Why “Twilight in Delhi” is in English instead of Urdu?

Why “Twilight in Delhi” is in English instead of Urdu?

Ahmed Ali, a prolific writes, is still ruling on the hearts of readers. He had a God gifted quality of writing. He had an ability to create pen picture from ordinary events. Apart from this, he was a good story teller, who had told a good story while describing minutely each and every aspect of a culture as evident from “Twiligh in Delhi”. He was born in subcontinent, where Urdu was a major language but he did not have command only on Urdu but on English as well. He increased his taste of writing and reading while learning English Language. No doubt, his work is also based on Urdu Language but novel like “Twilight in Delhi” is an example that he can write beautifully in English Language. His efforts in this regard are appreciatable. Main reason behind learning another language, apart from his native language, is that everyone in his era had good knowledge of Urdu; the poetry was being written in this language; where there is poetry, there must be appreciation of beauty and it is mostly related to woman. When a poet talks about a female, it either directly or indirectly is related to sexual pleasures. The culture, where Ahmed Ali was born could not digest such kind of language. Even a single word related to sexuality was prohibited baldly.  No one could openly talk about these things but on the other hand, prostitution and poetry was a symbol of aristocracy. Most of the work of Ahmed Ali is based on autobiographical elements, therefore, he could not hide double standards of the society; it was necessary for him to write about good and bad sides of a culture. Ahmed Ali could not convey his message through Urdu language as everyone could read it. Furthermore, he belonged to Imam’s family. His family was ideal for every person and was well respected in the vicinity. If he had described the brothel scenes in Urdu, people could have been offended. Hence, English was well and good for this purpose. It was the first reason due to which he chose English in order to strike his own nation and to tell people about their culture. He himself once said:-

“Urdu was taken away from me because of the great resentment people, my uncle’s family had towards writing in Urdu. So I had to express myself and I did it in this way. I could not express myself in Urdu when I was young, so I had to express myself somehow and English was all right for them.”

Thus, expression of sexuality in Urdu was permitted but it was allowed in English. It should be kept in mind that Ahmed Ali has not written about sexuality because he was interested in it nor he wanted to gain fame by writing this worst form of literature; he was a realistic writer and he wrote about his own people, who were addicted to prostitutions in the brothels called “Kotha” in Urdu. In most of his work, he wrote about his own culture. Thus, offended words were necessity for him because he was taking about both good and bad, which were there in people, therefore, he was presenting reality though it hit their egos. Thus, he was not openly allowed to call them morally bad, therefore, English was best for him to write what he felt best. Some examples are there from his life, through which it is witnessed that people turned against him because he wrote about sexuality. For instance, in a short story titled “Jannat Ki Basharat” he offended many Muslims, due to which they tried to kill him. He while explaining about that incident writes:-

“We were condemned at public meetings and in private; bourgeois families hurried to dissociate themselves from us and denied acquaintance with us….Our lives were threatened; people even lay in wait with daggers to kill us.”

Hence, in a society, which even cannot bear a word against their culture and their morals, it was very difficult for him to write in their language; he chose English for this purpose and gained fame due to it. English, in this context, was not choice for him but necessity. It is the first reason due to which he chose English language.

Secondly, Urdu literature was growing in those days; it was its start. Ahmed Ali, like other poets, was the initiator of Urdu Literature; those writers can only compare their work with English literature to adjudge it because Urdu literature was unavailable. English literature, as compared to Urdu, is old and a lot of writers are there to help newbies. Moreover, English is a universal language; literature in this language was being read in the whole world. Ahmed Ali chose a language which can give her work a universal appeal so that it could be read and appreciated in the whole world. It is on a specific nation but not for a specific nation. Moreover, Ahmed Ali was interested in English literature; he was much influenced by Dickenson. He read many poets, writers and dramatist of English literature and made his base. While talking about his interest in English literature, Ahmed Ali said:-

“I remember attending science classes in Aligarh and during Physics Class, I would be writing poems in English.”

Reviewers rightly said that the condition of Delhi could only be best written in Urdu language as their native language was Urdu. The description, imagery, scenes and symbolism might become more effective if they were written in Urdu language. According to Ahmed Ali, many people could not exactly understand about the symbols which he had used in “Twilight in Delhi”. It is not because the novel was written in English language but because “They never really bothered to give the novel the reading it deserved.” Ahmed Ali was of the view that only David Anderson, seem conscious of the symbolism which is used in this novel. It is correct that if the novel was written in Urdu, the people who are subject matter f the novel could read it with ease but it is also right that Ahmed Ali had no choice. He was compelled to write in English. If the novel were in Urdu, it could have offended many people. Thus, English was the only choice for him.

There is another reason, which may not be major but somewhat interesting; Ahmed Ali knew that English Literature is widely accepted and read in the whole world. If he wrote this novel in Urdu, he could not get much fame. It may be true that Urdu is the best language yet very few people have acquired it. Thus, writing a novel in English language could give him more fame as compared to Urdu. It may also be the reason behind choosing English for his novel “Twilight in Delhi”.

To conclude, Ahmed Ali might not be a master of English Language, yet his contribution to English literature cannot be underestimated. If he chose English then he proved that had command in it. He was well aware about the technique of symbolism. “Twilight in Delhi” had a universal appeal and it was about every person whose culture was being decayed due to colonialism or for any other reason. Like a true storyteller, he used exactly the same word which accurately described the situation. His vocabulary was attractive and at the same time flexible. He did justice to English language and literature. He chose this language because he was compelled to do so; he was interested in English more than Urdu, it was oldest form of literature available to him and it had a universal appeal.

Leave a Reply