Clear Light of Day Questions and Answers
- Describe the role of Baba in Desai’s novel.
Baba was born a mentally retarded child. The manner in which his plight has been described heightens the pathos of the novel. This novel is on the whole a gloomy novel. Baba’s story adds to the gloominess in it. His portrayal is a variety of characterization in the novel. Baba is one of them who came to this world to add to the misery of the parents, family members and of the world in general. But, Baba’s focal role is to emphasize the self-sacrificing nature, first of Mira ‘masi’, and then even forcefully, of Bim: Baba is totally unaware of all these and even of his own role in the novel.
- What is the role of Mira ‘masi’ in the novel?
Aunt Mira plays a very vital role in the corpus of “Clear Light of Day.” Through her, Desai has been able to depict the misery of a Hindu widow in her young age. She plays her role as a loving governess of Baba. Her services for the Das family is really unforgettable. She nursed during the illness of Raja and Bim and helped them to recover health. Tara, Bim’s sister, well, appreciates her usefulness in her family. There is a touch of comedy in her portrayal. In spite of all these, her drunkenness brings a premature touch of eternity to her life. In short, Mira aunt is integral to the theme and structure of the novel.
- What is the family structure of the Das family?
Mr. and Mrs. Das, living in an old rented house in the civil lines of Old Delhi, had four children, two boys and two girls. The children, in the order of their ages, were Raja, Bim, Tara and Baba. The youngest Baba, was a mentally retarded child from his very birth. He needed the constant care of his mother, who being unable to cope with this task, managed to obtain the services of a poor cousin of hers. This cousin was Mira masi of the children. However, Baba was unable to understand anything or to communicate with anybody.
- Describe Baba’s daily life.
Mira masi being a widow at the age of only 12, began to look after the child Baba who was unable to speak more than a word at a time. Baba was unable to grasp what anybody said to him and was unable to reply. Aunt Mira spent much times for Baba in order to keep him happy. Under her care and supervision, he even learnt to play marbles with her. However, in course of time, Mira masi died a premature death, due to extra addiction to wine. Baba was able to acquire an old gramophone and a few old English records, and then, he began to spend most of his time listening to the same records again and again.
- How did the Das parents look after their children?
Baba was unlucky to have the affection of his parents from his very birth. The other three children too failed to lead a normal life under the shadow of parents’ affection and love. They were never cared by Mr. and Mrs. Das. The parents were very fond of playing bridge ; and they used to go regularly to the Roshanara club to enjoy pleasure which they felt in pursuing this hobby. They generally returned late at night, when the children, after having waited for them in vain, had gone to sleep. The children therefore necessarily spent a considerable part of their time in the day in Aunt Mira’s company as long as she was alive. Tara was the one who sought masi’s company and also her support, the most because she felt somewhat isolated from Raja and Bim, and because Baba was in no position to serve her as a companion or as a playmate.
- How did Raja become intimate with Hyder Ali’s family?
Raja slowly drifted away from Bim’s company. He became friendly with a Muslim boy, Hamid who worked in a cinema house and who taught him the technique of wrestling. Then, Raja’s great interest in Urdu poetry brought him to the notice of a rich Muslim landlord by the name of Hyder Ali who lived nearby and who, in fact, owned even the house in which the Das family lived as tenants. In course of time, Raja became very intimate with this family because Hyder Ali allowed him to visit his house as often as he liked in order to read the Urdu books of which Hyder Ali had a lax collection. Thus, Hyder Ali encouraged Raja’s taste for Urdu language and literature. On one occasion, Raja even recited a poem by Iqbal in the presence of a small gathering of Hyder Ali’s friends.
- Describe Raja as a student of Hindu College.
After the completion of studies at school, Raja wanted to join Jamia Millia to take up a course in Islamic studies but his father, a staunch Hindu, opposed Raja’s wish and got him admitted to the Hindu College in Kasmere Gate, Where Raja’s father had himself been a student at one time. At the college, Raja had made quite a clear number of enemies among his fellow-students because of his sympathy for the Muslims to whom the Hindu boys of the college were greatly opposed in view of the communal strife which was rampart in those days in the whole country. The Muslims were demanding the creation of Pakistan and therefore, a partition of the nation. Raja felt sympathetic to the Muslims due to his intimacy with Hyder Ali’s family and because of his secular outlook on life. So when Raja lay ill, his friends stopped coming to see him altogether because he still persisted in his pro-Muslim attitude.
- How did Mr. and Mrs. Das die?
Mrs. Das was a diabetic. She had to take insulin injections everyday and she kept up her spirits only because she was able to go to the club daily and play bridge there. But, now her physical condition began to deteriorate and she had to be admitted to a hospital. As a result, Mr. Das, instead of going daily to the club, had to go daily to the hospital. After a time, Mrs. Das died. Later, Mr. Das too died, a victim of a motor-car accident.
- Why did Hyder Ali depart from Delhi?
The Indian political leaders, Nehru and Jinnah were able to come to a final understanding between them and also with the British Govt. It was decided by all political parties that the country should be granted full independence from British rule and the Muslim demand for Pakistan should also be met at the same time. As a result of this decision, communal riots broke out in various cities of the country, including Delhi. The Muslims in Delhi began to feel afraid of the possibility of Hindu mobs attacking them in their homes. Many of them started leaving Delhi for safer places. Hyder Ali and his family also left Delhi and they did so secretly, without informing any of their Hindu friends and even Raja who was deeply interested in them failed to have any report about them. One day Bim was sent by Raja but, she came back with the report that except Hyder Ali’s dog and Hyder Ali’s Hindu servant, Bhakta, she had been able to meet with none. Nobody knew their whereabouts.
- Describe the relation between Dr. Biswas and Bim.
Dr. Biswas had been treating Raja and Mira masi as well. Under his care, Raja had begun to recover from tuberculosis, though aunt Mira was no more in this world. During his professional visits to the Das family, Dr. Biswas got emotionally interested in Bim and wanted to marry her. But, Bim felt no liking for this man and did not respond favourably to his advances and his efforts to win her. In fact, she felt repelled by him. So, the possibility of Dr. Biswas-Bim love story was nipped in the bud due to Bim’s indifference.
- How did Raja hurt Bim’s mind by sending her a letter from Hyderabad after his marriage?
Bim nursed Raja during his severe illness. But, after his recovery, Raja went to Hyderabad as he was invited by Hyder Ali to have any employment. However, Raja got married to Hyder Ali’s only daughter Benajir and after Ali’s death, they two became the only heir to Hyder Ali’s all property. Now, Raja wrote a letter to Bim informing her that he and Benajir have decided to let Bim and Baba continue living as tenants in the same house and not to charge any rent they were paying. This letter hurts Bim in her heart because Raja, the eldest child of the family, instead of taking the responsibility of sisters and his mentally retarded brother, Baba, wrote a humiliating letter to Bim. This letter created in Bim’s mind a strong grievance against Raja.
- What were the cause of Bim’s ill-temper and sullenness?
During her stay with Bim, Tara found the latter to be in a sullen and ill-tempered mood. Of course, the chief reason for Bim’s sullenness was her resentment against Raja; but there was also an additional reason for her ill-temper. She had to manage the house all by herself. She had to look after all Baba’s needs and she had also to handle some of the affairs relating to the insurance business which her father used to do and which is now mainly managed by the junior partner, Mr. Sharma. For all these reasons, Bim was in a sullen mood. Tara informed this Bakul who asked his wife to try her best to have a reconciliation between Bim and Raja.
- How did Bim soften towards Raja?
Bim was full of anxiety and uncertainty after she received the letter from Raja, Tara’s visit also added mental strain for Bim. Bim now got into an introspective mood and spent much of her time meditating upon her past life. Reviewing her past, Bim recalled all the happy days which she had spent in Raja’s company. But, she also recalled the insulting letter which Raja had once written to her. The more Bim thought about her past life, the more she realized the intensity of the affection which she had always felt for Raja and also for Tara and Baba. And realizing this love of hers for all of them, she began to relent and soften towards Raja.
- What was the impact of Auarangzeb’s dying words on Bim’s mind?
Bim had a book named the “Life of Aurangzeb”. When she turned over the pages of this book, she came upon the dying words of the emperor and these words moved her deeply. The emperor had said that he came into this world with nothing at all but that he was going away from here with a heavy weight of sinfulness on his mind. Somehow, these words calmed Bim’s heart and brought tears into her eyes. That same night, she tore off the letter which Raja had written to her many years back and which had offended her deeply. Her grievance against Raja now gave way to forgiveness. When Tara was to depart for Hyderabad, Bim asked Tara to convey her best wishes to Raja and to ask Raja to come to Delhi to meet her and Baba. Bim now really wanted to get back all her lost happiness
- What was the impact of the song sung by Mulk’s guru on Bim’s mind?
On Mayna’s wedding day, Mulk’s guru chose a poem by Iqbal and as he sang it Bim turned immediately to Baba and said that the ‘Guru’ was singing a poem composed by Raja’s favourite poet. The poem sung by the guru brought to Bim’s mind the close link between herself and the members of her family who had lived in the old house in which she and Baba were still living. She also thought of one of T. S. Eliot’s famous line, “Time the destroyer is time the preserver.” With her inner eye, she saw how her own house had contained her as well as her whole family with all their separate histories and experiences, and how that house still bound all of them together. That old house was where her deepest self lived and the deepest selves of her sister and brothers and all those who had shared the past times with her.
- Write a note on the close or end of the novel.
The novel, Clear Light of Day ends on a note of forgiveness and reconciliation. What happened subsequently is anybody’s guess. Who knows how Raja reacted to Bim’s message when it was conveyed to him by Tara? Who knows whether an impulse of affection did rise in Raja’s bosom also and whether he did pay a visit to Delhi to meet Bim and Baba ? And who knows if Bim continued with this attitude of forgiveness and love towards Raja or if subsequently some other grievance against Raja arose in her breast, and made her uneasy because, after all, the human heart is unpredictable? What happened subsequently does not concern us, though we cannot help wondering what might have happened.