Clear Light of Day


Clear Light of Day

Clear Light of Day: Clear Light of Day Clear Light of Day is a novel published in 1980 by Indian novelist and three-time Booker Prize finalist Anita Desai. Set primarily in Old Delhi, the story describes the tensions in a post-partition Indian family, starting with the characters as adults and moving back into their lives throughout the course of the novel. While the primary theme is the importance of family, other predominant themes include the importance of forgiveness, the power of childhood, and the status of women, particularly their role as mothers and caretakers, in modern-day India.

Clear Light of Day: The novel is split into four sections covering the Das family from the children's perspective in this order: adulthood, adolescence and early adulthood, childhood, and a final return to an adult perspective in the final chapter. The story centers on the Das family, who have grown apart with adulthood. It starts with Tara, whose husband Bakul is India's ambassador to the US, greeting her sister Bimla (Bim), who lives in the family's Old Delhi home, teaching history and taking care of their autistic brother Baba. Their conversation eventually comes to Raja, their brother who lives in Hyderabad. Bim, not wanting to go to the wedding of Raja's daughter, shows Tara an old letter from when Raja became her landlord, in which he unintentionally insulted her after the death of his father-in-law, the previous landlord. The section closes with the two sisters visiting the neighbors, the Misras. In part two of the novel, the setting switches to partition-era India, when the characters are adolescents in the house. Raja is severely ill with tuberculosis and is left to Bim's ministrations.

Clear Light of Day: Aunt Mira ("Mira-masi"), their supposed caretaker after the death of the children's often absent parents, dies of alcoholism. Earlier, Raja's fascination with Urdu attracts the attention of the family's Muslim landlord, Hyder Ali, whom Raja idolizes. After recovering from TB, Raja follows Hyder Ali to Hyderabad. Tara escapes from the situation through marriage to Bakul, leaving Bim to provide for Baba alone, in the midst of the partition and the death of Gandhi. In part three Bim, Raja and Tara are depicted awaiting the birth of their brother Baba in pre-partition India. Aunt Mira, widowed by her husband and mistreated by her in-laws, is brought in to help with Baba, who is autistic, and to raise the children. Raja is fascinated with poetry. He shares a close bond with Bim, the head girl at school, although they often exclude Tara. Tara wants to be a mother, although this fact brings ridicule from Raja and Bim, who want to be heroes. The final section returns to modern India and shows Tara confronting Bim over Raja's daughter's wedding and Bim's broken relationship with Raja. This climaxes when Bim explodes at Baba. After her anger fades, she decides that family love is irreplaceable and can cover all wrongs. After Tara leaves, she goes to her neighbors the Misras for a concert, where she is touched by the unbreakable relationship they seem to have. She tells Tara to come back from the wedding with Raja and forgives him.

Clear Light of Day: One morning in 1980, Tara Das wanders around in her childhood home in Old Delhi, feeling nostalgic. Her sister, Bim, is a teacher and takes care of the house. The two discuss the old days. Tara has been married to Bakul, who works in Indian embassies in foreign countries and travels a lot, and has two teenage daughters. Tara is attractive, but, unlike the intelligent and fiercely self-possessed Bim, she is mild-mannered, pliable, and dependent on her husband. Tara and Bakul are in town for the wedding of Raja’s daughter; Raja is their brother, from whom Bim is estranged.

Clear Light of Day

The sisters discuss the aging house and have tea sometime after. Tara serves Bakul tea with little milk that is left after the cat is fed, demonstrating Bim’s disdain towards Bakul. Their brother, Baba, comes in. He is a grown man but is mentally slow. Baba plays musical records all day long, which worries Tara. She asks Baba to go to the office, which he sadly declines. Tara is sad looking at the state of her brother and declines Bakul’s invitation to go out.

Clear Light of Day: The needle of Baba’s gramophone breaks and the silence caused by it disturbs him so much that he rushes out to the streets; there, he gets distraught by the crowd and comes running back crying. Bim and Tara discuss their brother, Raja, and his marriage to the daughter of Hyder Ali, their landlord. There are sour feelings between Bim and Raja, the two of whom used to be very close, and Bim shows Tara a letter in which Raja tells Bim that, in the aftermath of Hyder Ali’s death, he will charge her the same rent as their parents were charged. Bim finds his tone insulting and arrogant; she keeps the letter as a token of remembrance and refuses to go to Hyderabad for the marriage.

Clear Light of Day: That evening they visit the Misras, their neighbors. The Misras were a rich family fallen into hard times due to their sons’ debauchery, vices, and laziness. Their sisters, separated from their husbands, work hard to feed the family and yet are marginalized. The youngest, Mulk, causes a scene for not getting to host his musicians or an audience; only Bakul can quell his temper. Bim has them all return home, in order to avoid the Misras having to feed them all.

Back at the house, Bim speaks of seeing a specter of their Aunt Mira after she died; the two sisters talk of the Partition of India and Pakistan, and of the events that followed.

In 1947, Bim and Raja are closer to each other than the rest of the siblings. Raja hero-worships Hyder Ali, their landlord and neighbor. Given his aptitude for Urdu, he is invited frequently to their house to browse among the vast collection of Urdu poetry. He takes to going there frequently, earning disapproval from his parents, aunt, and Bim. He begins to compare the two households and begins to detest his own. He takes Urdu as his primary language in school instead of Hindi, against his family’s wishes. He yearns to go to Jamia Millia, a college known for its inclination towards Islamic culture, but this is against his father’s wishes. Mr. Das finally tells him that it is unsafe for a Hindu boy to study Islamic culture during these troubled times. Raja does not know how to refute this, and he enrolls at the Hindu college.

Bim, Raja, Tara, and Baba are not particularly close to their parents, who are rarely home. One day, their mother falls ill and dies in the hospital. They are not very affected, but their aunt takes to drinking out of stress.

The father also dies in an accident and Raja is stricken with tuberculosis. He is querulous and miserable, and Bim is frustrated by his obsession with the Alis. Raja is particularly distressed when the Alis flee town due to the riots and fires resulting from the Partition.

Tara spends more time with Misra sisters, whom Bim finds unambitious. Tara meets Bakul there and is love-struck, although Bim finds him pompous, arrogant, and dull.

Dr. Biswas, a young man who frequently ministers to Raja and Aunt Mira (the latter of whom is descending into senile, drunken disaster), begins to be infatuated with Bim and invites her to a concert. She is not at all interested, and even though she agrees to a meeting with his mother, she realizes that she is not interested in marriage.

Clear Light of Day: Raja is required to take over his father’s business, but he refuses. He wants to go to Hyder Ali, who has left for Hyderabad given the communal tension. On Raja’s insistence, Bim goes to Hyder Ali’s house to see what is going on. Baba sees the daughter’s gramophone and records and immediately becomes obsessed. They bring the gramophone, a dog, and a servant back with them.

Bakul marries Tara and takes her with him. Aunt Mira grows worse and, after a series of embarrassing accidents, dies in her bed. She is buried in her only sari, which she never wore in life. Now that his health is improved, Raja leaves for Hyderabad to look for Hyder Ali. Baba and Bim are left together, but they are pleased with this development.

Mrs. Das gives birth to her fourth (and unexpected) child, Baba. He begins exhibiting some growth defects, so she calls for Aunt Mira.

Aunt Mira, a distant cousin of Bim’s mother, was widowed in her early teenage years (in the 1940s) and was thus reduced to unpaid house help. She started aging prematurely and hideously, and so was deemed unfit for the men of her household. Aunt Mira—disposable to her in-laws, for whom she was forced to work for as payment for the death of the husband—was sent for. The children are skeptical, but they all begin to love each other. She became a parental figure for children, as their parents hardly cared for them.

Aunt Mira had the parents buy a cow for fresh milk, but the animal later died when a careless servant did not lock it up and it fell into the garden well. Aunt Mira was forever haunted by this incident, as were the children.

Clear Light of Day: Tara develops as a diffident, anxious child while Bim and Raja flourish. Tara is haunted by her childhood incidents, like shooting of a rabid dog and dismissal of a teacher for being in love with a foreigner. Bim, who does well at school and defends the principal in her firing of the teacher, becomes a figure of resentment for Tara.

As Raja grows up, Tara and Bim spend more time together but their relationship has many fractures. Tara abandons Bim twice in minor events—first in the midst of a bee-attack and then when Bim forced her to smoke while they dressed up in Raja’s pants and discovered a sense of power in wearing male clothing. Tara has trouble forgetting when Bim cuts off Tara’s hair, promising her that she will grow curls afterward.

Tare begins to grow apart from her siblings and closer to Jaya and Sarla Misra, as there were levity and life in their house as compared to her own house. The Misra sisters treated her kindly and would frequently take her out to clubs and other places. At their marriage parties, Bim tells Tara she disapproves of the Misra girls marrying without proper education; she asserts that she doesn’t intend to marry.

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