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Gender and Domestic Space in Ahmed Ali’s and Krishna Sobti’s Novels on Old Delhi 
Independent Scholar, India

Abstract: Female perspective and agency in Delhi from the 1920s to the 1940s do not usually find mention with regard to novels written about that significant period. Much celebrated novels such as Twilight in Delhi by Ahmed Ali and The Heart Has Its Reasons by Krishna Sobti are usually viewed as nostalgic evocations of the lost past of the city as it was moving out of colonial rule and into a new era. This paper examines the complexities of gender relations and segregation as offered in the novels, which mirror and showcase the gradual intensification of the colonised city shifting into a space of independence, although at first with timid hesitation. It displays the novels as structuring and perpetuating gendered relationships between women and men as also, importantly, between women in the household and those outside it. While published in markedly different times, the everyday lived realities of the time as explored in Delhi’s literary landscape by Ali and Sobti exhibit great similarities in the gendered ramifications of female dispossession as per policy, and the economic implications of women’s property being in the hands of “their” men. Transformations in the city space influence domestic spaces, impacting the female characters. In examining these socio-spatial segregations in early urban Delhi literature, the paper opens the field for further research on economic systems in literary texts.

Keywords: Delhi, Ahmed Ali, Krishna Sobti, Gender segregation, Space, Social space

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