World War. There was a great
political and social activation in the country. In the post war scenario the British
exploitation of the Indian resources and people on one end and the Bolshevik
Revolution on the other end made the setting for the progressive currents in the
subcontinent (Zaheer 74-75).
The future of the world seemed gloomy after the war. There were social,
political, economic, and intellectual turbulences throughout the world. Everywhere
creative writers were greatly influenced by the global economic depression and
international conditions. That is why the literature written during the fourth decade of
the 20th century was most remarkable. In such hard times the progressive writers
wrote about the miseries of the oppressed and dejected. These writers breathed afresh
new life in the post-war impoverished and bleak peoples. John Steinbeck, Thomas
Mann, Henry Mann, Earnest Hemingway, John Dos Passos, Auden, Spender, Lois
Mac kens, Theodore Dreiser, Andre Malraux and such other writers presented
realistic pictures of their societies. (Hassan 11-13).
The progressive literary trend in the subcontinent was emerging as an abrupt


historical event. The past and present of India was in need of this evolution. It was not
a foreign movement. The seeds of this new literature were in the minds and hearts of
the writers of this soil. The social environment of this country was in need of this new
cultivation. The progressive literary movement was to nourish and flourish this
literature (Zaheer 46-47).
A literature that brings social and cultural understanding, sympathy, justice,
equality, and such life-nourishing values through creative and artistic means is
progressive literature. This literature depicts realities of life and it is free of any
shackle. Its true end is the universal message of all ages; fraternity, equality, and
freedom (Zaheer 99).
Thus, a progressive writer would promote the best values of great civilizations
of the past because such values would be the product of social experiences of that
particular time and would add to them the shared cultural, intellectual, and artistic
currents of the prevailing age. This writer would conform to the truthful expression of
the true and real values of life and would deny whatever hinders the social and
cultural unity and beauty of the present time. All this was possible in a free
environment; therefore a progressive writer would, predominantly stand for the
freedom loving and democratic forces (Zaheer 130-131).

2.5. Professor Ahmad Ali (1910 1994) and the Indian Literary
Ahmad Ali was born in Kocha Pandat in Delhi in 1910. He belonged to a
religious family of Syeds. His family tree traces back to Sheikh Abdul Qadir Jilani
(1077-1166) of Baghdad. They came to India in the rule of King Akbar. His family
strictly observed religious and traditional rituals. They were considered the Delhi

nobles. His family, like the other nobles of Delhi, suffered during the 1857 massacre.
As the family lost their land in the riots so they joined service. His father was an extra
assistant commissioner and was posted to various cities in India. His father died when
he was ten and he came under the patronage of his uncle who himself was a
government officer (Kamran 15-17).
Ali completed his early schooling at Azamgarh in UP. In 1923 he went to
Aligarh and in 1926 he got admission in Aligarh Muslim University. It was there that
Prof. Eric C. Dickinson saw the literary spark in him and he encouraged his creative
literary potentials. Over there he was introduced to Raja Rao, who became a famous
writer at some later stage. In the same year his first English poem, The Lake of
Dreams was published in Aligarh Magazine. Then, in 1927, he joined Lakhnow
University to study English literature. There he was open to the new ideas and the
current literary and intellectual thoughts. He also met and befriended Laurence
Brander, who was a lecturer in English at Canning College Lakhnow.
In 1929, Alis first English short story, When the Funeral Was Crossing the
Bridge was published in the Journal of Lakhnow University. It was in 1931 that Ali
got his Masters in English Literature. Soon he started teaching English literature; first,
at Lakhnow University (1931-32), then, at Agra College (1933-34), after that, at Allah
Abad University (1934-36), and again at Lakhnow University (1936-41).
The period between 1931 and 1941 was most remarkable in his literary career
all such important literary events like; the publication of Angaare (Burning Coals;
1932), the organisation of All India Progressive Writers Movement, the quitting of
Ali from the Movement, and the publication of his most remarkable literary work,
Twilight in Delhi, had occurred during this time (Kamran 17-20).


During the same period Sajjad Zaheer had shortly returned from England and
was living in Lakhnow where he met Ali. Sajjad Zaheer, Mahmuduzzafar (19081954) and Ali Published Angaare. Two of Alis short stories were included in this
bold anthology of ten Urdu short stories. Most of the stories in this anthology were
lacking in sobriety and patience. They were against the prevailing conservativeness.
In certain places, the stories were sensual and they depicted explicit influences of
James Joyce and D. H. Lawrence (Zaheer 30).
Angaare thrilled the then socio-politico-literary environment during the first
half of the twentieth century. The book was considered offensive by both public and
the government. The writers of Angaare; Ahmad Ali, Rashid Jehan, Sajjad Zaheer,
and Mahmuduzzafar were denounced and condemned in the press and the literary
circles. Nevertheless, Angaare revolutionized the then literary setting. Referring to the
creative and progressive aspects of the book, Kamran quotes Shabana that the writers
of Angaare were aware of the realities, values, and demands of their age. They had
deep understanding of such issues. They not only reacted to the social, political, and
cultural inequalities but also discussed those dimensions of their characters which
were considered taboo. They saw the human relationship and the deeds of people in
the light of the social realities of their age. They analysed them in the political, social,
religious, and economic perspective. Their writings were bold and thought-provoking
(Kamran 24- 25).
In Angaare Alis stories were more prominent because of their picturesque
and realistic depiction of the bitter facts of life in the most artistic manner. In his
initial stories, Ali depicted the middle class Delhi women and their problems most
realistically. He was particularly interested in Delhi life and people. It was this initial
impact of Delhi on Alis writing that can be seen in his latter works (Alvi 66 -67).

Angaare was followed by Shoole (Flames; 1933). These short stories were the
live pictures of the surroundings, streets, houses, inhabitants, beggars, hawkers,
wanderers and such others. Ali observed every movement of the characters and was
their confidant. He made his characters immortal. He revolutionized the form, style,
and contents of the then short story. His stories were innovative because he introduced
the modern psychological trends, and new economic currents and issues to this genre
in the subcontinent. All this was truly progressive and it transformed the whole
domain of fiction to a great extent. His fiction is the depiction of the ordinary
characters mostly familiar, but we have overlooked them and their idiosyncrasies. Ali
made us aware of them and that is the very essence of his art (Alvi 66-67).
Ali continued with short stories and in 1936 he wrote stories like Our Lane
and Mr. Shams-ul-Hasan, but there onwards he gradually parted with the
mainstream progressive writers who tilted to somewhat Marxist trends. In 1938 he
formally announced his dissociation with the Progressive Writers Association
(Kamran 34). Ali refused to accept the views of his other Marxist friends like Sajjad
Zaheer, Mahmuduzzafar that only (the stories which are written about) the proletariat
and peasantry are progressive. Alis approach to life, to society, is through the
creative work, not vice-versa (Rehman32).
Thus, Ali broke away from the Marxists and continued writing following his
own brand of progressive approach to life and society. After pioneering modern Urdu
short story, and writing some remarkable English short stories, Alis creative genius
called for a wider and bigger canvas and he started writing novels. Referring to this
shift, Ali writes in an autobiographical article Baqalam e Khud (Urdu) published in


One can, but to a very limited extent depict the conditions of life and the
changing face of history in the short story. . .As if the short story is a segment,
and remains a segment despite its meaningfulness, of a greater body. I was in
search of a vast and bigger canvas and therefore I chose novel. You will see
that in [Twilight in Delhi] that there is history, civilization, the ups and downs
of life, the bloom and gloom of life (179).
This time he appeared with his remarkable novel Twilight in Delhi (1940). He
took it to the famous Hogarth Press in London. The editorial staff of the Press
considered some parts of the novel subversive, but later on they published it in 1940.
It found immediate favor with critics E. M. Forster, Edwin Muir, Bonamy Dobree
(1897-19740), Morris Collins (1889-1973), and several others. The novel was
published several times and was translated into Urdu and several other European
languages. Since its first publication, it has been lauded for its cultural and historical
fascination by the renowned universities in Italy, the USA, France, and the UK. Thus,
Ali established himself as a creative literary figure and got an international fame
(Kamran 41).
By and large, Twilight kept influencing Alis later literary pursuits. His short
stories worked as the apprenticeship to Twilight.

In the years that followed he

brought two other anthologies of Urdu short stories; Hamari Gali (Our Lane; 1942)
and Quaid Khana (The Prison House; 1944). Some of the short stories from these
books were translated into English by Ali himself. They came with the title The
Prison House (1958). Coppolo (1977) considers these stories autobiographical and
progressive (Rehman 29-38).



2.6. Social Realism in Twilight in Delhi

Set in the great centre of the Muslim Civilization, Delhi, Twilight in Delhi is
Ahmad Alis brilliant and vivid picture of the life and conditions of the pre-partition
Delhi. It is a nostalgic tale of a middle-class Muslim family in wake of encroaching
British colonialism in the early 20th century. It is a lament on the fading of a particular
mode of thought and living as the writer himself refers to it. Vividly and realistically,
the novel reflects the multiple facets of the Muslim culture in Delhi. Delhi-born
Ahmad Ali was rightly familiar to Delhi s sensibilities. His portrayal of the
transforming Muslim middle-class Delhiwallah3 is realistic and authentic. Further,
he is bold and innovative in his depiction and representation of a particular outlook of
Delhi and Delhiwallahs. The novel begins with a most realistic but poetic depiction of
the city of Delhi and its people on a typical summer night;
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.
In the courtyards, on the roofs, in the by-lanes, on the roads, men sleep on bare
beds, half naked, tired after the sore day's labor. A few still walk on the
otherwise deserted roads, hand in hand, talking; and some have jasmine
garlands in their hands. The smell from the flowers escapes, scents a few yards
of air around them and dies smothered by the heat. Dogs go about sniffing the
gutters in search of offal; and cats slink out of the narrow by-lanes, from under
the planks jutting out of shops, and lick the earthen cups out from which men
had drunk milk and thrown away (Ali 1).

In Urdu the people of Delhi


When an author writes in the mode of social realism, one should do justice to
both history and realism. The description of the characters, the setting, and the plot
should be realistic. Twilight in Delhi is a story with a historical document. First of
all it examines the Muslim civilization in Delhi. It narrates the history of British
colonialism in India at another level it challenges the existing canon of imperial
literature by providing a Muslim view of the colonial encounter. Also it depicts
nostalgia for the past glory of Mughal India in an elegy for an older Islamic order
(Ahmad 15).
Realism in the South Asia germinated out of the British Materialistic
Imperialism in 19th Century. In the first decade of the 20th Century the realist stood
bluntly against the British Imperialism. Earlier in the European scenario realism had
started with Madame Bovary (1857). It changed the literary trends of the 19th Century.
The Realists lay more emphasis on the depiction of life and its social realities as they
Culture is the national character of a community. It is a complete way of life.
It includes religion, creed, knowledge, behaviour, social conduct, and rites of a
particular community. It distinguishes a people from a people. A communitys culture
is influenced by both internal and external factors. The internal factors are its
geography and history. The Muslim civilization in the subcontinent owes a lot to the
external factors. After the emergence of the Muslims in the Sub-continent, the local
geography and culture had their impact on them. With the passage of time these
Muslims were frequently influenced by the Arabs, Persian, Turks, and Afghan factors.
With the arrival of the Western the Muslim society started transforming and Twilight
in Delhi is a realistic depiction of this transformation. Ali placed a mirror to the city
of Delhi and her people and observed the fading Indo- Muslim outlook of the city, her

withering culture, its crumbling walls, her waning eccentricities and idiosyncrasies.
Maurice Collins (1889-1973) considers Ali the vanguard of the literary movement
that should make us understand India (Kamran 62).
Besides this observation, the novel depicts the impacts of the nostalgia for the
by-gone grandeur and splenduer of Delhi and the growing reaction of Delhi against
the British rule in India. The broad argument of the study starts with the point in the
next chapter that how the novel realistically portrays the city and the people of Delhi.




Old Delhi does not change. It only decays . . . it is a great cemetery, every house a
tomb. Nothing but sleeping graves . . . and here, nothing happens at all. Whatever
happened, a happened [a] long time ago. In the time of the Tughluqs, the Khilgis, the
Sultanate, the Mughals, _that lot (Desai 5).

The city of Delhi was not built in days or years rather it took centuries to
become Delhi. It has lived through wars, calamities, massacres, and misrule. This
untenable strength and resistance of Delhi against all such odds is not a secret. The
story of Delhi is written, though dispersedly, here on its stones and rubbles, bricks and
walls, there on the faces of its dwellers. Thus the city has emerged into a character.
Hence it should not be dealt like any other city.
This chapter explores some broad social realistic aspects of the city of Delhi
and its people. Twilight in Delhi is a mirror to the social and cultural life of Delhi: Its
streets, by-lanes, narrow passages, cozy houses and kothas4, its nobles and nawabs, its
bibis5 and mistresses, its jolly youth and coy laces, its genial old-men and wise oldwomen, its days and nights, its mornings and evenings, its music, dancing and poetry.
The Twilights Delhi is built on the rubles of the 1857 destruction. The novel
not only depicts the soil, stone, bricks, wall, houses, streets, and climate of the Delhi
of the first two decades of the twentieth century but also portrays the decay of a

Houses of prostitutes
Noble ladies


whole culture, a particular mode of thought and living. Ali himself was a witness to
this when the real face of Delhi was changing rapidly before his eyes. He saw a
pageant of History whirl past and participated in it too. The culture of Delhi had been
born and nourished within the city walls and it was demolished lately (Ali x).
In Twilight Ali brings the obscure facets of the post 1857 Delhi by narrating
the life and affairs of the household of a Delhi noble Mir Nihal. The setting of the
novel is the Delhi of the first two decades of the twentieth century. The opening of the
novel outlines the city of Mir Nihal who claims its heritage. But in reality the
magnificent buildings of the Mughals are ruined. The glories of that grandeur have
gone. Ali through his nostalgic conscious mirrored the fading face of Delhi which he
witnessed by himself in Mir Nihals Delhi, for some of the remnants of those bygone
days could be found (Kamran 184).
The novel presents several vivid scenes of the cultural and social life of the
early twentieth century Delhi. The realistic description of the city sometime
overwhelms the rest of the details to such an extent that Delhi becomes Alis
protagonist in the novel. It is, therefore, the heroic character of the city that has won it
the status of the capital during the earlier empires and the British India. The
consecutive courses of destruction and construction gave Delhi a unique
temperament.` After the several subsequent falls (seven times) of the city at the hands
of the Marahattas, Afghans, Nadir Shah, Sikhs and finally the British, there was very
little in the rubbles that could be restored. A few monuments are still present to tell its
sad story and to remind us of the glory and splenduer of Delhi that once used to be
remembered as the Jewel of the cities-a Qutub Minar or a Humayun s Tomb, the Old
Fort or the Jama Masjid.


The details of the city and its people in the novel provide a realistic picture of
the Delhi of the first two decades of the twentieth century.Ali has not written the
story of a few individuals alone, but of a people, a city, a particular culture, a period
of history. His theme is not confined to a few characters and their biographies, but to
an entire city. This is, in reality, a collective [ijtimia] novel whose hero is the city of
Delhi. Referring to this aspect of the novel, Askari observes:
We also see the individuals of this novel. But there is another element on
which Ahmad Ali lays the same emphasis as he does on men_ that is, nature:
the days and nights of Delhi, the sunsets and dawns, the summer the rainy
season and the changing shades of the sky, the breezes, the hot wind, the dust
storms and sunshine. Ahmad Ali has given individual life to each. They have a
separate existence in themselves in the novel. And then the lanes of the city,
the gutters, dogs and cats, the flying pigeons, hawks and paper kites_ all
appear often in the novel. With these changing seasons, with the moods of
nature and all the rest, Ahmad Ali has given the city an eternal and living
identity and name (31-36).
By and large, Twilights intense preoccupation with the city is often neglected
as compare to its poetic, lyrical, and elegiac narration. Priya Joshi considers this
aspect of the novel as Alis greatest innovation in the novel. Ali staged the city as the
centre of the tragic drama and came with far older influences. According to Priya
Joshi, Harish Trivedi is perhaps the only critic who addresses the Delhi of Twilight
systematically and quite rightly points out that both the theme and tone (of the novel)
derive directly from the Urdu verse form, Shehrashob,[which is] a lament on a
misgoverned, depraved, or ruined city (216).


The realistic portrayal of the climate of gloom and melancholy wavers
between the city and the people in the novel. The rise and fall of Delhi became so
typical that it influenced the whole life pattern of Delhiwallahs. This tragic
phenomenon appears as a collective nostalgia among the people of Delhi. Thus an
atmosphere of gloom prevails throughout the course of events in the novel. Despite
this gloom, the city is alive and life goes on with its activities and the people of Delhi
live on with their idiosyncrasies and jollities. Ali comments on this aspect in the
beginning of the novel:
The city of Delhi, built hundreds of years ago, fought for, died for, coveted
and desired, built, destroyed and rebuilt, for five and six and seven times,
mourned and sung . . . yet whole and alive . . . It was the city of kings and
monarchs, of poets and story tellers, courtiers and nobles. But no king lives
there today, and the poets are feeling the lack of patronage; and the old
inhabitants, though still alive, have lost their pride and grandeur under a
foreign yoke. Destruction is in its foundation and blood is in its soil . . . It is
the symbol of Life and Death, and revenge is its nature (Ali 1-2).
The novel opens with an explicit realistic illustration of a typical summer night
in Delhi during the early twentieth century. The description of the starlit roofs and
houses, narrow alleys and by-lanes, courtyards, masjids with their white domes and
tall minarets, deserted roads, milk-sellers and their earthen cups, tired labourers,
beggars and their miserable songs, flower vendors with their jasmine garlands,
sniffing dogs and licking cats, and intensive heat. All this make the readers feel
themselves in a sort of real situation and Delhi stands before our eyes like a fullfledged character:


Under the tired and dim stars the city looks deathly dark. The kerosene lamps
no doubts light its streets and roads; but they are not enough, as are not enough
the markets and the gardens, to revive the lights that floated on the waters of
the Jamuna or dwelt in the heart of the city. Like a beaten dog it has curled its
tail between its legs, and lies lifeless in the night as an acknowledgment of
defeat (Ali 3-4).
The realism in Twilight in Delhi works manifolds. The details of the
description are like a miniature portrait of the Delhi summer. For instance, in the
second chapter the description of a typical summer morning is very vivid and
penetrating. The then Delhis morning starts with a rippling voice of azaan 6. The
city resounds with such golden voice[s], calling the faithful to prayers, calling them
to leave their beds and arise from sleep. The azaan brings forth a message of joy and
hope and it sounds from across the city, head forth the by-lanes and the courtyards,
echoing in the silent atmosphere. The whole atmosphere of the city is transformed in
response to the azaan. Some of the inhabitants hear this prayer call and rise. Some
wake up for a while then turn on their sides and curl once more about themselves and
fall into a fresh slumber. Even the sparrows begin to twitter in chorus. The dogs begin
their search in the refuse for their food. The day light emerges with a forward sun
peep over the world and its light colour the waters of the Jamuna. Its rays are
caught by the tall minarets of the Jama Masjid, glint across the surface of its
marble domes and floods the city with a warm and over-bearing light (Ali 16-17).
The realistic depiction in the novel runs forth from the city and its people to
their habits. For instance, the novel shows very strong liking of the Delhiwallahs for
the pigeon-flying, kite-flying, cock-fighting, and keeping birds of various species. In

Praying call for the Muslims


fact these are the all- time- popular Delhi sports. Pigeon-flying has been
comparatively more common among Delhiwallahs. Among the rulers of Delhi, Sultan
Alla udin Khilgi liked pigeon-flying. He had an exotic collection of pigeons in his
aviary (Zameer15).The pigeons became a permanent tradition of the Delhi life. There
were the royal flights of pigeons when the king would come out of the Red Fort riding
on the elephant towards the Jama Masjid for Friday prayers, the royal pigeon-fliers
would fly a flight of pigeons above the kings head. These pigeons were trained and
they would rest up in the air making an umbrella on the kings cavalcade (Delhvi 3840).
Pigeon is a Delhi bird. The novel shows Mir Nihals interest in the pigeons
and it seems that in almost every home there are a few pairs of pigeons. These
pigeons are of various species. Each species has a specific name and a typical
characteristic and the Delhiwallahs have bet on their flights. The novel portrays a
morning sky of Delhi which is covered with the flocks of pigeons and the atmosphere
resounds with the shouts of the pigeon-fliers with their cries of Aao, Aoo, [come,
come] Koo, Haa. The ascending and descending of the pigeons from and to every
second house in Delhi is a routine morning sport (Ali 17).
The traditional jolly nature of Delhiwallahs can also be seen through their
craze for the kite-flying. Of the Delhi sports, after the pigeon-flying, kite-flying is the
most popular pass-time among the Delhi men. During the summer mornings and
evenings both pigeons and kites fill the Delhi sky. The realistic description of the
kites with their peculiar colours and designs furthers the argument of social realism in
the novel:
The sky was full of kites, black kites and white kites, purple kites and blue.


They were green and lemon coloured, red and peacock blue and yellow, jade
and vermilion, plain or of various patterns and in different colours, black
against yellow, red against white, mauve altering with green, pink with purple,
stripped or triangular, with moons on them or stars and wings and circles in
different colours, forming such lovely and fantastic designs. . . .small kites and
big kites. . . danced . . . dipped down or rose erect with the elegance of cobras.
. .whirled and wheeled and circled, chased each other or stood static in mid air.
There was a riot of kites on the sky (Ali 28).
The description of the common men, like the parched gram vendors who
are dressed in dark and dirty rags, and beggars, with their bags slung across their
backs, with their white flowing beard, and with their caps of numerous designs,
highlights the novels social aspect. It strengthens the argument of this chapter that the
novel is a realistic mirror to the city of Delhi and its people. For instance, the novel
depicts that the Delhi beggars begin their day by singing verses for bread or pice7. The
beggars make an integral part of the social life of Delhi. They are variant but typical
in their get-up and language but they have deep and resonant voices and all look
hale and hearty. Here the beggars lament and the house doors creak, the gunny bag
curtains hanging in front of them move aside, the tender hand of some pale beauty
comes out and gives a pice or empties the contents of plate into their bowls and
dishes, and satisfies them. These beggars go away praying for the souls of those
within (Ali 17-18).
The Delhi street vendors present yet another spectacle. These vendors sell
numerous items ranging from eatables to household goods. Moving about in the bylanes, they bring the things that fascinate the women-folk. They move about in the

A penny


streets from early morning till dusk. They emerged on the cultural scene of Delhi after
the first Durbar of the king Shahjahan in his own Delhi (Shahjehanabad). The king
ordered that the routine household items and food should be provided to the residence
of Delhi at their door-step. In fact the king wanted to facilitate the house-wives. The
Delhi women would collect the entire dowry for their daughters from the vendors. For
then (and during the setting of the novel as well) their going shopping was not thought
a decent act. These vendors were very skillful in their art of attracting the clients
(Delhvi 20-21).
The realistic description of a Delhi summer noon in the novel relives the
details. It seems as if the readers are experiencing this first-hand. A Delhi summer is
most intense and scorching. The sun blasts fire on Delhi earth. The sky becomes
bronzed and grey, dirty with the dust and sand which floats in the air.A heart
rendering monotony and a blinding glare creeps over the earth during the summer
(Ali 21).
Besides the intense heat of Delhi, the novel records the description of its
peculiar storm:
Suddenly the western horizon became coppery, and it seemed that some
hidden power was shooting tons of burning sand from below the earth towards
the sky. The sunlight fell on this sand and gave the horizon the colour of
shooting flames . . . the storm burst suddenly. Like a swarm of locusts the sand
came forward making a gyrating noise. . .The sun hid his face, and light began
to fail. . .The wind howled and moaned, sand floated in the air, and it grew
dark as the night. . .The sand got inside clothes and stuck to bodies wet with
perspiration and pierced the skin (Ali 62-64).


The women-folk of the Twilights Delhi is more domestic and religious than
the men are. They have their own small world and they do not dare interfere into the
mens affairs. Their aloofness and graceful silence sometimes overwhelm the men and
thus at times they play the most important role in the decisions related to the family
matters. In the novel Begum Jamal (the sister-in-law of Begum Nihal) convinces her
to take the initiative in the matter of Asghars marriage with Bilqueece (which Mir
Nihal disapproves of their being Syed and Bilqueeces family being Mughal); she
The best thing to do is to settle the thing quietly. Brother-in-law will come
round in the end. If you wait for his consent nothing will ever come off. . .
Begum Nihal seemed to agree with her sister-in-law. For, though women hold
a subordinate position in Indian life yet in certain matters they can take the law
in their hands, and marriage is one of them (Ali 72).
On the contrary, the novel realistically depicts that the Indian womens
behaviour among their own gender is more aggressive and outrageous. The domestic
intrigues are common routine matters. The novel presents an interesting silent tug
between Begum Nihal and her sister-in-law Begum Jamal. When Asghar sets his heart
on marrying Bilqueece and the family does not approve of his doing so and Begum
Nihal says to her daughter Begum Waheed with anger;
That Begum Shabaz [mother of Bilqueece] has cast some spell on my boy. I
was fearing it all the time . . . He used to go to her house every day, and she
has done something to him. Or she has given him some charm through Begum
Jamal. . . .
At this moment Begum Jamal came down from the kotha. As she heard her

name being mentioned she asked: What are you talking about me, Sister-inlaw?
Who was talking about you? Begum Nihal said in a loud and self-conscious
I just heard you call my name. Begum Jamal replied in an angry voice.
What crime have I committed after all?
You always misconstrue things, Begum Jamal said in a reconciliatory tone,
and imagine people to be calling you bad names (Ali 60-61).
The women of Delhi are happy to involve themselves in the domestic chores.
In houses mothers and grandmothers talk of marriage and death, and look after the
family matters, whereas the young girls prepare themselves for the marriage rituals
and festivals. These preparations are, in fact, the only available recreation for the
Delhi women. For, they do not go out in public. They stay for most of their time in the
zenana 8 .

The novel shows that Delhi women live a life almost free from any

interaction with the men except for the men of blood relations. The novel describes
how the Delhi women go out in pardah 9 . Doli 10 is that traditional mean of
transportation in which they go from home to home. The kahars11 would shout at the
door where the women are supposed to land. Traditionally, the host used to pay off
the kahars. The novel brings all such details vividly and realistically:
In the zenana things went on with the monotonous sameness of Indian life no
one went out anywhere. Only now and then some cousin or some other

The female quarters

The traditional Muslim womens wearing a veil
Small palanquin
A palanquin bearer


relation came to see them. . .once a month or so during the festivals.. . .Walls
stood surrounding them on all sides, shutting the women in from the prying
eyes of men, guarding their beauty and virtue. . .The world lived and died,
things happened, events took place, but all this did not disturb the equanimity
of the zenana. . .(their) time passed mostly between eating, talking, cooking,
sewing, or doing nothing (Ali 39-40).
The novel not only captures the peculiarities and idiosyncrasies of the people
of Delhi, through their pastimes such as pigeon-flying, kite flying, keeping dogs,
sparrows and other numerous species of birds but also through their fashion in
dressing, their tastes eatables, their craze for collecting rare things, and their going to
the balakhana12 for having good time with the tawaifs13. Mir Nihal, though a middleclass Delhiwallah, is an aristocrat in his habits and hobbies. Besides pigeon-flying
he is fond of collecting old china and he devoted some time to alchemy and
medicine. After dinning at home late night he goes to see his mistress, Babban Jan,
a young dancing girl. She is living in a house, which Mir Nihal has rented for her.
She entertains him with conversation and songs. The servant of Mir Nihal, Ghafoor,
too is a typical Delhiwallah in his way. With his Tartaric ferocious eyes, his hairy
chest, the oil trickling down his brow, and his fine white long coats smelling of strong
attar14, he [is] a favourite with the prostitutes(Ali 58).
In the Medieval Indian society the tawaifs and their kothas used to function as
proper institutions for the learning of art and manners. The associates with this
institution were considered artists and they were looked with respect. There were
tawaifs who were good at singing, poetry, music, and dancing. There were

An upper storey of a traditional house, here it means a house of prostitutes

A prostitutes
Scent, perfume, essence


ustaads15.These masters were academies in themselves and both the aristocracy and
the common folk of Delhi showed their enthusiasm and keenness in these forms of
art. As was the fate of the other established Indo-Muslim institutions, the institution of
tawaifs also corrupted with the arrival of the British in the subcontinent. During the
first two decades of the twentieth century, going to the tawaifs (most of which were
now prostitutes) was a popular habit among the men of Delhi. However, there was
some art left with a few of them because these prostitutes were of two kinds, the
cultured ones and the whores. The cultured ones were patronized by the rich and wellto-do (like Mir Nihal).Young men were sent to them to learn manners and the art of
polite conversation; and the older people came to enjoy their dancing, music, and their
company in general(Ali 39).
The novel captures the presence of prostitutes as an integral part of the Indian
societal life. At night men go to the Bais 16 for having good time. Bari (Asghars
friend) takes him to Mushtari Bai:
They went through the Chaori Bazar17, the quarter of ironware and brassware
merchants, second-hand dealers in lace, and prostitutes. On either side of the
narrow and noisy street sat the girls in balconies, ornamented and well
dressed, and small lamps or lanterns shed light on their tempting faces. From
all around came the sounds of song, whining of sarangis18, muffled drums and
the tinkling of bells, as the dancing girls entertained their customers (Ali 74).
When they reach Mushtari Bai she receives them in a dignified manner. She is
one of the cultured dancing girls and does not live in the quarters of the common

The masters of music, dance and poetry

A well- reputed prostitute
See appendix IV
A musical instrument


whores (Ali 74). Alis description of Mushtari Bai is most fascinating. Here in the
person of Mushtari Bai, Ali has set a template for the cultured tawaifs of the Medieval
Delhi whose physical charm, amiable behaviour, and etiquettes are always coupled
with her literary and scholarly temperament:
She was a beautiful woman, young and tall; and in her dark eyes there was
something piercing and poisonous. But her face was gentle, and she looked a
respectable woman. She was dressed simply but with taste, in a white tightfitting pajama, a muslin shirt with flowers embroidered on it in white thread,
and a pink head-cloth well starched and plaited. There was a fine nose
ornament studded on her nostril, and in her ears were gold ear-rings filled with
fresh jasmine flowers, and on her arms she wore gold bangles of a beautiful
design. The palms of her hands and the soles of her feet were dyed red with
henna (Ali 75).
Besides her graceful dressing, she is serene and plaintive. She, as most of such
tawaifs used to be, is an intellectual. She talks to Asghar and Bari of beauty and its
reality in a melancholic mood. When Bari brings her attention to her beauty, she
replies with an air of a poet;But when old age knocks at the door . . . beauty of the
body dies. Only virtue is beauty which I do not possess. Asghar philosophizes, The
beauty of the body is like a flower . . . which attracts the bulbul to itself and breaks his
heart, like a candle which tempts the moths and burns their wings. Upon this
Mushtari Bai replies in dejection;
The real beauty of the flower lies in its smell . . . But I am such an evilsmelling flower that I repulse everyone. I am that candle which burns its own
self, shedding tears of blood, and blackens the walls of the niche with its


smoke. . . .No one cares for me. I am like a caravan-serai where people come,
rest their tired bodies for a while and depart (Ali 75-76).
The grandeur of the city lies not only in its palaces, castles, domes, minarets,
but every Delhiwallah is the ambassador of that great civilization. The streets of the
city are the live pictures of the centuries old rich and splendid traditions woven nicely
in the cultural and religious harmony. The depiction of the people and the city of
Delhi in the novel is vivid picturesque and the Ali brings the whole scene to our
So he [Mir Nihal] came straight down Chandni Chowk towards the Clock
Tower to go through Balli Maran, the nearest way home. As he passed the
Clock Tower He saw a number of camel carts wind their way, creaking,
groaning, [and] moving slowly like snails, from the Company Gardens to
Khari Baoli, the grain market. . . . he stopped to drink water from the sabeel19.
Men had started going about and the shopkeepers were sprinkling water in
front of their shops (Ali 90-91).
All in all, the study finds that the city of Delhi appears as a character in the
novel. This character is bigger than the main protagonist of the novel. The tale of the
city is the tale of a people, a peculiar social system who like the city itself is typical.
The depiction of both the city and the people brings social consciousness about a
phase of our national life as Ali said in the introduction to the first edition of the
novel (Ali x). In the next chapter the main argument of the study is furthered by
exploring the realistic depiction of the overwhelming Muslim culture of Delhi.


A charity drinking water source



Chapter 04

. . . we brought with us a great treasure and this land was also overladen with its own
untold wealth. We entrusted our wealth to this country; and India opened the
floodgates of its treasures to us. We gave to this country the most precious of our
possessions and one which was greatly needed by it. We gave to it the message of
democracy and equality.
(Abul Kalam Azad qtd in Fyzee 113) 20

The Muslim impact on the Indian soil as expressed in the above quoted lines
of Abul Kalam Azad is a historical fact. This chapter furthers the argument of social
realism by exploring the realistic depiction of the post-1857 Muslim society in
Twilight in Delhi. The massacre of Delhi in 1857 brought a complete revolution in the
life patterns of the populace of the city, the majority of which was still Muslim. This
destruction was not only the destruction of a city but also an end to a complete
civilization. The real charm of the centuries old Muslim society ended with the fall of
Delhi (Zameer, 22).
Ali narrates the twilight of a Muslim way of life that overwhelms Delhi even
after 1857. The waning facets of the Muslim way of life represent a complete order in
itself. But the British intrusion brought a chaos in this order. However, Twilight has
splendidly displayed some cultural remains of the fading Muslim society after 1857.

Presidential address to Ramgarh Session of the Indian National Congress 1942


Both through the household of a Delhi noble Mir Nihal and in its wake the entire
Muslim society are depicted realistically in the novel. The novel shows people
speaking Urdu in the Delhvi dialect. In fact Urdu is the product of one of the most
remarkably inherited treasures of the grand Muslim legacy in India. Delhi used to be
its one of the nuclei besides Lakhnow and Haiderabad. Tariq Rehman elaborated this
aspect of the novel better than any other European or American critics of Ahmad Ali.
Besides the use of events to evoke the life of Muslim middle class Delhi, Ali
has also presented that life in three other ways: by reproducing the nearest
equivalent of their linguistic idiom in English; by describing their ethos
through the behavior and attitude of minor characters; by narratorial comments
All over the novel, Ali gives the exact translation of the idiomatic Urdu
phrases. Also he includes the English translation of certain very appropriate verses of
Persian and Urdu. It is mainly through the female characters of the novel that Ali uses
this technique most naturally; For instance, Ali, pointing to the pugnacious behavior
of Begum Jamal (Mir Nihals dead brothers wife) uses the expressions breasts were
beaten, and heaven and earth made one, and elsewhere, five fingers in ghee, a
fairy from Caucasus, ( qtd in Rehman 40) and when Asghar relates the news of
brother-in-laws death to his sister, he recalls that unfortunate day when that telegram
arrives; when I read it the earth seemed to slip from under my feet(Ali 48). Further,
when Begum Waheed and Begum Nihal are arguing on the issue of Asghars
marriage, what Begum Nihal says is the exact translation of Urdu idiom; Has the
boy gone mad? If your father only comes to hear of this he will eat him [Asghar] up
alive (Ali 60). And on another occasion when Asghar visits Mushtari Bai, a cultured
dancing girl of Delhi, She receives him warmly and says; You have become the

moon of Eid. The eyes long for a sight of your face, but in vain. Now this is a plain
rendering of an Urdu idiom into English (Ali 75). There are several others occasions
in the novel where Ali puts the direct literal translations of Urdu idioms and phrases.
Alis use of these words and idioms give a foreign touch to the language of the novel
which adds to the quality of its realism (Rehman 41).
Similarly, here and there in the novel Ali writes beautiful poetic prose that
shows his skills of translating the literary imagery of Delhi poets. The popularity of
Urdu and Persian poetry and the use of poetic language in routine conversations are
usual features of the Muslim society of Delhi. For instance, when Bari (a friend of
Asghar) asks him of his love, Asghar says;
She is beautiful, Bari, very beautiful . . . She is graceful as a cypress. Her hair
is blacker than the night of separation, and her face is brighter than the hours
of love. Her eyes are like narcissi, big and beautiful. There is nectar in their
whites and poison in their blacks. Her eyebrows like two arched bows ready to
wound the hearts of men with the arrows of their lashes. Her lips are redder
than the blood of lovers, and her teeth look like pearls studded in a row. . . (Ali
As the narrative moves ahead, Ali very skillfully adds the translation of Urdu
and Persian verses into English. This testifies the popularity of poetry particularly
among the Muslim populace of Delhi beside music and other forms of fine arts. These
quotations are numerous and are apt to the situation in the narrative. In the post 1857
Delhi the tradition of poetry recitation was alive and it was one of the most liked
forms of entertainment among both the young and old.


Like poetry, qawwali 21 is also another typical feature of the life of Muslim
Delhi. Such gatherings are common at night or at any time of the day in case of some
celebration or social events. The qawwals sing loudly in a chorus mystical love
poems which could be taken as addressed to God or Muhammad or some earthly
sweetheart. The repetition is the very essence of qawwali. The leader of the chorus
sings a line at the top of his voice and the others repeat the same line over and over
again. They sing in chorus and a man in frenzy raises repeated cries of Haq Allah,
Haq. The qawaal changes the line after some repetition: Cares and miseries, grief
and sorrow . . . / what is there I have not known in love and with every subsequent
note the shouts of Haq become more piercing and poignant, coming in quick
succession, and the qawwals repeat the first line. Their performance seems a
complete ceremony in itself. Ali captures a realistic picture of this important feature
of Delhis social life:
They sat in a row and behind their backs were fat bolster cushions. In front of
them sat the leader of the chorus on a carpet. In the light of lamps and lanterns
the white clothes of the listeners looked eerie; and their shadows came and
played on the wall of Mir Nihals house. A young man was beating his hands
on the floor in frenzy. He would rise on his knees and throw himself on the
ground with all his force, shouting frantically hai, hai all the time (Ali 4449).
The fact that Ahmad Ali based his fiction in the social reality mostly that of
the middle class Muslim society of Delhi is highlighted in various forms; presenting
of the religious environ prevailing in the then Delhi, showing the people observing
such rites and rituals such as performing ablutions, saying azaan, offering prayers,

Musical soiree of a semi-religious nature


giving alms and khairat22 are realistically fascinating. Observing prayer is the most
important religious obligation among the Muslims. Twilight depicts a moment from
the daily life of the Muslims of Delhi near Jama Masjid:
Just then the moazzin began to call the evening azaan; and one by one people
began to go inside the mosque to offer prayers. They all crowded in front of
the gate. They took off their shoes, took them in their hands and bending low
walked in through the small postern. In a Few moments the Chowk was empty
and deserted while the faithful said their prayers and remembered their God
(Ali 106-107)
For instance, the celebration of meelad23 is one such occasion that shows an
obvious religious out-looks of the post-1857 Muslim society of Delhi. The novel
brings the account of a meelad read by the family of Mir Nihal as thanksgiving for the
success of Asghars marriage with Bilqeece:
The house was swept and a white sheet was spread over the wooden couches,
sweets were sent for from the bazaar, and soon after the evening prayers two
big lamps were lighted and kept on either side of a small carpet which has
been spread on the couches with a bolster cushion at the back. Incense and
Myrrh were burnt and kept on stands. Rose water was kept in long flasks, and
fresh jasmine flower were laid on a platter. The scented smoke rose and
mingled with the aroma of the flowers and filled the house with its sacred
smell and imbued hearts with religious awe as the whole family sat waiting for
Asghar to begin reading the meelad (Ali 82).


Reading the praises of the Prophet Muhammad (SA)


After Asghar has recited from the Holy Koran, he begins the episodes from the
life of the Prophet (SA). He punctuates his talk with the phrase: Glory be to the
Prophet and his descendants. Asghar speaks with full emotions and makes the
listeners cry. After this everybody stands and sings in chorus. He closes his eyes and
sings, swaying his body to and fro. His heart is filled with the glory of God and the
fervor of Islam. The listeners are standing with head down, drinking words through
their ears. As they hear the word Muhammad, they fold their thumb and kiss them,
and then they touch their eyes. After the proper wording of the meelad, Asghar sings a
hymn in which he asks the Prophet to help him in his need:
O savior, come to my aid,
I am helpless in defeat.
O savior of men and faith,
come in my need to me. (Ali 82- 83)
The ending of the sitting is most realistic. Ali has captured a real situation of a
typical meelad reading by the Delhi Muslims:
As the voice of Nisar Ahmad rose and fell, spreading far and wide, they all sat
silent listening until his voice gradually died away into the night out of which
it was born. Then they raised their hands in prayer, and stood up blowing their
breaths, made holy by repeating the names of God, inside their shirts. The
sweets were distributed (Ali 83).
The Muslims of Delhi are also concerned about their apparent out-looks.
Besides, describing the religious events, ceremonies, and rituals, Ali shows us
typically traditional get up in which a majority of the elderly Muslims appear. Ali
captures their typical ways, manners, and countenances most creatively and

realistically. For instance, Mir Nihal, while coming to his home, meets Nisar Ahmad:
He [Mir Nihal] saw Nisar Ahmad hurrying to the mosque. . . .He wore a shirt
and pajama of home-spun, a cane cap brownish in colour and dirty at the
edges, and a bandana over his shoulder. His head close-cropped and made his
forehead look broad. His expansive fan-shaped beard was dyed red with
henna, and his moustaches were shaved on the upper lip in accordance with
Islamic laws. His nose was big, jutting out on his face like a rock, and a
callosity had formed on his forehead on account of constantly rubbing it on the
ground at prayer, and ashy grey from a distance on his dark face (Ali 92).
People call Nisar Ahmad, the Bilal Habshi (after the name of the favourite
companion of the Prophet from Africa), because he shares two things with Bilal
Habshi; one his dark complexion, the other his golden voice. They like him and
believe that he would go straight to heaven for calling the faithful to prayer (Ali
Since the emergence of Islam in India, the mystics and spiritual divines have
been venerated and loved, perhaps due to their tolerant and amiable behaviour
towards the people of other faiths. These divines have been constant source of
inspiration for both the Muslims and the people of the other religions in India. Besides
its political importance, Delhi has also won the noble reputation of possessing a score
of the tombs of Muslim saints here and there in the city, especially the tombs of
Hazrat Nizam-ud-Din Awlia, Hazrat Qutub-ud Din Bakhtiyar Kaki, Hazrat Khwaja
Baqi Billah, and Hazrat Shah Wali-Ullah. The description of the Delhi faqir24in the
novel suggests the continuation of the tradition of mysticism that has been a special


A divine


feature of Islam in India. Ali writes:
From behind came a Mast Qalandar, a mad faqir, almost naked but for a strip
of cloth tied to a string round his waist. . . .His matted beard, full of dust and
soup and dirt, was tousled, looking like a bulbuls nest . . . from his bushy face
his small eyes sparkled. . . .There was a look of madness on his face, yet
people considered him a divine, a faqir very high up in the mystical order, as
the name given to him, Qalandar, signified. He was favourite with the
gamblers who always consulted him for lucky numbers. Most of the time he
sat near the tomb of Haray Bharay (the evergreen one) and Sarmad at the foot
of Jama Masjid, and seldom came into the city. He constantly cried the same
mysterious saying: When there is such pleasure in throwing it out how great
would be the bliss in keeping it (Ali 95-96).
It is at this point that Mir Nihal, preoccupied with the thoughts of his beloved
Babban Jan, recalls a Rubai of Sarmad, the mystic faqir and Persian poet who was
beheaded by Aurungzeb:
Ive lost religion in quite a novel way,
throwing faith for drunken eyes away:
And all my life in piety spent Ive flung
at the altar for that idol- worshippers joy. . . (Ali 96)
The Muslims in India have not only established their own religious outlook,
but they have also developed a unique pattern of their life which has been mostly
influenced by Islamic teachings and the practice of the mystic divines. These aspects
are manifest from their ways, etiquettes, manners, thinking and imagination. The fact
that the Delhi Muslims remember the dates of the important events of their lives with

reference to the religious rituals shows the overwhelming status of religion. For
instance, Begum Waheed talks to her mother about Asghars marriage; you know
mother, Asghar will be twenty-three in the month of Eid25.You should now get him
married (Ali 56).
Besides the original religious obligations and performances, the novel
highlights various superstations that prevailed in the Muslim society of Delhi. For
instance, while describing Ghafoor, a family servant of Mir Nihal, Ali draws a
realistic sketch of a carefree youth:
He was somewhere in his thirties with a black beard, oval in shape, with the
hair on the cheekbones shaved off. He put a good deal of oil in his hair which
was bobbed and it trickled down to his forehead. There was kohl in his eyes
and a charm hung round his neck by a string. He had just started smoking his
hookah, and on its smoking-stick sat a parrot, part of its wings and back all
yellow because of the attar26which Ghafoor rubbed on its feathers (Ali 37).
The novels depiction of the superstitions among the Muslims of Delhi is
based on reality. For instance, the novel brings an account of Asghars friend Hameed
that shows both the prevailing superstitions and the social conditions of the religious
segment of the then Delhis Muslim society:
Hameed and Asghar had played together and studied in the same maktab 27 in
childhood. He was a simple boy, well behaved and gentle. He was not only the
first to memorise the portion of the Koran which he was asked to remember by


A Muslim religious festival

Old-fashioned oriental school


heart in one day, but he also washed the Molvi 28 Sahebs dishes swept the
house and ran errands for him. When he was about eighteen years of age and
there was talk of his marriage he suddenly went mad. He was a handsome boy
and people began to say that some fairy or jinn had fallen in love with him.
Others said that it was some evil spirit which had possessed him. They called
all sorts of Molvis to treat him for these supernatural ailments and took him
from one tomb of a saint to another, but to no purpose. Now someone had
suggested that qawaalis could cure him. But instead of soothing his
overwrought brain they tortured him the more (Ali 52).
By and large, the superstitious beliefs are more common among the women
folk than the men in Delhi. For instance, when Begum Nihal gets angry at Asghars
marrying Bilqeese, she says, That Begum Shabaz has cast some spell on my boy. I
was fearing it all the time . . . He used to go to her house every day, and she has done
something to him. Or she has given him some charm through Begum Jamal (Ali 6061).
On another occasion when a storm burst Begum Jamal shouted, For Gods
sake, put a broom under the leg of a bed. When Majeed asks the reason, his aunt
Because, our elders say, if you put a broom under the leg of a bed the windstorm abates . . . You know . . . when a dust-storm blows it means the jinns are
going to celebrate a marriage. . . They are creatures of God like us. . . There
are some evil spirits among them. But most of them are Mussalmans like us,
and some are holy (Ali 63-65).


A Muslim clergy


The meticulously depicted family life of the Delhi Muslims in Twilight brings
some very interesting details; for instance, when a male member of the family enters
his own house, he clears his throat in the vestibule and a woman, who may be his
wife, or a daughter, or a sisters, or any other close relation, if lying on the bed sits up
and covers her head with her head-cloth (Ali 7). The family relations and the social
ties among the Indian Muslims are vast, abundant, and strong. But the family
gatherings and social events, at the time of birth, marriage, and death, are conducted
separately for the males and the females and due to the traditional pardah system the
youth cannot mingle freely. However, the circle of family relation is extended and
varied as compare to other societies. For instance, in India cousins wives, even
distant cousins, are called sister-in-law, as the children of the parents cousins are
considered cousins and near relation (Ali 25).
The novel depicts Asghars love-at-first-sight upon his catching a glimpse of
Bilqueese while he has gone see his sister-in-law;
The staircase was just in front of him. Perhaps Bilqueese did not know that he
was sitting there, for she came down into the courtyard. It was not until she
stood face to face with him and their eyes met that she became aware of his
presence. Seeing him she rushed inside. He sat there wonder-struck,
overpowered with her beauty. Sometimes a fleeting glance goes more deeply
home than a meeting. For Asghar this glance meant the entire world (Ali 33).
From the above quoted lines it is revealed that even among the family
relations free interaction between the males and females is not encouraged by the
Delhi Muslim society.
The novel brings another very important aspect of the then Delhi by showing

the apparent distance between a father and a son. Mir Nihal s austere behaviour as a
traditional father in Delhi Muslim society who neither approves of his sons marriage
by choice nor his marrying out of the family is very real. In fact those days marriages
out of the family were unusual. The relationship between Asghar and Mir Nihal
suggests the general indifference of both the generation for each others. For instance,
when Asghar thinks of marrying Bilqueese, the thoughts of his father and mother
stand in his way. He knows that they will never allow the marriage, because she
belongs to Mughal race and his forefathers came of Arab stock (Ali 33).
At this point there are two reasons for Asghars apprehensions; first, it is
predominantly because of the huge generation gap that used to prevail between the
young and old in the Delhi Muslim society, second, it is the caste and racial
differences that existed in the then Delhi perhaps due to the Hindu influences. Thus
Asghar cannot communicate to his father himself. He could discuss the issue with his
elder sister at ease. This shows that at least there exists a mutual trust among the
siblings. But when Begum Waheed speaks to Begum Nihal, the latter is shocked to
learn about Asghars intent. She wants his son to merry in the family. She says to her
daughter annoyingly that it has been the custom from the time of their elders that the
girls the parents have selected for the boys have been accepted by them (Ali 57).
The novel explicitly comments on the existing caste and class among the
Muslims of Delhi. For instance, when Begum Waheed insists on the marriage of
Asghar and Bilqeese, Begum Nihal refused with an air of indifference and it seems
she does not give it a serious thought. She says to Begum Waheed that they cant
mix well. And when the daughter says to her mother that Bilqeese is a nice girl and
those people have money Begum Nihal replies; Money is not everything. Its blood
that matters. Their blood and ours can never mix well. The good-blooded never fail,

but the low-blooded are faithless. But the daughter keeps arguing and say that
brother Ashfaq is married there, and they are very happy upon which Begum Nihal
replies angrily; I am not going to marry my son to Mirzajis daughter . . . They are
Mughals, and we are Saiyyeds. After this the daughter further argues that Brother
Karim had also married a Mughal But Begum Nihal says resolutely; Yes, but she
came of the family of Nawab of Loharu. In Mirzajis wife there is the blood of a
maidservant. . . . No. I like Surayya, and she is my cousins daughter. I will get her for
Asghar. Then Begum Waheed asks her mother that if Asghar himself wants to
marry Bilqeece? She rebuts aggressively and emphatically announces her final words
on this matter that her son will marry the girl of her choice, not the girl of his choice
(Ali 60).
Here the novel vividly elaborates the role of a traditional Muslim mother who
mainly takes stand with her son in such matters despite the fact that the son wants to
go against her wish. Begum Nihal is one such mother who speaks on his sons behalf.
Similarly, in the role of a traditional Muslim father, Mir Nihal remains austere. He
does not speak directly to Asghar. It is through his wife that he communicates to his
son. Latter on when Begum Nihal talks to Mir Nihal about Asghars intent that he is
not willing to marry brother Naseeruddins daughter and he rather wants to marry
Mirza Shabaz Begs daughter Bilqeece, Mir Nihal gets infuriated. He says to his wife:
Have you gone mad along with him? How can my son marry Mirza Shahbaz
Begs daughter? You dont want to bring a low-born into the family? There
are such things as family honour and name. I wont have the marriage. . . . I
cant hear of this. I have told you I dont give my consent to the match. I had
asked you to stop him from mixing with those loafers and low-borns. But you
did not listen. Now you want my name and honour to be damned! . . . If he

marries Mirza Shahbazs daughter I will disown him. I shall have nothing to
do with him (Ali 69).
The novel also comments on such socio-religious rituals of the Muslim of
Delhi that were not religious in the true sense, yet they were practiced perhaps
because of the influence of the other prevailing faiths in India. For instance, Begum
Waheed, the eldest daughter of Mir Nihal, becomes a widow at the age of nineteen,
soon after the birth of her second child. She decides to live with her husbands
people. For though Islam permits her to marry again, but the social code, derived
mostly from prevailing Hindu practice does not favour a second marriage of a women
after the death of her husband (Ali 36).
The social role of men overwhelms the domestic life of women. On several
occasion, the novel captures quite candidly the traditional obeisance of a wife and
other female members of the house to their men in Delhi society. For instance, at meal
time Begum Nihal spreads the food-cloth on the wooden couch. Mir Nihal washes
his hands and sits on his haunches, not cross legged, to take his food. Begum Nihal
begins to fan him (Ali 7-8).
The novels portrayal of the wedding rituals of the Muslims of Delhi calls for
special attention. By and large, of all the social customs of Indian Muslims, those of
the marriage are the most popular and interesting. Of all such customs those which are
conducted by the men seem to be more religious as compared to those of the women.
For instance, describing the engagement ceremony of Asghar, Ali records:
At last about one oclock in the morning the brides people arrived. . . Mirza
Shahbaz Beg did not come. The party consisted younger people in charge of
Ashfaqs elder brother Mir Ejaz Hussain, a venerable old man with a very long

beard. He was very religious and carried a rosary in his hand. Every now and
then he cleared his throat; and on getting up and sitting down he muttered
loudly: Ya Rasul Allah (O Messenger of God).. . . Asghar sat looking shy,
covering his face behind a handkerchief. . . .Mir Ejaz Hussain put the
engagement ring on Asghars finger muttering verses from the Koran (Ali
At the marriage ceremony also in the men circle the events are comparatively
more religious in their outlook. Ali writes:
. . . the marriage was performed by a venerable old Akhunji29 Sahib, a very
learned and pious Molvi, and they said, an equally Great divine. He read the
verses from the Koran relating to marriage; then he asked Asghar thrice if he
was willing to accept Bilqeece Jahan Begum, daughter of Mirza Shahbaz Beg .
. . (Ali 172).
After this the bride is taken inside the Zenana where he is received by his
mother-in- law and near relations of Bilqeece who do not observe pardah with him
now. Following is the ceremony of seeing the brides face. Both the bride and the
bridegroom are made to sit opposite each other, and a copy of the Koran and a
mirror is placed between them. First Asghar is to see the face of his bride then she is
to see him in the mirror (Ali 174).
Thus, the novel brings several traits and customs that feature the life of the
Muslims of Delhi after 1857; the peculiar style of Delhi Urdu, the Delhis love of
Persian and Urdu poetry, the religious rites and rituals, the popularity of qawaali, the
traditional decorum and mannerism in the family life, the reserved behaviour of the

A Muslim clergy


opposite genders for each others, the typical communication gap between the young
and old, and the mystic and divine aspect of Delhi. Of the various aspects of the
golden traits and rich traditions of the Indo-Muslim civilisation the centre of which
was Delhi the noble city, these were a few social and cultural remains after 1857
massacre. How could the people of Delhi forget the bloody events of 1857? The
sensitivity of this phase in the history of Delhi has made it a cataclysmic idiom. The
main argument of this study is furthered from this point in the next chapter.



Chapter 05

The wish for glory and martyrdom

has begun to sway our hearts again.
We shall try his skill and see
what strength is in the enemys hand.

Let the time come we will show

what courage there is in us still.
Why should we tell you now what we
have in our hearts? - the power of will.

But, traveler on the road of love,

tire and weary not in the way:
The pleasure of tramping the desert is
greater the farther is the goal away. (Ali 263)30

After exploring the realistic portrait of the city of Delhi and its people, and


A political song written soon after the Balkan War that was popular among the freedom lover in
India during the second decade of the twentieth century.


studying the fading Muslim culture in the post-1857 Delhi in Twilight, the study
further takes on the argument of social realism in this chapter by finding the social
reaction of Delhi to the British imperialism during the first two decades of the
twentieth century.
The Muslim rule in India had never been a rule of foreigners. Right from the
rise of the Sultanate down to the decline of the Badshahat31, Muslim rulers can be
regarded as foreigners only in the sense in which the English kings have been to
England since the time of William the Conqueror. Or the Muslim kings of India can
be regarded foreigners like the Aryan rulers of India who no doubt came from
central Asia and adopted India as their own country, made her their permanent abode
and completely identified themselves with her peoples, ruling her as Indian national
kings. . . .Their successors, who were born in India, lived and died in India and thus
they were Indian every inch (Jaffar 30-32).
The Muslim rulers made India their home and contributed vastly to her
wealth of civilization. The Muslims gave it its name Hind derived from Sind
(Ahmad 71). They gave India political, social, cultural, and communal unification,
democratic norms, and equality. The social, cultural, educational, and intellectual
outlook of the Mughal India (Delhi being the centre of this glorious progress) reached
its zenith up to Aurengzeb (1658 -1707). However, the awe of the Muslim power in
subcontinent was such that it took the British a period of one hundred years since the
Battle of Pallasy in 1757 to finally overthrow the Muslim rule in 1857 (Ahmad 71).
The events of 1857 have always been looked through two contrastive angles;


Urdu word for Kingdom


the Sepoy Mutiny and the War of Independence. However, Abul Kalam Azad 32
(1888-1958) brings us to the golden mean and suggests a middle course between the
two extreme views on these events. He gives us an eclectic analysis of the events of
. . . the Indian Mutiny was not the result of careful planning nor were there any
master mind behind it. What happened was that in the course of a hundred
years the Indian people developed distaste for the Companys rule and
gradually realized that power had been captured by a foreign race. As this
realization became widespread, the conditions were created for an outburst
which was due not to the conspiracy of a few individuals or groups but
growing discontent of the entire people (327).
Azad further expounds how the revolt of the Indian people was delayed for
almost a hundred years:
The growth of British power in India has perhaps no parallel in history. It was
not a case of outright conquest of one country by another, but a story of slow
penetration in which the people of the land themselves helped the intruders.
The fact that the incursion of the British into India was not in the name of the
Crown, helped to conceal the true nature of their activities. If the British
Crown had from the beginning taken any direct part in Indian affairs, the
Indians would have realized that a foreign power was entering the country.
Because it was a trading company, they did not think of it as a potential ruler


He was a renowned freedom fighter, scholar, thinker, and statesman of the subcontinent. He
was known as Maulana Azad
See appendix I for the complete address


The Company had its own agents. They did not feel any hesitation in
kowtowing to princelings and local potentates or officials of the Mughal Court. They
bowed to the pettiest officials with the same readiness as any Indian trader. They
indulged in bribery and corruption. The Company did not act in its own name for a
very long time. It always sided with some local chief in order to advance its own
interests. Thus the Company established its position in the South by supporting the
claims of The Nawab of Arcot. Nawab Nazim of Murshidabad patronized the
Company in Bengal.Even after the Company became the virtual ruler of Bengal, it
did not claim sovereignty. After Clive had requested the Emperor for the grant of
Diwani rights, the Company acted as an agent of the Emperor for the coming
decades. Little later the Company had its own Governors and Subedars of the
Provinces. These officials including the Governor-General of the Company had their
own seals, but described themselves as the servant[s] of Shah Alam, the Emperor of
Delhi. All of them, including the Governor-General waited on the Emperor in
audience, made presents to him and received in return rewards from the Emperor.
The Governor-General made nazars34 and the Emperor gave him khilats35 and titles.
These titles were used by the Governor-General in all official documents. In this way
the appearance of the sovereignty of the Emperor was kept up, and the people did not
realize how the Company was gradually becoming the real ruler of the land. This
penetration continued and by the second decade of the 19th century the rule of the
Company had spread up to Sutlej. The then Governor-General of the Company, Lord
Hastings, felt that the time had come to assert his power and gradually disown the
Emperor. As a first move he asked the king that he be allowed to sit with him during
his audience and that he be exempted from the payment of nazars. But this was

Presents given by a dignitary

Presents given to a dignitary


rejected. The Company then sought to undermine the power of the Emperor by
encouraging the growth of a kingdom independent of Delhi. An approach was made
to the Nizam of Hyderabad to declare himself a king. The Nizam did not agree, but
the British found more willing agent in the Nawab-Wazir of Oudh. Oudh thus ceased
to be a province of the Empire and became a kingdom disowning its allegiance to the
Emperor. In 1835 people of India were shocked to learn that the Company issued
coins from which the Emperors name was removed and replaced Persian with
English for official correspondences etc. Such bold steps created a great disturbance
in their minds and affected not only the civil society but also members of the armed
forces. It was this simmering discontent which ultimately broke out in the outburst of
1857 (Azad 328-329).
The after 1857 Delhi aired mutual enmity and distrust between the Indians
and the British (Ahmad 68). The social and political struggle of the Indians against
the British rule in India started in the last quarter of the 19th century. By and large, the
Indians stood united against the British. Their efforts motivated the social and
religious circles which gradually turned into semi-political struggles.
It is at this point that the main argument of the study is further elaborated by
exploring Delhis social reaction against the British in the novel. There are two
strands of this reaction: The reactionary strand is represented by Mir Nihal and other
oldies. The conformists are represented by Asghar. However, the larger part of the
Delhi populace is seen on the reactionary strand. The former strand of reaction led to
many stresses in the indigenous life and its multicultural society. But at the same time,
the later resulted into a very serious process of adjustment and integration with the
western education and culture.


Alis perception of this social and political upheaval was inherited to him by
his forefathers. Towards the end of the seventeenth century, his family migrated from
Baghdad to Delhi in the reign of the emperor Akbar. This Syed family of Ahmad Ali
was devout in its religious rituals and the entire family was devoted to religious
preaching. The family members were among the Delhi nobles (Kamran 14).
Alis preoccupation with the social issues can be traced from his short stories.
But in Twilight he takes up the theme of social reaction more implicitly. In the
introduction of Twilight he himself narrates how the English publishers were
reluctant to publish the novel due to certain subversive portion which would give
rise to anti-British sentiments (Ahmad 74).
In Twilight in Delhi, Ali handles the Indian society whose milieu was fast
disappearing under the impact of the British rule. He is the master delineator of the
surface of life both in its grotesque and its most exquisite manifestations. Ali had
deep perception of the social forces at work in the Delhi of the first two decades of the
twentieth century (Gowda 643).
Ali opens the novel with a candid description of Delhis opposition to the
foreign yoke and its standing as the symbol of life and death, and revenge (Ali
2). The deep resentment of the Delhi people against the British gets flared gradually
and the tone of their dissatisfaction with the foreign rule gets louder when Ali
describes events of Coronation Ceremony 1911, the Imitation Durbar 1913, and the
building of New Delhi.
The characters in Twilight in Dehli show keen perception of the political and
social currents that were going on in India. They were aware of the tension that went
on between the Indians and the British. Their memories of the 1857 War were bitter

with revenge. The growing impact of the colonial rule in India caused a deep
resentment among them. The novels protagonist Mir Nihal personifies the IndoMuslim society at such a turn when the social fabric is about to be altered (Gowda
644). Kamran quotes Stilz that Ali uses Mir Nihal as a narrative safeguard when he
makes famous critical comments on the British presence in India (193).
Right from the beginning of the novel, we see various implicit and explicit
shades of resentments against the British. The impacts of the 1857 War are so
dominant on the overall life of Delhi in particular that even children are curious to
know about the events and incidents of that massacre. For instance, Begum Nihal tells
her usual bed-time stories to her daughter Mehro and her nephew Masroor. Masroor
requests her aunt to tell him the story of the king who had turned into a snake. But
Mehro interrupts and says to her mother to tell them what happened in the Mutiny
and how the Farangis36 had turned all the Mussalmans37 out of the city. Why did they
do that? (Ali 6).
It is through the characters of both Mir Nihal and his son Asghar that Ali
represents the reaction of the Indo-Muslim culture against the intrusion of the British.
Mir Nihal is an emphatic opponent of the Farangi Raj but Asghar represents the
changing face of India after the arrival of the British. There is ambivalence in the
character of Asghar. For instance, we can see this very clearly from his turn-out that
shows an amalgamation of the East and West. He is tall and handsome young man
with his hair well oiled and his red Turkish cap cocked at a smart angle on his head.
The upper buttons of his Sherwani38 are open and show the collar of the English shirt
that he is wearing under it (Ali11).

The English
The Muslims
A long coat of Eastern dressing


However, Mir Nihals hatred for the British Empire is very obvious and
candid. On several occasions in the novel he shows his resentment for the British. For
instance, one day when Asghar enters home, Mir Nihal stops and turns to him angrily:
You are again wearing those dirty English boots! I dont like them. I will have no
aping of the Farangis in my house. Throw them away! . . . (Ali 11).
On another occasion, Asghar speaks to his sister bitterly about the strict
behaviour of his father and tries to win her sympathies. He says that father has never
been sympathetic towards me. He is always shouting at me and getting angry. I must
not wear pumps or English shirts; I must not grow my hair in the English fashion. If I
had stayed in Delhi he wouldnt have even allowed me to learn English (Ali 49- 50).
This anti-imperialist stance of Twilight in Delhi further surges explicitly when
Asghar says to his sister, I wanted to go to Aligarh to study further; but father put his
foot down. He wouldnt hear the name of Aligarh. It is after all a Muslim institution,
but he says that it is all the evil-doing of the Farangis who want to make Christians
and atheists of all of us (Ali 49- 50).
The same anti-British feelings are expressed by the various social groups of
Delhi. Their reaction to the foreign ways of life is very explicit. For instance, in the
novel when a few urchins come across Asghar who is wearing English clothes, they
begin to mock him and shout in his face:Bol gai My Lord Kukroo koon (My Lord has
been frightened like a defeated cock) (Ali 260).
Similarly, the post- 1857 beggars of Delhi are not merely beggars but they are
the communicators of hopelessness, nostalgia, and resentment to the Farangis.
Wherever they move, they bring with them sadness and gloom. With their heartrending voice, they sing melancholic couplets to the passengers in the tram cars. In

the novel there is a beggar who is commonly known as Bahadur shah, for he sings
only the poems of Bahadur Shah, the last Mughal king. He sings to bring back the
memory of the olden days when Hindustan was not in the shackles of the Farangis.
His voice does not merely convey the grief of Bahadur Shah, but in it is heard the
plaint of Indias slavery:
I am the light of no ones eye,
the rest of no ones 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?
Im the cry of a stricken soul,
the pain of a broken heart am I. . . (Ali 136).

Depicting the opinions of the people of Delhi regarding the Coronation Durbar
held at Delhi in 1911, the novel relates that Delhi people were agog and stared in
wonder at this bustle, many happy in the hope of gain, others raging within their
hearts at the thought of subjugation to a foreign race. . . .(Ali 137).
The novel brings the accounts of those days in scrutiny and there is underlying
resentment for the English. As the Coronation day comes near, people from all over
India flock to Delhi:


Queer-looking carriages passed through the Chandni Chowk and the Chaori
Bazar, and strange faces were visible all around. . . .Tommies in their drab
uniforms, or Englishmen in their plain clothes. . . .In front of the Town Hall
and around the statue of the English Queen one enormous stand was erected;
and the ugliness of the Clock Tower had been concealed. . . . All this made
Delhi look more like an exhibition ground than the city which was once the
greatest in Hindustan (Ali 138).
Not only the men of Delhi are angry at the British but the bitter feelings of
women can also be traced in the Novel. The novel records the conversations of the
women in their typical Delhi style:
The women heard of the preparation for the Durbar and made sour faces and
passed bitter remarks. What would these beaten-with-the-broom Farangis
do? said Begum Jamal; and Begum Nihal remarked: When the Mughal king
used to go out rupees and gold mohurs39were showered by the handfuls. What
will these good-as-dead Farangis give? Dust and stone! . . . (Ali 139).
Nevertheless, the Coronation brings some show and prosperity to the city
and the men of various professions and means talk about all that is going on in their
city in its own way. Generally their talks are split between both the good and the bad
opinions about the British Raj in India, but toward the end they agree on the point
All this show and prosperity is temporary. It will all vanish one day, soon. I
[Mirza, the milk seller] am not abusing Gods gracious who is always good.
But I do believe that the rule of the Farangis can never be good for us. See


Sort of coins


how they imprisoned Bahadur Shah40, banished him, killed his sons and looted
Dilli. All this does not betoken any good. . . . (Ali 140).
The social reaction of the business community of Delhi to Coronation is, however,
somewhat different from that of the rest of the social groups. They seem happy for
they are doing good business out of all this hustle and bustle of the Coronation.
Similarly, the Delhi youth is enthusiastic at the prospects of watching the procession
of the King [Georg VII]. However, the reaction of the older residents is that of
extreme resentment because they had seen a glimpse of the glamour of the Mughals
and had many relations killed during the great destruction and plunder of Delhi in
1857, [they] were stricken dumb, or cursed the Farangis at home. . . . (Ali 141).
The reaction of the people of Delhi becomes intense as the Coronation day
neared. Two days before the Coronation, Shams, who had been posted in the
Fort, brought the news that the pavilion was burnt. . . .Other fires had broken
out, and the petrol depot had caught fire. Mir Nihal and Habibuddin felt
secretly happy; but Kabiruddin kept quiet out of loyalty to those from whom
he got his salt. Begum Nihal, however, cursed the English, feeling happy at
the news. Its Gods vengeance falling on these good-as-dead Farangis, she
said, May they be destroyed for what they have done to Hindustan. May
Gods scourge fall on them (Ali 141-142)
Mir Nihal, Begum Nihal, and the people of Delhi have not forgotten the
bloodshed, destruction, and looting, and ruining of Delhi at the time of the Mutiny.
They all are furious with rage and impotent anger, for they could do nothing. . .


See appendix V


The argument of social realism in the novel is supported by both the
description of the lives of common people and the unusual characters from the Delhi
of the first two decades of the twentieth century. Ali writes that after the fall of Delhi
at the hand of the British, many princes and princesses of the family of Bahader Shah
were living miserable life. Some of them became beggars or they had gone mad. Gul
Bano is one of those miserable women. She was beautiful even in her old age with a
broad forehead fair complexion and most beautiful eyes. She never begged directly,
but sang Bahadur Shahs poems . . . with reverence and tragic memories. She was a
grand-daughter of the last King Bahadur Shah. At the time of the Mutiny she was
seven years old. During those terrible days she with her mother and a few other family
members escaped. All of them died of cholera but she lived for further hardships.
After she returned to Delhi, she married to a cook who treated her badly; but
eventually he died. And she was reduced to begging from house to house (Ali142).
The bitter memories made her more tragic and pathetic. She related those cruel
moments with pain and misery. Ali narrates her miserable tale that one day before the
Coronation of the English king at Delhi, she came to Mir Nihals and talking to
Mehro, she spoke with grief;
We are beggars and the Farangis are kings. For us there is only a bed of
thorns, and they sleep on the beds of roses. . . Yesterday we were the owners
of horses and elephants, slaves and territories. But they usurped our throne,
banished the king, killed hundreds of princes before these unfortunate eyes
which could not even go blind drank their blood, and we could do nothing. . . I
am still alive to suffer the bludgeon blows of Time (Ali 142-143).
Thus, she bursts in tears and the women of the family including Begum Nihal
feel the same sorrow with her as if her sorrows were their own, and remembered the

good old days. Then after a while perhaps thinking of some distant world more
beautiful and more happy than Hindustan, she sings a poem of her grandfather, the
dethroned king Bahudar Shah, in her melancholic accord;
Now that suddenly the times have turned
there is no peace for my soul.
How shall I tell the tale of woe,
with grief my heart is torn.

Delhi was once a paradise,

and great the joys residing here.
But they have ravished this bride of peace,
remain now ruins and care.

The Indians have been ruined, alas,

I cannot tell how they suffered:
Whoever the ruler of the day saw
was only put to the sword. (Ali 144)
At this moment she makes everybody around her cry and then she sings the
following lines in sobs;
They were not even given a shroud,
nor were they buried under the ground.
And who performed their funeral rites?
their graves show no mound (Ali 144).
The social reaction of elderly people of Delhi to the British Raj in India is
most severe and whenever they are gathered at some place they recall their bitter

memories of the 1857 massacre of Delhi. They look to the Britains imperial
expansion from various angles. Some of them think that the Mughal fell because of a
treachery of the close associates of the king; others think that it was because of the
lack of strategy on the part of the Mughal princes. Still some others believe that the
king himself had no political sense or judgment. Thus everybody has a thought on
this issue and feels a great sense of loss and failure. The Coronation ceremony is
reviving their bitter feeling against the British Raj in India (Ali 142-146).
The character of Mir Nihal is the collective reaction of the people of Delhi
against the British. On the Coronation Day, December 7, 1911 41, people are going to
see the procession. Mir Nihal is loath to go, but his sons persuade him to come. The
sights and events do not attract him. The faces of the English look all so alike. But
the carriages of native rajahs42 and nawabs remind him of their slavishness and their
treacherous acceptance of the foreign yoke and he is filled with shame and disgust.
Here it is, in this very Delhi, he thinks, that his Indian kings rode past who left a
great and glorious name behind. But the Farangis came from across the seven seas,
and gradually established their rule. By egging on Indian chiefs to fight each other
and by giving them secret and open aid they won concessions for themselves; and
established their empire. . . .(Ali 149).
The underlying resentment against the Empire is manifest from the following
The procession passed one long unending line of generals and governors, the
Tommies and the native chiefs with their retinues and soldiery, like a slow
unending line of ants. In the background were the guns booming, threatening

See appendix IV for the original picture of the procession

A Indian aristocrat


the subdued people of Hindustan. Right on the road, lining it on either side,
and in the procession, were English soldiers, to show, as it seemed to Mir
Nihal, that India had been conquered with the force of arms, and at the point
of guns will she be retained (Ali 149).
It is at this very point in the novel that Ali amplifies the anti-British feelings
by expressing the thoughts of Mir Nihal in fury. A host of painful thought swarmed
upon him. It grieves his heart and infuriates his mind to see The Red Fort, once a
symbol of the glorious Delhi, is now being trampled by the ruthless feet of an alien
race. The Khooni Darwaza43, the Bloody Gate is, on his right. Beyond this he thinks
of the Old Fort of Feroz Shah, still beyond that the remnants of the past Delhis and
of the ravished splendor of once mighty Hindustan, A Humayuns tomb, Qutub
Minar, the early Delhi of the Hindu kings,Hastinapur or Dilli, Mahroli, and other
signs of Delhis glory. Now Mir Nihal thinks that today Delhi is being despoiled by
a Western race who has no sympathy with India or her sons and who has put the
iron chains of slavery round their once unbending necks. At this moment, Ali
balances his realistic depiction of Delhis social reaction to the British Raj by
describing those who showed allegiance to the British. He shows the vainglorious
pomp and show of the native chief passing by the Jama Masjid which has been
vulgarly decorated with a garland of golden writing containing slavish greetings
from the Indian Mussalmans to the English king, displaying the treachery of the
priestly class to their people and Islam (Ali 150).
The most realistically explicit description of the deep contempt and resentment
of Delhi appears when Ali brings the account of Mir Nihals remembering the 1857
days when the British insisted on demolishing or turning [the Jama Masjid] into a

See appendix VI for the pictures


church. The fourteenth day of September, 1857 was the most fretful day when
Delhi fell into the hands of the English, that this mosque had seen a different sight.
Mir Nihal was ten years of age then, and had seen everything with his own eyes. As
it was Friday, therefore, thousands of Mussalmans had gathered in the mosque to
offer their prayers. The British broke through the city wall after a battle lasting for
four months and four days. Sir Thomas Metcalf with his army had taken his stand by
the hospital on the Esplanade Road, and was contemplating the destruction of the
Jama Masjid. This plan was revealed upon the Mussalmans so they decided to make
an attack on Metcalf; at this very moment the novel describes the daring behavior of
the Delhiwallahs who had no guns with them, only swords. One man got up and
standing on at the pulpit shamed the people, saying that they would all die one day, it
was better to die like men, fighting for their country and Islam (Ali 151). His words
were still echoing in Mir Nihals ear:
The time of your trial has come, the man had shouted. I give you invitation
to death. The enemy is standing there right in front of you. Those who wish to
prove their mettle should come with me to the northern gate of the mosque.
Those who hold life dear should go to the southern gate, for the enemy is not
there on that side. . . . (Ali 151).
After hearing this speech, there was not one soul who went to the southern
gate of the mosque. Unearthing their swords, breaking the scabbard into two, and
flashing them, they rushed to the northern gate. At this moment, in the novel Mir
Nihal recollects the brutal days of 1875 (Ali 151):
In front stood Metcalf with his men, and all around lay the corpses of the dead.
Already the vultures had settled down to devour the carrion; and the dogs were


tearing the flesh of the patriots who lay unburied and unmourned. As Metcalf
saw the people with the swords in their hands he opened fire. Hundreds fell
down dead on the steps of the mosque and inside, colouring the stones a
deeper red with their blood. But with a resolution to embrace death in the
cause of the motherland, the Mussalmans made a sudden rally and before
Metcalfs men could fire a second volley of shots they were at their throats. . .
the soldiers . . .turned their backs and ran for their lives.. . .the English had
reached at the hill. . .a battle ensued. The Mussalmans had no guns and most
of them lost their lives, the rest came away . . . (Ali 151-152).
At this moment the novel describes the extreme rage and contempt of Mir
Nihal for the British. Mir Nihal compares the then and now Delhis and thinks that
there were those men of 1857, and here were the men of 1911, chicken-hearted and
happy in their disgrace. It further aggravated his grief to see the death of his world.
He is lost in the utter dejection thinking on all this disgrace of foreign rule. However,
still there are a few of his age who weep with him on this Delhi. Mir Nihal is griefstricken on their miseries because they see and suffer and can do nothing. A fire
burns within their breasts; but the flames do not shoot up. Only the soul is consumed
by the internal heat and they feel dead, so dead, alas. . . (Ali 152-153).
In the following lines of Mir Nihal conclude the resentment of Delhi, for he is
the spokesman of the ruined Delhi. He as well as the city is in the state of twilight.
Yet this twilight has a ray of hope for a new dawn of the self rule:
We shall go home soon, he said to Naseem. See there go the horses and the
Farangis. and he pointed to the riders as the procession had already come out
on the northern side. . . .Dont you see them? Those are the people who have


been our undoing, and will be yours too.
Naseem looked at the procession, unable to understand what his
Grandfather was telling him. But you will be brave, my child, and will fight
them one day.
Wont you?Naseem looked at the horses and the men; and two teardrops hung on his eyelashes and glistened in the sun.
You will be brave, Mir Nihal repeated as he wiped the childs
tear his fingers, and drive them out of the country. . . (Ali 153).
The concluding chapters of the novel are painful and melancholic. They depict
Mir Nihal, his household, and the city all in their twilight. With the death of his
friend Mir Sangi and the disappearance of Kambal Shah, Mir Nihal sees himself as
the sole guardian of years that had gone(Ali 250). It is in the following lines of the
novel that Ali sums up the twilight of a city, a people, a culture, and a country. The
description of the resistance against the destroyers also strengthens the argument of
this chapter:
Now and then he fished for pearls from the age-old sand of Memory; and as he
remembered how love-fires had kindled, raged and died, he shed a few tears of
self-pity and helplessness. Memories of days and hours came swarming like
flies upon him, and he thought of his life from childhood to the present day.
Delhi had fallen, he reflected; India had been despoiled; all that he had stood
for had been destroyed. Only a year ago a new wave of freedom had surged
across the breast of Hindustan. People had become conscious and wished to
come back into their own. The Home Rule Movement was started, and there
were prophetic rumblings of distant thunder as the Movement went sweeping

over India. But, somehow, all this did not affect Mir Nihal. It was not for him,
the martyrdom and glory in the cause of the Mother Land. His days had gone,
and a new era of hopes and aspirations, which he neither understood nor
sympathized with, was beginning to dawn. . . . He was one of those who had
believed in fighting with naked swords in their hands. The young only
agitated. . . .New ideas had come into being. A hybrid culture which had
nothing in it of the past was forcing itself upon Hindustan, a hodge-podge of
Indian and Western ways which he failed to understand. . . . The old had gone,
and the new was feeble and effete (Ali 250-251).
It is at this point in the novel that Ali explicitly makes the British responsible
for the fall of a city and its composite culture. He looks to this whole affair with pains
and misery coupled with grief and anger;
A hopeless weariness was in the atmosphere; and the dust blew more often
than before. The glory had gone, and only dreariness remained. The richness
of life had been looted and despoiled by the foreigners, and vulgarity and
cheapness had taken its place. The relation which existed between the society
and its poets and members was destroyed. Perhaps the environment had
changed. . . . New modes had forced themselves upon India. Perhaps that is
why that unity of experience and form, which existed in Mir Nihals youth,
had vanished . . . (Ali 251).
There in the world of Mir Nihal time had reversed the order of things, and
life had been replaced by a death-in-life. No beauty seemed to remain anywhere and
ugliness had blackened the face of Hindustan. . . .(Ali 252).
The novel reflects the ongoing collective reaction of the Indians against the

British rule during the 1919. Now their reaction was turning into severe political
agitation and mass awareness against the foreign hold. As this movement grew, the
British reacted more cruelly and violently. Towards the end of the novel, there are
several occasions when Ali quite candidly refers to the then vigorous political
agitation of the Indians. The following lines from the novel sum up the social and
political reaction of the people of Delhi against the Raj:
The streets were deserted and empty as if some great calamity had fallen.
Tommies stood on watch in the Chandni Chowk, and the Indian policemen
patrolled the streets. The Government had opened fire on Indian mobs that
day. . . .Since the Home Rule Movement had been started in 1917 a fire of
anger and hate had been ignited in the hearts of Indians. . . .After the passing
of the Rowlett Bill, all over the country people went out in mammoth
processions shouting slogans and protesting for the freedom of their Mother
Land. They had no weapons or arms; and in Delhi, the great city which had
always fought for her own, the English army and the native police had opened
fire on them (Ali 259).



Chapter 06
The novel is predominantly a social and cultural phenomenon. As the social
and cultural concerns of life have grown enormously for the last two centuries, the
novel has overwhelmed the other genres of literature to a large extent. It is
predominantly because of the broader canvas of the novel that accommodates the
multitudes of issues, concerns, complexities, conflicts and problems of life in the
modern era. A novel is a story of life and at the same time it is an entity in itself that
contains huge amount of social and cultural realities.
The subcontinent English novel written during the colonial India broadly
addresses the issues of culture, politics, religion, and race. All India Progressive
Writers Association was a conscious effort in tilting the minds and pens of the
writers of the subcontinent towards these social and political concerns.
Ahmad Ali was one of the pioneering members of this movement. He actively
played his role in furthering the cause of All India Progressive Writers Movement
even after parting with the movement. Henceforth he emerged both as a mainstream
writer in Urdu fiction and as a mature novelist in English with three remarkable
novels to his credit: Twilight in Delhi, Oceans of Night, and Of Rats and Diplomats
In the course of the main argument of this study, a broad social realistic study
of Twilight in Delhi, it is explored that Alis progressive and realistic concerns have
overwhelmed the other traits of his literary genius in this novel. The main argument of
social realism has been explored in the three distinct areas:
Firstly, a broad analysis of social realism in the novel is conducted. It is

explored that the city of Delhi is a character in itself. Despite the consecutive
courses of destruction, the city is thriving and vibrant with activities and has posed
itself as a living being. It is also found that the actualities, idiosyncrasies, and jollities
of its people are unique therefore the collective effect of them is called Delhi. All
this is vividly drawn through live images in the wake of the household of a Delhi
noble Mir Nihal and the narrow streets of Shahjahanabad.
Secondly, the study has found that the post 1857 Delhi is socially and
culturally dominant by the Muslim. It has further been explored that the novel shows
Delhis Muslim society in their twilight and their culture is in constant erosion. The
people of Delhi have an abundant sense of loss and nostalgia for their glorious past. It
is also found that the religious preoccupation of the people of Delhi appears in two
ways; through their superstitions, and their inclination to the mystical and mysterious.
Thirdly, the study has explored that the novel brings very bold and realistic
account of Delhis social reaction to British Imperialism during the first two decades
of the twentieth century. It is also found that the established Indo-Muslim culture of
Delhi felt the greatest threat after the fall of Delhi in 1857. By and large 1857 has
become a metaphor of disgust and revenge for the overall populace of the city. The
study has found that the social reaction of Delhi springs in two strands; the
reactionary and the conformists. However the former strand has overwhelmed the
latter one.
Twilight is the realistic depiction of the city of Delhi, the Muslim society of
Delhi, and the reaction of the people of Delhi to the British Empire during the first
two decades of the twentieth century. The novel promises scope for further research
from various aspects. One such aspect is the novels centralisation of political themes.


The novel is rich in exploring the contours of Indias response to the British
Imperialist rule over South Asia.



Works Cited
Ahmad, Nighat. Twilight in Delhi Revisited: A Postcolonial Perspective in NUML
Research Magazine Vol 8 (1) (2010)
Ahmad, Munnawar Iqbal. Post-Independence/Post-Colonial Pakistani
Fiction in English: A Socio-Political Study with Focus on Twilight in Delhi,
The Murder of Aziz Khan, Ice-Candy-Man and Moth Smoke
Islamabad; National University of Modern Languages, (2009)
Ali, Ahmad. Baqalam Khud (By Myself) in Jamia, May- July 1994 Quarterly,
New Delhi: Jamia Millia Islamia, (1994)
Ali, Ahmad. Twilight in Delhi Karachi: Oxford University Press, (1984)
Alvi, Khalid. Dr. ed Angaare Ka Fanni Jaiza in Angaare, Dehli:
Educational Publishing House (1995)
Askari, Muhammad Hassan. A Novel by Ahmad (Translated by Carlo Coppola),
In The Annual of Urdu Studies No.9, 1994 Madison: University of
Wisconsin (1994)
Azad, Maulana Abul Kalam. Speeches of Maulana Azad 1947-1955 New Delhi:
Publication Division, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government
of India (1956)
Desai, Anita. Clear Light of Day New York: Mariner Books (2000)

Delhvi, Shahid Ahmad. Ujra Deyar (Urdu). Karachi: Maktaba e Danyal (1987)
Fyzee, Asif A. A. A Modern Approach to Islam Lahore; Universal Books, (1978)

Ghalib, Mirza. 1857, in City Improbable by Khuswant Singh, New Delhi:

Penguin Books (2001)

Gowda, H. H. Anniah. Encyclopaedia of Commonwealth Literature Vol.2 New Delhi:

Cosmo Publications, (1998)

Hassan, Sibte. Introduction to Roshnae (Urdu) Karachi: Maktaba e Danyal, (2005)

Jaffar, S.M. Some Cultural Aspects of Muslim Rule in India Peshawar: S. Muhammad
Sadiq Khan Publisher, (1939)
Joshi, Priya. In Another Country New York: Colombia University Press, (2002)
Kamran, Muhammad Dr. Prof. Ahmad Ali, Hayat Aur Adabi Khidmat (Urdu) Karachi:
Anjuman Tarraqi e Urdu Pakistan (2010)
Kashfi, Abul Khair, Muqqadima Bagh-o-Bahar (Urdu), Karachi: Urdu Academy
Naik, M. K. A History of Indian English Literature New Delhi: Sahitya Akademi
(1982) Publishing House (1995)
Rehman, Tariq. A History of English Literature in Pakistan Lahore: Vanguard, (1991)
Sareen, Raj Tilak. Colonial India New Delhi: Criterion Publications (1990)

Siddique, Muhammad Ali. Roshnae Kiyon Parhi Jaye (Why Should Roshnae
be Read), Roshnae (Urdu) Karachi: Maktaba e Danyal, (2005)
Singh, Khuswant. City Improbable New Delhi: Penguin Books, (2001)
Zaheer, Sajjad. Roshnae (Urdu) Karachi: Maktaba e Danyal, (2005)
Zameer, S.H. ed. Introduction to Dilli Ka Akhari Deedar (Urdu) Delhi: Urdu
Academy, (1934)

Dilli Ki Tehzeeb Kay Bunyadi Anasir in Dilli Ki Tehzeeb (Urdu)

ed. Dr. Intizar Mirza. Delhi: Urdu Academy (1984)


Appendix I
1857: The Need for a New Evaluation
I have pleasure in welcoming you to the 31st Session of the Indian Historical
Records Commission.
I am happy that at the invitation of the University of Mysore, this session is
being held in this beautiful city. In the British days, Mysore was in the vanguard of
Indian States and marked by a liberal and progressive policy in education, industry
and administration. On the attainment of independence, it merged with the Indian
union and immediately took its place among the more progressive and developed
units of the nation. I am therefore happy that the Session of the Indian Historical
Records Commission has given us an opportunity of visiting this progressive State.
Three years ago, on a similar occasion, I drew your attention to the need of
utilizing the material in the National Archives for the writing of a new history of the
War of Indian Independence of 1857, generally described as the Sepoy Mutiny. I
think you will agree with me that no objective history of the struggle has yet been
written, though there have been many number of studies, long and short, on the
subject. You are aware that after 1857 the nature and scope of this struggle was for a
long time the subject of controversy both in and outside India. Many books have been
written from different angles and even if we consider the work of only recognized
historians, the number of such studies can be counted in hundreds. It is, however clear
that they are all written from one point of view, viz., that of the British. They all seek
to represent this struggle as a rebellion of the Indian Army against the constitutional
Government of the day. Some Indian States also joined in the revolt but these were
States which nursed a grievance because of their annexation by Lord Dalhousie. The

British Government, as the constituted authority of the land, suppressed the revolt and
restored law and order. Not one of the many books written on the subject has sought
to interpret the events of 1857 in any other way. It may also be mentioned that while
these authors describe in detail the many atrocities perpetrated by Indians on
European men, women and children, not one has referred to the equal or worse crimes
against Indians committed by the British.
It is now a general practice that official records are thrown open to research
workers after about 50 years. This custom grew out of a decision of the United
Kingdom about the records of the wars with Napoleon. Other countries of Europe also
accepted this convention. 1908 marked the fiftieth anniversary of the Mutiny. With
the approach of this year, the Government of India decided to release for research all
official papers connected with it and desired that a history of 1857 should be written
on their basis. A three-volume history, based on official records, was published in due
This history has the same point of view as those written by other British
authors. Only one new point came out in this publication. The author stated that so far
as Oudh was concerned, the struggle had in it elements of a national uprising. Oudh
had only recently been taken over by the British from an Indian king, and the people
were resentful of this. They therefore felt justified in fighting the Company which had
acted unjustly towards Oudh. This was, however, not a new discovery. Lord Canning,
in his own dispatches, had admitted that the struggle in Oudh had partaken of the
nature of a national uprising. Since Lord Canning had himself stated this, the author
of the book found no difficulty in saying so. The author has also pointed out that the
lenient treatment meted out to the Taluqdars of Oudh after the suppression of the
Mutiny was due to recognition of this fact.

For some time past, I have felt that the time has come to write a new and
objective history of the Movement of 1857. Three years ago when I spoke to you, I
had this issue in my mind. Some months ago it suddenly occurred to me that 1954
was drawing to a close and in two years more we should have the centenary of the
uprising. The first shots of the Mutiny were fired on May 10, 1857. There can
therefore be no better occasion than May 10, 1957, to bring out a comprehensive
history of the struggle.
I therefore decided that the work should immediately be taken in hand. You
will be glad to hear that the Government of India has commissioned Dr. S. N. Sen, a
well-known Indian historian, formerly Director of the National Archives and for some
time Vice-chancellor of Delhi University, to write this book. It is my purpose that his
work should be completed in such time as to publish the book on May 10, 1957.
I wish to make it clear that it will be a true history of the struggle of 1857, and
not any partisan interpretation of the events. It must be based on facts and facts alone,
and these facts must be collected from the records which we have in the Archives or
elsewhere. The Government of India has therefore placed at Dr. Sens disposal all
records on this subject in the national Archives. It is also proposed to make available
to him necessary data from the India Office in London.
I realize how difficult it is to write an objective account of events which have
aroused so much passion in the past. It is not easy for an individual to hold the
balance even, as he is influenced by personal, racial or national feeling. Nevertheless,
this must be his constant endeavour if the is to be a historian in the true sense. I also
concede that an objective history of the Mutiny was even more difficult to write
before India became free. There are two factors which make the task more feasible


today. The events we are to study are already a hundred years old. The poignancy
which attached to them when they were fresh has been largely the detachment born
out of distance in time. In addition, the incentive to make political capital out of these
far-off events is resolved, and resolved through negotiation and agreement which have
created a new feeling of friendship between the two countries. The bitterness which
characterized Indo-British relations in the past is no more. There is therefore an
atmosphere today in which the events of 1857 can be studied dispassionately and
objectively and without seeking to condemn or condone the faults of either party to
the struggle.
It is noteworthy that no Indian of that period has written anything which can
be regarded as an account of the struggle from the Indian point of view; but if we
think over the matter, this is not surprising. We know that the struggle was suppressed
with great violence and for many years there was an atmosphere of terror in the
country. Thousands were executed without trial. There was hardly any region in
Northern India where corpses, hanging from gibbets, did not remind people of the
vengeance of the Government. No Indian thus dared at that time to speak or write
freely about the events of 1857. A few Indians who were servants or supporters of the
Government have left some accounts but nobody who wanted to write freely and
frankly had the courage to do so.
Evidence of how the Indian mind was terrorized is clear from the case of one
man, Mirza Moinuddin. He was a Sub-Inspector of Police in the suburbs of Delhi
during the Mutiny. He fled to Persia and returned after two years. At the request of
Mr. Metcalf, whose life he had saved during the Mutiny, he wrote an account of his
experiences but handed over the manuscript to Mr. Metcalf on the express condition
that it must not be published so long as he was alive. There is hardly one word against

the Government in his book which only describes how he himself fared during the
Mutiny, but even then the fear which possessed him was so great that it was only
under the condition mentioned above that he would hand over the manuscript to Mr.
Metcalf. Metcalf kept his word and prepared an English translation of the book only
after he heard of Moinuddins death. The book could not, however, be published
during Metcalfs life.
The question has often been asked as to who were responsible for the Mutiny.
Suggestions have also been made sometimes that there was a group of planners who
prepared a scheme according to which the movement was launched. I must confess
that I have grave doubts on the point. During the Mutiny and in the years immediately
thereafter the British Government carried out careful enquiries into the origin and
causes of the Mutiny. Lord Salisbury said in the House of Commons that he for one
was not prepared to admit that such a widespread and powerful movement could take
place on an issue like the greased cartridge. He was convinced that there was more in
the Mutiny than appeared on the surface. The Government of India as well as the
Government of the Punjab appointed several Commissions and Boards to study this
question, and all the legends and rumours current in those days were carefully
examined. There was the story about the circulation of messages through chapattis.
There was also the prophecy that British rule in India would last only a hundred years
and would come to an end in June 1857, one hundred years after the battle of Plassey.
In spite of the long and searching enquiry, there is so far no evidence that the Mutiny
had been pre-planned or that the army and the Indian people had entered into a
conspiracy to overthrow the Government. I find it somewhat difficult to believe that
the research we are no undertaking will throw new light on this issue.


During the trial of Bahadur Shah, efforts were made to prove that he was a
party to a pre-planned conspiracy. The evidence which was adduced did not convince
even the British officers who conducted the trial and will be dismissed as frivolous by
any man of common sense. In fact, the course of the trial made it clear that the Mutiny
was as much a surprise to Bahadur Shah as to the British.
Some Indians have written on the struggle in the early years of this century. If
the truth is to be told, we have to admit that they are not history but mere political
propaganda. These authors wanted to represent the Mutiny as a planned war of
independence organized by the nobles of India against the British Government. They
have also tried to paint certain individuals as the organizers of the revolt. It has been
said that Nana Rao, the successor to the last Peshwa Baji Rao, was the master mind
behind the Mutiny and established contacts with all Indian military establishments. As
evidence of this, it is said that Nana Rao went to Lucknow and Ambala in March and
April 1857, and the Mutiny started in May 1857. I think, you will agree, that this can
hardly be regarded as conclusive evidence. The mere fact that Nana Rao toured
Lucknow and Ambala some time before the Mutiny cannot be regarded as evidence
that he planned it.
How baseless some of these conjectures are is clear when we find that these
historians regard Ali Naqi Khan, the Wazir of Oudh, as one of the conspirators.
Anyone who has made a study of the history of Oudh will regard this suggestion as
ridiculous. Ali Naqi Khan was completely a henchman of the East India Company. He
was the man whom the British used to try to persuade Wajid Ali Shah to give up his
kingdom voluntarily. General Outram, the British Resident, had promised generous
rewards to Ali Naqi Khan if he succeeded in his mission. Ali Naqi Khan was so
persistent in his efforts that Wajid Ali Shahs mother became apprehensive that he

might secure his end by subterfuge. She, therefore, took the state seal in her own
possession, kept it in the Zenana and issued orders that it should not go out without
her orders. All these facts are well known in Lucknow and people there regard Ali
Naqi Khan as a traitor. To suggest that such a man was one of the master minds
behind the Mutiny is on the face of it absurd.
It has also been said of Munshi Azimulla Khan and Rangu Bapu that they had
prepared the plans for the uprising. Azimulla Khan was the agent of Nana Rao and
had been sent by him to London to plead his case and secure for him the pension paid
to Baji Rao. On his way back to India, he had visited Turkey where he had met Omar
Pasha on the battlefield of Crimea. Similarly, Rangu Bapu had gone to appeal against
another decision of Dalhousie regarding the incorporation of Satara into British India.
The fact that they had both been in London on such missions is regarded as
pointing to their participation in the conspiracy. It is, however, clear that such
suppositions are not evidence. Besides, even if they had talked about these matters in
London, this could not by itself justify us in describing them as architects of the revolt
unless we can connect them with the events in India. There is no evidence of such
connection, and in the absence of records or testimony we cannot regard them as
having planned possession of all the papers of Nana Rao. The papers of Azzimullah
Khan also came into their possession. Among his papers, there was a letter addressed
to but never sent to Omar Pasha, informing him that Indian soldiers had revolted
against the British. Neither this letter nor any other paper of Azimullah Khan gives
any indication that he had at any time prepared plans for any uprising in India.
In the light of the evidence we are therefore forced to the conclusion that the
Indian Mutiny was not the result of careful planning nor were there any master minds


behind it. What happened was that in the course of a hundred years the Indian people
developed distaste for the Companys rule and gradually realised that power had been
captured by a foreign race. As this realization became widespread, the conditions
were created for an outburst which was due not to the conspiracy of a few individuals
or groups but growing discontent of the entire people.
If it be asked why the revolt of the Indian people was delayed for almost a
hundred years, the explanation may be found in the following fact. The growth of
British power in India has perhaps no parallel in history. It was not a case of outright
conquest of one country by another, but a story of slow penetration in which the
people of the land themselves helped the intruders. The fact that the incursion of the
British into India was not in the name of the Crown, helped to conceal the true mature
of their activities. If the British Crown had from the beginning taken any direct part in
Indian affairs, the Indians would have realised that a foreign power was entering the
country. Because it was a trading company, they did not think of it as a potential ruler.
It also enabled the agents of the company to behave in a way which no agent of the
Crown could have done. An agent of the British Crown would have felt some
hesitation in kowtowing to princelings and local potentates or officers of the Mughal
Court. The agents of the Company had no such scruples. They bowed to the pettiest
officials with the same readiness as any Indian trader. They indulged in bribery and
corruption without any fear of being pulled up by their own Ruler.
It is also noteworthy that for a long time the Company never acted in its own
name. It always sided with some local chiefs in order to advance its own interests.
Thus the Company established its position in the South by supporting the claims of
the Nawab of Arcot. Similarly in Bengal, it acted in the name and under the authority
of the Nawab Nazim of Murshidabad. Even after the company became the virtual

ruler of Bengal, it did not claim sovereignty. Clive approached the Emperor for the
grant of Diwani rights and for decades the Company acted as the agents of the
Emperor. Not only so but the company also followed the conventions of the other
Subedars and Governors of the Provinces. These Governors in Provinces had their
own seals, but always described themselves as the servants of the Mughal Emperor.
The Governor-General of the Company also had his own seal, but described himself
as the servant of Shah Alam, the Emperor of Delhi. The other Governors and
Subedars waited on the Emperor in audience, made presents to him and received in
return rewards from the Emperor. The governor-General also waited on the Emperor
and made a nazars of 101 guineas. In return the Emperor gave him a Khilats and title,
and these titles were used by the Governor-General in all official documents. In this
way the appearance of the sovereignty of the Emperor was kept up, and the people did
not realize how the Company was gradually becoming the real ruler of the land.
This process continued till about the second decade of the 19th century. By that
time the rule of the Company had spread up to Sutlej. The Governor-General of the
day, Lord Hastings, felt that the time had come to assert his power and gradually
disown the Emperor. His first move was to request the Emperor that he should be
allowed to sit down during his audience with the Emperor. He also asked for an
exemption from the payment of a nazars. The Emperor rejected these requests, and,
for the time being, the Governor-General did not press the point.
The Company then sought to undermine the power of the Emperor by
encouraging the growth of a kingdom independent of Delhi. An approach was made
to the Nizam of Hyderabad to declare himself a king. The Nizam did not agree, but
the British found a more willing agent in the Nawab-Wazir of Oudh. Oudh thus


ceased to be a province of the empire and became a kingdom disowning its allegiance
to the Emperor.
By 1835, the Company felt strong enough to strike coins in which the
Emperors name was left out. This came to many people as a shock. They realized
that from being mere traders or agents of the Emperor, the Company had, in fact,
become the ruler of vast territories in India. 1835 also saw a decision to replace
Persian by English as the language of the court. All these had a cumulative effect and
made the alive to change in the status of the Company. The shock of the discovery
created a great disturbance in their minds and affected not only the civil population
but also members of the armed forces. It was this simmering discontent which
ultimately broke out in the outburst of 1857.
The growing discontent was aggravated by two measures which may be
regarded as immediately responsible for the outburst in 1857. One of these was the
new policy which was initiated by Mr. Thompson, Lt.-Governor of the North-West
Province (afterwards Agra and Oudh). At first, the Company had favoured a policy of
maintaining or creating a class of landlords who would be natural allies of the
Government. Thompson was of a different view. He believed that the existence of big
nobles and landlords could be a source of danger to the Company. He was therefore of
the view that the landlords, as a class, should be eliminated and the Government
should establish direct contact with the riots. As a result of this new policy, the
Company used every possible plea to dispossess nobles and landlords and bring their
tenants directly under it.
The second and perhaps decisive factor was Dalhousies policy by which he
incorporated into British territory one Indian State after another. India was at that time


passing through the last phase of feudalism. Under the feudal system, loyalty was to
the immediate superior who was landlord or a noble. There was no sense of allegiance
to the nation or country. When people saw that the Indian states were being liquidated
one after another and landlords were being eliminated as class, it came as a great
shock to them. They felt that the Company was at last showing itself in its true
colours and seeking to change the very structure of Indian social and political life.
The discontent reached its peak when Oudh was taken over by the Company. Oudh
was a State which, for 70 years, had been a faithful ally of the Company. Never once
during its connection had Oudh acted against its interests. When in spite of this, the
King was forced to abdicate and the State taken over by the Company, the people
received a rude shock.
The effect of the dissolution of the Kingdom of Oudh was the greater as a
larger proportion of the soldiers in the Bengal Army and been one of the major factors
leading to the extension of its sway in the land. They suddenly realized that the power
which the Company had acquired through their service and sacrifice was utilized to
liquidate their own king. I have little doubt in my mind that 1856, when Oudh was
annexed, marked the beginning of a rebellious mood in the army generally and in the
Bengal Army in particular. It was from this time that they began to think that the
Companys rule must be brought to an end. During the Mutiny, Lawrence and others
who sought to find out the feelings of the ordinary sepoy have left ample evidence in
support of this view. The affair of the greased cartridge did not create a new cause of
discontent in the Army, but supplied the occasion for under-ground discontent to
come out in the open.
Though the work of writing this history has been entrusted to Dr. S. N. Sen, it
is obvious that the entire work of searching and examining the records in the Archives

and elsewhere cannot be done by him single-handed. I would therefore give him full
freedom to utilize the services of research scholars and staff to help him in this task,
and I will, if necessary, create some special research scholarships for this purpose. We
will also give him such help as he may need to have the records in the United
Kingdom properly assessed. If any of you have any special suggestions in this
connection or know of any material which may throw light in the matter, I should be
grateful if you would get into touch with Dr. Sen. It is my hope that the book will be
in your hands on May 10, 1957.
Before I conclude, I would like to make a brief reference to some of the more
important activities of the National Archives since the last session of the Commission
at Hyderabad. A detailed account will be found in the Directors report but I will
make a special mention of the programme of acquiring microfilmed copies of records
of Indian interest from various countries. The long-term programme of microfilming
government records in our possession in also making steady progress. During the year
under review about 3, 00,000 pages of the Foreign Department and over 1, 50,000
pages of the Home Department Original Consultations have been microfilmed.
Important historical manuscripts like the McCartney Papers, the holograph letters of
Henry Meyers Hyndman and some Persian, Arabic, and Urdu manuscripts have also
been acquired. I am also happy to note that the programme of publication has made
good progress in current year and steps have been taken to set up a boiler for the
laminating machine which, when in operation, will solve one of the major problems
for the preservation of records.
You are aware that we have sanctioned a scheme of six Research Fellowships
for post-graduate students at the National Archives of India. The scholars have begun
their work, and I am sure that this aid given by the Government of India will

encourage the universities and the State Governments to institute similar fellowships
and scholarships to enable an increasing number of students to undertake research in
Indian History. I also hope that the example of Madras, West Bengal, Bombay,
Punjab, PEPSU and UP, Who have set up their Record offices on modern lines, will
be followed by the other States Governments.
(Presidential address of Maulana Azad at the 31st Session of the Indian
Historical Records Commission, Mysore, January 25 1955 taken from Speeches
of Maulana Azad 1947-1955)


Appendix II
Manifesto of Progressive Writers Association Adopted in the Foundation
Conference 1936
Radical changes are taking place in Indian Society. The spirit of reaction,
however, though moribund and doomed to ultimate decay, is still operative and is
making desperate efforts to prolong it. Indian literature, since the breakdown of
classical culture, has had the fatal tendency to escape from the actualities of life. It has
tried to find a refuge from reality in baseless spiritualism and ideality. The result is
that it has become anaemic in body and mind and has adopted a rigid formalism and a
banal and perverse ideology.
It is the duty of Indian writers to give expression to the changes taking place in
Indian life and to assist spirit of progress in the country by introducing scientific
rationalism in literature. They should undertake to develop an attitude of literary
criticism that will discourage the general reactionary and revivalist tendencies on
questions like family, religion, sex, war and society. They should combat literary
trends reflecting communalism, racial antagonism and exploitation of man by man.
It is the object of our Association to rescue literature and other arts from the
conservative classes in whose hands they have been degenerating so long to bring arts
in the closest touch with the people and to make them the vital organs which will
register the actualities of life, as well as lead us to the future we envisage.
While claiming to be the inheritors of the best traditions of India civilisation,
we shall criticize ruthlessly, in all its political, economic, and cultural aspects, the
spirit of reaction in our country; and we shall foster through interpretative and
creative work [with both native and foreign resources] everything that will lead our


country to the new life for which it is striving. We believe that the new literature of
India must deal with the basic problems of hunger and poverty, social backwardness
and political subjection. All that drags us down to passivity, inaction and un-reason,
we reject as reactionary. All that arouses in us the critical spirit that examines
institutions and customs in the light of reason, which helps us to act, to organise
ourselves, to transform, we accept as progressive. The aims and objectives of our Association
are as follow:
1) To establish organisation of writers to correspond to the various linguistic zones of
India; to co-ordinate these organisations by holding conferences and by publishing
literature; to establish a close connection between the central organisations and to cooperate with those literary organisations whose aims do not conflict with the basic
aims of Association.
2) To form branches of the Association in all the important towns of India.
3) To produce and to translate literatures of a progressive nature, to fight cultural
reaction, and in this way to further the cause of India's freedom and social
4) To protect the interests of progressive authors.
5) To fight for the right of free expression of thought and opinion.

(The Manifesto is reprinted by the South Asian Peoples Forum UK to

commemorate the 75th. anniversary of the foundation of the Progressive Writers


Appendix III
Chaori Bazar Delhi

The Chaori Bazar is located to the west of Jama Masjid. It is now a famous wholesale market selling
specialized products like copper, brass and paper items. In 19th century it used to be a very popular
place for the charming girls who would dance. Chaori a Marathi word that means meeting place. Thus
this place was called so because in the past, a meeting or sabha would take place in front of the house
of a noble. The noble would try to settle disputes before it reached the court of the king. Thus it used
to be the meeting place of all important persons. Also there used to be a huge gathering when the
beautiful dancers used to exhibit their repertoire in their skills and the crowd used to get enticed by
such performances. Thus this place attracted huge crowds and was called Chaori Bazar. However the
entire scenario changed after 1857, when the British destroyed the houses of many nobles.

Chaori Bazar 1964

http://www.asiarooms.com/en/travel-guide/india/delhi/things-to-do-in-delhi/where-to-shop-indelhi/chawri-bazardelhi.html 23/04/2012


Appendix IV
The Great Dehli Durbar 1911
The procession to the Jama Masjid during the Great Dehli Durbar to celebrate King
George VII

http://images.blogs.hindustantimes.com/shoot-at-sight/post/29042010/King-GeorgeHULT.jpg 18/04/2012


Appendix V

http://www.kahopakistan.com/showthread.php?52064-Extremely-Rare-Picture-Ofthe-Last-Mughal-King-Bahadur-Shah-Zafar 18/04/2012


Appendix VI
The Khooni Darwaza
The Khooni Darwaza is one of the gates built by Emperor Sher Shah Shuri in his city
Shergarh. The three princes of the Mughal dynasty - Bahadur Shah Zafar's sons Mirza
Mughal and Kizr Sultan and grandson Abu Bakr, were shot by William Hudson on
September 22, 1857 During the massacre of 1857 due to massive killing blood kept
dripping from the ceiling of the Gate and led to it being called the Khooni Darwaza.