Urdu Poetry in English Novel: Twilight in Delhi Dr. Zia Ahmed Abstract Twilight in Delhi (1940/2000) by Ahmed Ali is a portrayal of the cultural traditions of the Indian Muslims and their decay under the British rule .One fascinating feature of the novel is reproduction of Indian Muslim community’s love of poetry which is considered to be its glory. It represents an essence of their beliefs, expresses subtleties of their feelings, and forms a history of intellectual pursuit which is indeed a great humanitarian tradition of all major Muslim empires in the East. It is the most typical feature of the life of the Muslims of the subcontinent. Ali not only portrayed the feelings and emotions of his characters in this novel by using the Urdu poetry but also paved the way for the style of English language to be used by the future generations of writers from this area. Ali has rendered many classics of the Urdu poetry in easy and fluent English which introduces it to an international audience. The novel is therefore, a truthful articulation of the sentiment of people of the Indo-Pak subcontinent at a particular point in history when the sun set on the glory of the Mughal Empire in India.
Ahmed Ali is the first Muslim to write a novel in English called, Twilight in Delhi (1940). He was one of the pioneers of the Progressive Writers Movement. Ali was a graduate from Aligarh1 and after the completion of education he availed himself of an opportunity of teaching at various Indian institutes. His education and his job facilitated him to understand both the English as well as Indian culture. He found a big gap between the both and tried to bridge it through his writings (Shamsie 1997). He decided to write in English but used Urdu poetry also in his writings and created a new style of writing in the subcontinent. This style resulted in the amalgamation of European realism and the Indian sensibilities. This technique of Ali caused a stir in the English literary circle of the Indian subcontinent. His first two dramas, The Land of Twilight (1931) and Break the Chains (1932) were widely appreciated. Even his Urdu short stories in Angaray2 (1932) were a special combination of European realism and Indian sensibilities in them. His first novel Twilight in Delhi appeared in 1940. His innovation of the style in English literature (especially fiction) was owing to the fact that he belonged to a conservative middle-class3 which considered Urdu poetry a license to express feelings associated with sex. An open description of sex was a taboo in the Indian society of that time. On the other hand the same poetry, which was used in the courts of kings and princess of India for expression of feelings and emotions at the time of their glory, had traveled down to the common man and had become a part of the middleclass Mughal4 culture, especially when the Mughals lost their empire to the British. This journey of Poetry from the corridors of the Mughal rulers to the streets of Delhi enabled even the laymen 1 2
Most of the students from this institution had progressive ideas. This can be translated as burning coals. 3 Normally was believed to the gentry and upholder of the social and cultural traditions. 4 Indian Muslim rulers who came from Central Asia including Akbar, the Great, Jehangir and Orangzeb Alamgir.
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to use it for the expression of what he believed and felt. Even the beggars would chant poetic numbers to beg alms. For the Indian sensibility, poetry is an expression of human heart. It is an experience of the divine in human nature. It is a gift of nature given to the chosen few. It manifests the power of imagination and emotions in human life. Indian Muslim poets thought it was not only the greatest endowment of nature, but also the most ‘civil’...