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Twilight in Delhi (New Directions Paperbook) Paperback – May 17, 1994
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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I cannot recommend this novel highly enough.
The tragedy of the ruin is people realize its importance much later. Some live their entire lives not bothering too and are happy. It's the ones who're undecided who create a riot for themselves.
More details- [Someplace Else blog: upasna[dot]blogspot[dot]com]
But to be fair, I read the whole book without skipping forward in one go on the airplane. The characters were alive and one felt connected to them and the scenes have stayed with me. Little things like wearing English style shoes rather than Indian. Having chairs rather than sitting on divans...
Worth reading, for sure. It left me sad got what is lost and wanting to hold on tightly to what is still here with us.
Top international reviews
Set against the political backdrop of George V's coronation durbar in 1911, the general decay of Old Delhi after the decline of the Moghul courts - even the son of the last Mughal Emperor Bahadur Shah is reduced to begging on the streets - and the marginalizing effect on Old Delhi's Muslim population is vividly portrayed. The sense of futility at their predicament and the general resentment of the British is palpable and more revealing than any historical account can ever be. From this resentment grows the independence movement that finally ejects the British in 1948.
While this is not a literary work of art, in just 200 pages we get a picture of life in Delhi as the British prepare to shift their capital from Calcutta. But its other theme is the transient nature of Empire rule whether by the Moghuls or the British. The British barely lasted 40 years beyond 1911, but the beginnings of their end had roots that began much earlier in the minds of the dispossessed citizens as this novel shows.
It is not clear if the work reflects the author's own sentiments. (Probably not, since he does make a passing reference to the Purusha suktam!) It projects a picture of a parochial world, one populated only by Muslims (if it were not that the word "Hindu" occurs about 4 times - one would not know that such people existed in the same city). Maybe this is how things were.The irony is that the sentiments expressed by the protaganist about the British, could very easily have been uttered by the Hindus about the Muslim rulers.
Particularly engaging are the parts describing the marriage function in the Muslim families of yesteryears, and in describing the helpless weariness of characters in facing death and monotony of old age..
Sometimes , the story line become too thin to retain the full attention, and the pace too slow , then one can take refugee in the beautiful narrative style that is never too-direct, just like the gentle life of those years perhaps..
//when the water started singing, Mir Nihal added tea leaves, cinnamon and cardamom ..
or, the sun had almost set, and the night, with its awakening cold, was spreading her dark and star-bejewelled wings over the earth..
or, 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 wind struck against houses and roofs and trees; blew with vengeance through openings..it howled through the courtyards, in the by-lanes, in the streets...
or, already under the earth the worms must have set upon her lovely body, already she was in the land of the dead..and nothing could bring her back to life again ."
Ahmed Ali is a gem of a writer and how beautifully he describes the life around a family living in the old delhi.
A good read if you are searching a book on delhi.