Through “Twilight in Delhi”, Ahmed Ali spreads light on Delhi Muslim society and the impact of colonialism. “Heart of Darkness”, “Things Fall Apart” and “Twilight in Delhi” reveals the truth behind colonizing a country. These three novels explore the effect of colonization on the colonized country. “Heart of Darkness” is remarkable in this regard. In this novel, although there is less collision between culture and imperialism yet it transpires the brutality of Whiteman. Remaining two novels concentrate on culture of a civilization and its downfall. Feelings, related to culture and society are expressed in detail in these novels. Thus, they are more about emotions and less about brutality. Chinua Achebe through “Things Fall Apart” says that any culture, whether brutal or humane, has his own importance; its downfall is not acceptable by any society. “Twilight in Delhi” also reveals the same kind of thing; Ahmed Ali is of the view that culture is preferred everywhere and norms of people are their identity; downfall of a culture is painful; people shatter, if they witness its ruination. Hence, these two novels show the cultural defeat of nations.
It is necessary to remember that postcolonial literature does not only focus on the condition of people after imperialism; it is about imperialism, therefore, the tenure of imperialism is its subject matter. In simple words, it describes the events, which occur during imperialism not after it; it explores the culture of a nation, spreads light on norms of a society, people’s attachment to it and then its downfall. For instance, in “Twilight in Delhi”, the writer has introduced culture of Muslims and then its fall due to West, which has colonized the country. Thus, postcolonial literature is more about the condition of people during the period of colonialism and less after it.
As far as “Twilight in Delhi” is concerned, the writer introduces the Muslim nation. Although, there were many other nations, which were living in Delhi yet Ahmed Ali has chosen Muslims. It is because, he also belongs to the same nation and experienced it. He has spent his childhood among them. His family was famous among Muslims of Delhi. He knows their culture and their feelings; their attachment and their emotions.
The novel starts with the splendid lifestyle of a middle class personality called Mir Nihal. He is the representative of Muslim nation. Ahmed Ali is a good storyteller; apparently he tells the story of a person yet in the background he explores history and a culture. At the end, we find Mir Nihal’s paralyzed condition so as the condition of his culture. His culture has faded and he can do nothing but to witness the change in it. He was among those people, who resisted change. He tried his best to defend the Muslims from British traditions but failed to do so. With the arrival of British Empire, his culture falls in front of him and he could do nothing to save it.
The family of Mir Nihal has been introduced in the novel, through which many of the customs have been discussed by the writers. Let’s first discuss the culture of Muslims and then its fall.
With the entrance of Mir Nihal in his house, we see the house is divided in two parts; Zanana and Mardana. Zanana part is fixed for women, whereas Mardana for Men; Men, first enter in Mardana and then Zanana part of the house while clearing their throats so that women can put their clothes on their heads. Secondly, hobbies of people are described; pigeon flying, kite flying, listening songs but preferring Qawali, having illicit relationships, Men’s visit to brothels (Kotha) etc. At the same time, religion and superstition beliefs have also been demonstrated. For instance, putting broom under the bed to stop the storm, getting amulets from Pirji to cure a disease, giving charity to Faqirs in order to survive the worst, respecting Imam and his family, listening Azan, praying Namaz but forgetting its purpose and enjoying the company of poets. Rights of men and women are also differentiated by the writer. For instance, men can marry their desired girls but women cannot. The example of Ishfaq and Asghar in case of men is in front of us, whereas in case of women, Mehru is wedded to an ugly person, whom she has not seen even once before her marriage. Men can have illicit relationships but women are forbidden.
With British Empire, everything came to an end. Mir Nihal resisted but there were some people, who happily accepted British Empire. Mir Nihal’s son is among them. Young generation likes change, whereas old generation resists it. In Delhi, when the old generation was lamenting on the downfall of Mughal Empire, young generation was happy; businessmen were also happy on British invasion. They wanted profit and benefit at any cost, therefore, they accepted it. We see Asghar wearing English clothes and Mir Nihal scolding him. Mir Nihal cannot tolerate English lifestyle in his house, whereas young generation like Asghar Ali was fond of it. Thus there were two types of people, who were living in Delhi at that time; one who accepted change and helped British to ruin the culture; second those who resisted it and tried to defend their culture but remained failed.
It is clear until now that “Twilight in Delhi” is about fall of Muslim culture. The novel is not only for those people, who are well aware about Muslim culture, but also for those, who do not know anything about Muslims of Delhi. Ahmed Ali, first, introduces the Muslim culture and then shows its ruination. Thus, any reader, who reads the novel, first gets awareness about Muslim culture and then witnesses its end.
British occupied the Delhi city and converted it into New Delhi. With their arrival, every pleasurable custom was also replaced with their own. Mir Nihal could see the sky but he found neither any pigeon nor kite. He often refreshed his thinking by remembering old splendid days of his life when he used to enjoy poetry with his friends. Moreover, he was famous because of his pigeon flying techniques. He had a mistress named Baban Jan, where he could get relief from his sufferings. He was interested in alchemy; he and his friends found new ways to create gold from ordinary things but now each and everything has been ended due to British invasion. Ahmed Ali wanted to say that old generation was replaced by new; new generation was created from a hybrid culture; Muslim and British, therefore, they had no identity of their own. Mir Nihal, once had and identity but the new generation lacked the same. In this way, Ahmed Ali first explores a culture and when readers get awareness about it, he shows its downfall, which becomes tragic. While reading novel, the culture impresses us but its end, distresses us.
Ahmed Ali, on the theme of Muslim’s cultural downfall in “Twilight in Delhi”, once said:-
“‘Twilight in Delhi’ has presented the panorama of history, untrammeled by time and subterfuge, and depicted the changing face of reality as reflect in Delhi, the heart of a world and civilization brought into being by the fusion of cultures achieved in a thousand years of common history marked by sacrilege and sacrifice, which was eroded by the intrusion of the West.”
He further said:-
“Be that as it may, my purpose in writing the novel was to depict a phase of our national life and the decay of a whole culture, a particular mode of thought and living values now dead and gone already right before our eyes.”