The title of the novel Twilight in Delhi has much significance. It sums up the main theme i.e. decay of culture and the downfall of the Mughal Empire. It is self-explanatory. Twilight is the time of day just after the sunset and before dawn when the sun is about to set. Ahmed Ali sheds light on the historical background of Muslim society. It was the time when Muslim culture was mingled with British culture. The writer sketches a single Muslim family for this purpose. He portrays a true picture of Delhi in its true perspective. The novel creates an image of the time when neither the British people were in charge of Delhi nor Muslims were totally exterminated. Ahmed Ali, while explaining the subject matter of the Novel says:-
“… My purpose was to depict a phase of our national life and the decay of a whole culture, a particular mode of thought and living, now dead and gone already right before our eyes.”
Indeed, the novel is about the decay of a whole culture. The setting of the novel is of that time when the British were going to rule over the city of Delhi. This is why Ahmed Ali chooses the word twilight as it was the time when Muslim values were about to decay but the same were not entirely decayed. Let’s find out whether the title Twilight in Delhi justifies the novel and whether it has relevant significance.
Mir Nihal could not understand what was happening to his culture and to his people. Things were not going as expected. Muslims were about to lose their identity but it was not certain. Like Mir Nihal, every Muslim family was not sure about their decline. The word twilight also refers to vagueness, when things cannot be seen clearly. We observe in the novel that the downfall of Muslims was not certain to Mir Nihal.
The old order was going to be replaced with a new system but it was ambiguous. Even his son became his rival in this regard. He was unsure whether the British are responsible for their downfall or his own nation is to be blamed. Hence, the uncertainty of Mir Nihal wants clarity in understanding the situation of Muslims. In this way, the time of twilight is the time when things are not clear as nothing was clear to Mir Nihal.
Muslims have ruled out Delhi for many years. They have created their own culture and have their own beliefs. Where there is religion, there are superstition beliefs; therefore, they were also present in the Muslim society of Delhi. Ahmed Ali, through, Mir Nihal’s family, demonstrates the whole Muslim class. In other words, Mir Nihal is the representative of the whole Muslim culture in Delhi at the time of the Mughal Empire. Their culture is their identity, therefore, they cannot forget it.
Mir Nihal and his family are stuck to their old values. He cannot forgive his son when he adopts a foreign lifestyle. He wants his son to follow the tradition; a tradition, which has been given by his ancestors and the culture, which they left for him. He forces his family to follow the conventional lifestyle and not to accept the foreign culture. Pigeon flying, visiting Kotha, enjoying the company of prostitutes and poetry-mehfil was included in that culture. Moreover, women were bound to household activities, whereas it was the duty of men to earn bread to take care of them. The decay of this culture fills everyone’s life with darkness; the darkness which prevails the light just after the twilight.
If the universality of the novel Twilight in Delhi, for the sake of arguments, is ignored, even then the title has much significance. Meaning thereby, if Mir Nihal is not the representative of the Muslim class and the novel is just a simple story of an individual even then the title suits the novel. Mir Nihal at the start of the novel is an affluent person, who has control not only over his family but also over the people of the vicinity. He is living a prosperous life but in the end, we witness his adverse life. We know that light ends and darkness prevails everything at the time of twilight. Similar is the case with the life of Mir Nihal, in the start of the novel, his life was full of light (a symbol of hope), whereas, in the end, his life is filled with darkness.
With the arrival of the British, everything was shattered. Mir Nihal was well aware of the fact that the new generation is not going to continue his culture. Ahmed Ali first creates a pen picture of Muslim civilization and then at the end shows its decline, which is mournful for Muslims. Ahmed Ali creates a true picture of colonialism as Chinue Achebe shows Things Fall Apart as a Post Colonial Novel. With the expansion of colonialism, many nations have lost their identities including Muslims but it is not the case that they have been forced to adopt the British identity.
In the case of Delhi, Muslims allowed the British to rule them for more than two hundred years. In fact, after reading the whole novel, it can be adjudged that Muslims have open-heartedly accepted the British invasion and their culture. The character of Asghar Ali is a remarkable example of it. Mir Nihal, the protagonist of the novel, rebukes his son for not adopting the British lifestyle but he deliberately does the same.
British influx created a hybrid culture in Delhi city. The culture was neither totally of Muslims nor was it of Britishers but the hotchpotch of these two nations. Ahmed Ali has rightly chosen the word twilight in the title of the novel as it is the time when the sun is at the horizon and the time can neither be expressed as day nor evening but as the mixture of both.
The word twilight does not need any explanation. From the word, we can imagine the theme of the novel. Literally, it means faint light, just after the sun goes down but symbolically, it refers to many other things. It suggests the era between the downfall of Muslims and the rise of the British Empire. It also symbolises the decline of a culture and its replacement with the new one. It also suggests the meaning of vagueness. It also shows the drop of life from light to darkness. Thus, these reasons have much significance and Ahmed Ali has chosen the perfect title “Twilight in Delhi” for his novel.