Our Lane is a short story which was written before the partition of sub-continent. Short story is a short fiction, condensed and with no sub-plots. This short story is a summary of Twilight in Delhi, a novel by the same writer. Setting of the story is pre-partition Delhi. The flashback and flash-forward technique has been employed in the narration and narrator is first person. All the characters are flat: no change occurs; they do not undergo any psychological change.
The main theme of the story is the decay of Muslim civilization in India, their moral decline and the overall chaos. It depicts the social condition of the Muslims: their miseries, down morality and low mentality. The tone of the story is serious, sad and nostalgic. Throughout the story there is a sense of nostalgia for the lost glory of Muslims and their civilization. Through symbolic language these themes have been carried on. The writer represents a vivid picture of the time, the values of the people then.
Being a summary of Twilight in Delhi, the writer’s explanation about the theme of Twilight in Delhi is also true about Our Lane. He says: “To depict a phase of our national life and the decay of a whole culture, a particular mode of thought and living, values now dead and gone. ” The writer uses a symbolic language for the decay of Muslim civilization and the prevailing gloom. The old palm tree and its ugly look, which was once heavy with fruit and a source of attraction, represents the once rich and glorious Muslim civilization which has been lost and decayed now.
The blowing of wind, the lane filled with dust and the tossing and tumbling bit of paper is very symbolic. The wind is a symbol of foreign rule – might -, the dust in the lane of chaos and the bit of paper of the weakness and frailty of the local people. The dogs fighting for bone and meat and the kites snatching them from the dogs is also symbolic. The dogs are a symbol of local people, the kites for colonizers, and the bone and meat of resources like land etc. The whole picture represents the colonizers’ behaviour and role. “The cats were still quarrelling on the roof.
They purred fiercely …” This line pictures the prevailing gloom over the whole society from bottom to top, not over the human beings only. “There was everywhere a heart-rending hopelessness; the painful gloom ….. ” This was the hallmark of political and emotional condition of the society. “There was a sense of death and indifference ……” This illustrates the absence of fellow-feeling and sympathy in the society. The death of Mirza’s son, the story of Shera, the blind man and the pathetic mad woman: they all are signs of the prevailing miseries.
The blind man’s singing of Bahadur Shah Zafar’s verse is very symbolic too: he said this verse at the decline of his reign which was also a decline of Muslim civilization in the sub-continent. There is also a feministic perspective of the story through the story of the old woman and Kallu, the widow. The writer has depicted the moral decay and the loss of values through the story of a mad woman and Kallu, the widow. The boys’ shouting at the mad woman and teasing her; the cracking jokes of the old ones at her; and her bulging belly represent the loss of morals in the society.
Likewise, the lusty staring of the youth at Kallu, the widow, illustrates the moral impoverishment and draws a dark picture of society. Mirza, Mir Sahib and Nasir are the positive characters in the story who are representative of the remaining good and moral values in the society. When the urchins tease the passers by, Mirza shouts at and disperses them saying: “What are you up to, you rogues! Have you nothing to do at home? ” Likewise when the boys annoy the mad woman and call her names, Mirza scolds them: “You good-for-nothing, do you think you do not have to die?
” This reflects that there still remains some moral values and virtue. The charity of Mir Sahib to Shera is also a positive sign and, above all, the strong character of Nasir, the Azaan caller, is representative of the nobility. In the last, “What I am wondering is who will throw out those pieces of stone and bits of slabs…. ” is the writer’s question towards the readers. The death of Suleiman symbolizes the decline of Muslim rule. The pieces of stone and slabs symbolize the prevailing miseries. Who will eliminate these miseries? There should be no waiting for some Suleiman but people should act and work for this.