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Twilight in Delhi

3.78  ·  Rating details ·  771 ratings  ·  89 reviews
Set in nineteenth-century India between two revolutionary moments of change, Twilight in Delhi brings history alive, depicting most movingly the loss of an entire culture and way of life. As Bonamy Dobree said, "It releases us into a different and quite complete world. Mr. Ahmed Ali makes us hear and smell Delhi...hear the flutter of pigeons’ wings, the cries of itinerant ...more
Paperback, 200 pages
Published May 17th 1994 by New Directions (first published 1940)
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3.78  · 
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 ·  771 ratings  ·  89 reviews

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Sairam Krishnan
Aug 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A glorious novel.

I read City of Djinns earlier this year, and with Dalrymple reccomending this book, had been meaning to get my hands on it for quite some time.

And on (surprisingly) moving to Delhi last month, bought it immediately. Read it this rainy weekend, and reading it, broke my heart.

Ahmed Ali writes with a sadness that permeates into you, and you cringe inwardly at scenes that time has now rendered obsolete. The story of Mir Nihal and his family is a classic, and the novel brings to life
Sumirti Singaravel
Aug 19, 2016 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Sumirti by: William Dalrymple - The City of Djinns

The British had only built a new capital outside the city walls. The present rulers have removed the last vestige on which the old culture could have taken its stand and are moving it farther away towards Indraprastha, affirming the prophecy of the book: Seven Delhis have fallen, and the eighth has gone the way of its predecessors, yet to be demolished and built again. Life, like the phoenix, must collect the spices of its nest and set fire to it, and arise resurrected out of the flames.

To me,
Olga Kovalenko
Aug 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I got to Twilight in Delhi through City of Djinns by William Dalrymple. I found the book by chance in one of the second-hand bookstores somewhere in Asia. I don't even remember what country it was, but it wasn't India. I had it for five years and a few months more, before I finally read it and was amazed by the book's simplicity and, at the same time, subtlety. It reads like a story from One Thousand and One Nights and it reminds me of other stories, more real ones.

“It was the terrible summer o
May 23, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: books-i-own
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Momina Masood
I am so sorry for not liking this book as it is a part of our course this semester. *sigh* Papers and exams will only make me more impatient with this. -_-
Aug 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

I make a practice of not reading introductions before reading a book, because they tend to give away too much of the story and also I don’t like having my response to the book influenced. I do sometimes glance at them when I’ve finished the book, but don’t always persevere. This was a case where I read the book straight through, with something of a cultural awakening, and found myself drawn to deepen my understanding of the novel by reading the introduction (written by the author, so, perhaps mo
Alfa Hisham
Twilight in Delhi is the story of Mir Nihal and his family staying in a livid mohalla in Old Delhi. Doused in elaborate descriptions, Ahmed Ali takes you through an era during which the British takes power from the last mughal ruler. What I loved the best is the Sufi poetry and couplets which are sprinkled all over the narration.

That said, having seen brilliant flowing prose about Muslim communities from other Muslim writers, this seem slightly jagged in comparison.
Jan 03, 2013 rated it liked it
Twilight in Delhi is a novel by Ahmed Ali set in the pre-independence era. The main protagonist is Mir Nihal, the head of the household of an upper middle class Muslim family in Delhi. The chapters paint a picture of Delhi of the time, giving a feeling that things were not hurried and moving at a sedate pace. I often felt wanting to get myself transported into that era in order to escape the hustle and bustle of today’s life.

The story revolves around Mir Nihal’s family and Asghar, his youngest s
Mar 25, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book has been on my 'To read' list since two years now. William Dalrymple mentioned this book in 'City of Djinns'. Indeed book is a classic - it chronicles the period when last Mughal king had collapsed, his relations reduced to beggars and maids and coronation of King George is about to take place. It is set in part of Delhi - we now know as old Delhi. It chronicles the lives and times of Nihal family. The pigeon flying days, days when people were still learning to get accustomed to foreig ...more
Divij Sood
Feb 29, 2016 rated it did not like it
Remarkably ordinary book that has unnecessarily been elevated in status. Flat descriptive writing. Amazingly shallow character development and at the end of the book, you come out feeling you did not gain any insight in to a time period that the book attempted to explain. It would probably add value to someone who has been living under a rock and has no idea about Indian traditions in general and Islamic traditions in particular. Go read the Wikipedia page on India in the 20th century instead.
Umesh Kesavan
Nov 12, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, novels
A poetic semi-historical novel on the Old Delhi. Best passage from the novel is when Mir Nihal's mistress passes away and to add to his worries,he comes back home to find many of his pigeons killed by a cat. The despair and emptiness is captured so evocatively by Ahmed Ali in these pages.
Eesha Sajid
Apr 15, 2017 rated it liked it
review to come soon..
Aug 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
Do not expect too much out of the ordinary from this book and you shall not be disappointed. I especially liked the slow pace of the book and descriptions of lifestyle of pre-partition Delhi .. makes you feel that you are a part of that era.
Suhail Khan
Dec 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If there's one book I wish I had written it would be this. The story flows like a river, prose as immaculate as it can be, words carefully chosen; Twilight in Delhi should be read by everyone interested in Delhi
Sameen Borker
Feb 06, 2016 rated it liked it
“In dinon garche dakkan mai hai badi qadr-e-sukhan
Kaun jaye “zauq” par dilli ki galiyan chhod kar”

Published in 1940, this novel on the capital is a necessary addition to all the other books written on the city. Quoting William Dalrymple in City of Djinns, he says, “Twilight in Delhi is not only a very fine novel, it is also an irreplaceable record of the vanished life and culture of pre-war Delhi.” If you’re as much charmed by Delhi as all those gone by (and the admins of this blog), you’d have
Rohit Pande
Was a recommended read. Belongs to the time and part of Delhi I am least familiar with and so it took a while to get the book going for me.

The central theme of the book probably is "being with the time". Once you get this idea that nothing out of ordinary is going to happen and the story is going to pace by the hours and the minutes of the day, you can appreciate the inanities of life, so lyrically presented.

"Centuries and aeons pass but never a smile lights up the inscrutable face of time. Li
Jan 24, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I feel an urge to write back the entire book here for the plethora of excerpt that I should end up leaving here may only keep out a modicum of text from this so beautifully penned tale; but as it is a review, the statement of significance is that I find this book closer to home.
Set in a Delhi of second decade of 20th century, its not just an obituary of a dilapidated city and its overhaul but also an insight of customs, family ties and outlook of muslims society of that era which ,whether accep
Salman Khalid
This novel is unnecessarily long making it dull and boring for readers. Story is also not very interesting either - more like a biography of Mir Nehal (main character) set in the background of Old Delhi rather than a novel.

On a plus side, it describes the culture of Muslims of Old Delhi in quite depth and mentions some of the historical (and less reported) events of British period affecting Delhi.
Language of the book is also beautiful with abundance of Urdu and Persian poetry translations.

If yo
Subhashish Sarkar
Jun 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing
A book mentioned in 'City of Djinns'by William Dalrymple. I took his advice and what a read it has been. Took me to an era when Delhi was undergoing a tremendous change. A change where the old culture and customs were replaced by the influx of new. Ahmed Ali eloquently describes the impact these changes had on the residents of Delhi. Fell in love with Delhi again; there are so many layers to this city!

Highly recommended read.
Feb 05, 2016 rated it really liked it
The landscape of early 20th Century Delhi is well captured, with its mystic, politic and historic. The princes turned beggars, the Hakims, the Sufis, the Muslim families, Zenana and Mardana, the Farangis , everything. Daily life is depicted poetic. The clash of older patriotic religious generations and the new generations who admire the English and follow it culturally.
Oct 14, 2014 added it
Recommended to Nivedita by: Flipkart
Amazing write up on pre-Independence Delhi....the life of Mir Nihal and his family ...their survival through all the ups and downs of life.
May 17, 2012 rated it really liked it
Must read for anyone who is in love with Delhi or wants to be
Shatarupa  Dhar
The story is about the Saiyyed family, specifically Mir Nihal and his young adult son Asghar. They live their life in that part of Delhi, an area entirely devoid of the British rule. It is a family drama about their lives as well as those of their relatives and friends.

Delhi was once a paradise,
Such peace had abided here;
But they have ravished its name and pride,
Remain now only ruins and care.

- Bahadur Shah

First published in 1940, the author's prose reads like poetry, suc
Nov 27, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literary-fiction
Twilight in Delhi is a book of the kind that is unlikely to be written today. Its strength lies in the beauty of its descriptions. It lovingly describes the streets and street scenes of old Delhi – Chandi Chowk, Jama Masjid, Red Fort – from the late 19th and early 20th century, quoting liberally from Urdu poetry. That world has disappeared. In fact, it had disappeared before 1940 which is when Ahmed Ali wrote this book. Perhaps he wrote it to exorcise his own nostalgia for the simpler world of h ...more
Debasish Das
Aug 31, 2013 rated it really liked it
Regarded as one of remarkable modern Islamic literature, Ali Ahmed's Twilight in Delhi was first published in 1940, but was almost forgotten when most of the books' stock was destroyed in a fire, till it was resurrected again in 1964.. till then the book has gone ahead to claim many critical acclaims for the work that somewhat proves that it transcends the language in which it is written, in slowing down the reader's pace to narrate the minutest of rituals in Chandni Chowk of 1911, but not by su ...more
Jon Norimann
Jun 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: chess
Twilight in Delhi is about the life of several related upper middle class persons in Delhi around the year 1900. Ahmed Ali does a good job of putting words to the smells, sounds and sights of the Indian city back then. Politics and religion also play significant roles in the book.

A nice read at about the right length of about 200 pages.
Kshitiz Goliya
Jan 31, 2018 rated it really liked it
I picked up the novel after it was recommended by William Dalrymple for readers who wanted to know more about the original mughal Delhi or Shahjhanabad as it was called. I wasn't disappointed.

Through several characters and various chapters of their lives, the novel shows the daily life in the old delhi, right in the middle of its slow decline. From the bustling chandni chowk, to the crowded markets around Jama Masjid, the novel tries to give a feel of what it must have felt like to walk in Old D
Nov 03, 2013 rated it really liked it
Promised to be a trip down memory lane, encapsulating an era gone by. Or so I thought. Am not sure I got a full sighted glimpse of that fact I was left with a sense of incompleteness, I wanted to know more about Delhi of 1911s.
But what it did do is to take me into the strange workings of mind of women who lived in Zenana of that era. Filled with superstition, traditions, bllind acceptance.....Were the people of that era really so emotionally driven? Was the 'scientific thinking' mode s
Himanshu Saini
Mar 06, 2014 rated it liked it
Mir Nihal, main protagonist is upper class Muslim who has seen 1857 revolt as child. Now story is in 1911 and he is living with his wife, sons and daughter. Things which have attracted me in this novel are:
1. Display of culture of people living in Delhi in early 1900. Kite and pigeon flying in particular. Role which fakirs, maulanas and other mystics played in the families, marriages, social fabric etc.
2. Shift which took place with the advent of British Rule. How the old Delhi(Chandni Chowk and
Claire S
Jan 17, 2009 marked it as to-read
Recommended to Claire by: Aamir Khan blog

from wikipedia:

Ahmed Ali
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Ahmed Ali (1910 in New Delhi – 14 January 1994 in Karachi) was a Pakistani novelist, diplomat and scholar, who was responsible for writing arguably the greatest novel ever written about Delhi. Born in Delhi, India, he was involved in progressive literary movements as a young man. Professor Ahmed Ali was born in Delhi in 1910, and educated at Aligarh and Lucknow universities, standing first-class and first in
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Ahmed Ali (1910 in New Delhi – 14 January 1994 in Karachi) (Urdu: احمد علی ) was a Pakistani novelist, poet, critic, translator, diplomat and scholar. His writings include Twilight in Delhi (1940), his first novel.

Born in Delhi, British India, Ahmed Ali was educated at Aligarh and Lucknow universities, graduating with first-class and first in the order of merit in both B.A. (Honours), 1930 and M.A