TWO stories -A Tiger at Twilight and Cyclones-put into one volume, speak of the writers understanding of a village and small town life, of the erstwhile zamindari system and the feudal world.
A Tiger at Twilight is eerie, to say the least. Old beliefs, superstitions and notions are juxtaposed with the changing world and new world and new ideas reflected in the first person – I – or Devdas.
The story talks about an erstwhile raja who returns to his people and palace after several years, with his half-sister Heera and his sickly young daughter. Her he is not only caught up by living up to his image as a raja , with years and generations of supernatural beliefs, human sacrifices behind him but also fight a man-eater tiger. Dev, who has also come to Samargarh or Nizamgarh, after several years to claim his mansion, which his ancestors bought from the rajas, is also caught in a series of unnatural events.
For one, Heera doesn’t seem normal. Says Dev, after comparing her with her old portrait in his mansion, “The uneasy feeling I had the other day at realizing Heera’s eerie immunity to the process of ageing, returned to me…” To complicate matters, Sharmaji, the village school teacher, falls for her charms.
And, then Kusumpur gets the limelight, perhaps an airstrip has to be made, and river Kheya has to be filled up. Outsiders, including a building contracter, have started coming. But the contracter is killed and the suspicion is on Sudip. Sudip goes in hiding in the mountains among mendicants.
The country is aflame with riots and shouts of Inquilab Zindabad. Sudip is caught in the crossfire. People of both communities, Hindus and Muslims, stock up “daggers, their edges as sharp as the serpent’s tongue,’ more out of fear, and retaliation, if necessary, than actual offence. It was a case of “collective hypnosis.”
In an effort to save an old Muslim maulvi, he himself gets throwjn into a brothel and then imprisoned. He is bailed out friend’s politician father who thinks he is now absolutely fit for politics.
With Geeta gone from his life, and with no interest in politics, his “mind seems to have become clear of all clouds.” He goes back to soul-searching. ” He stretched out on the grass and waited for the sunrise to lead his steps.”