Academic journal article South Asian Studies

Hetroglossia, Language and Identity in Twilight in Delhi

Academic journal article South Asian Studies

Hetroglossia, Language and Identity in Twilight in Delhi

Article excerpt

Main Body

Bakhtin uses the term hetroglossia to indicate the presence of multiple voices within a discourse. Social hetroglossia means the introduction of new cultural values into an existing cultural paradigm. The introduction of hetroglossia in the text is important as it allows, not only developing an understanding of multiplicity of perspectives expressed through different characters, but also authorial intention. In The Dialogic Imagination Bakhtin observes:

Hetroglossia, once incorporated into the novel (whatever the forms of its incorporation) is another's speech in another's language, serving to express authorial intentions but in a refracted way.... the refracting discourse of a narrator, refracting discourse in the language of a character and finally the discourse of a whole incorporated genre-all these discourses are double voiced and internally dialogized. A potential dialogue is embedded in them, one as yet unfolded, a concentrated dialogue of two voices, two world views, two languages. (1981: 325)

Mir Nihal, the protagonist is scared of social, cultural and linguistic hetroglossia. He does not like the presence of the outsiders in the cultural landscape of the city. Through his aversion for the outsiders, we can deduce that Ahmed Ali has given vent to his anti-imperialist feelings. Ali's cherished culture, preserved through its architecture and poetry, is in danger of contamination. Since the novel is an attempt by the author to discover his identity, hence the textual strategy he adopts to build the mosaic of texts in the novel becomes strategically important to understand the politics of resistance and identity. Thus, by introducing the translated version of Urdu poems as an integral part of the text, Ahmed Ali has initiated a cultural dialogue between the colonizer and the colonized. In doing so, Ahmed Ali has strategically excluded the Hindu voice because he considers that in the cauldron of Urdu language, all other religious, racial and ethnic identities are subsumed under a single category of Indian identity. Tariq Rehman in From Hindi to Urdu: A Social and Political History argues that in India the question of identity politics is even more vexing for Muslims than it is in Pakistan. The major narrative of Indian Muslims is that Urdu is a symbol of composite culture of the Hindus and Muslims of North India. (2011: 96)

It is precisely this composite culture that Ahmed Ali, by introducing poems from Urdu and Persian tradition in the text, posits against the colonizer to establish his identity. Since he is writing in the language of colonizer, it becomes all the more important for him to appropriate it for the projection of main thematic concern of the novel. Tariq Rehman in A History of Pakistani Literature in English remarks:

The function of poetry was mostly rhetorical in Urdu speaking culture and that is how it has been used by the characters. The couplets are, therefore, clichés which substitute a hackneyed formula for an intellectual response to a given experience. But, of course, the couplets prefacing chapters are intellectually relevant and emotionally evocative. (1991: 42)

Rehman clearly distinguishes between role of couplets recited by the characters in the practice of everyday life and those prefacing the chapters. Whenever the characters find themselves in a critical situation of their lives, they give vent to their feeling by reciting poems from the past masters of Urdu and Persian poetry. The couplets prefacing the chapters serve as a textual strategy to create a dialogic possibility between two cultures and civilizations, represented by two different languages.

It is pertinent to discuss the historiography of Urdu as the language which during its evolution in the subcontinent came to be recognized as a marker of Muslim identity. Historiography is related to ideology- especially those aspects of it which contribute to the politics of identity among the speakers of Urdu and Hindi in South Asia (Rehman, 2011: 79). …

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