Appropriateness of the title of the novel Clear Light of Day by Anita Desai

The Title, Taken from a Passage in the Novel Itself

The title “Clear Light of Day” has been borrowed by Anita Desai from a passage written by herself in this novel at a crucial moment in the life of the protagonist, Bim. In Section IV of the novel, the author, while describing Bim’s meditations over her past life, tells us that, although the room was shadowy and dark, Bim could perceive distinctly that she still loved her brothers and sister, and also her dead aunt, Mira. In the author’s words, “Bim could see as well as by the clear light of day that she felt only love and yearning for them all.” At this point, Bim felt overwhelmed by her affection for all those who had lived in this old house, and with whom she had shared most of her experiences in life. There certainly had been hurts, gashes, and wounds which had caused her much pain, but it was only because her love for her brothers and sister had been imperfect, and because her love for them had been inadequate and faulty in some way. Bim did not have much feeling for her dead parents because her understanding of them had been incomplete. Her love for Raja had suffered setbacks: she had felt humiliated by his going away and leaving her, and she had also felt greatly hurt by the change in his role from a brother to a landlord. She recalled the letter which Raja had written to her after becoming the owner of the old house in which she and Baba had been living at the time and were still living as tenants. Raja’s letter had been written in a tone of condescension and patronage, and she had felt insulted by it. Her love for him had, therefore. lost that shining quality which it had possessed earlier. As for her love for Baba, it had been somewhat thoughtless; and she had not given as much attention to Baba as she should have done. Given these facts, Bim now felt that all her omissions and inadequacies would have to be mended. She realized that she would have to mend her net and make it whole so that it should suffice her in her passage through the ocean. In other words, Bim now felt that there had been many faults in her attitude towards all these persons including Raja who had caused her deep anguish by the letter which he had written to her as a landlord, forgetting that he was her brother too.

Bim’s New Tenderness Towards Baba

The author then goes on to tell us in this connection that Bim now felt the need to forgive Raja for that “unforgivable letter” which he had written to her. Furthermore, she realized that somehow she would also have to obtain Baba’s forgiveness for having spoken to him harshly. She felt that there were great rents torn in the net which the knife of love had made. There were stains of blood that the arrow of love had let, stains that darkened the light on that particular day. When Bim took Baba’s tea into him later that afternoon, she found him asleep. She then realized that Baba knew neither grudge nor punishment. She touched him on the cheek with one finger. He woke up at once and, seeing her, smiled. At this time she felt an almost irresistible yearning to lie down beside him on the bed and to become one with him. Together they would form a whole that would be perfect and pure. She needed only to lie down and stretch out beside him to become whole and perfect.

The Resurrection of Love in Bim’s Heart for Raja and the Others

That night Bim, meditating once again upon her past life, felt that she had to accept them all-Raja, Baba, and Tara-and yet somehow she found it difficult to accept them. She understood them, and yet did not understand them. She loved them and yet did not love them. Thus a conflict had now started in her mind. However, this conflict soon ended when, going through the life of Aurangzeb, she came across the Emperor’s dying words. On his death-bed, Aurangzeb had said that he had come into this world with nothing. but was now going away from here with a heavy burden of sinfulness on his mind. After reading these words, Bim felt calm; and tears began to flow from her eyes. At last, she had arrived at a state of mental and spiritual tranquility ana this tranquillity was due to the spirit of forgiveness which she nad experienced, and to which she now completely surrendered. Her heart was now once again filled with love and affection for Raja, for Baba, and Tara; and this time there were no mental reservations so far as her love was concerned.

Consequently, when Tara was about to leave for Hyderabad, Bim gave her a message for Raja. Tara was to tell Raja that Bim and Baba were not in a position to travel to Hyderabad to attend the wedding of Raja’s daughter Moyna, but that she (Bim) wanted Raja to come to Delhi to see her, and also to have the house, in which she and Baba were living as tenants repaired. Tara was to say further that Bim would be waiting for Raja because she wanted him to come and because she wanted to see him.

The Meaning of the Title: Clarity of Vision, Achieved By Bim

Thus the title “Clear Light of Day” refers to that moment in the life of the protagonist when she realizes the most important and the most essential fact of her existence, that fact being her inextinguishable love and affection for all the members of the family to which she belongs. The title refers to the clarity of vision that Bim achieves at that moment. She can see things in their proper perspective: and she now realizes also the fact that, if there had been flaws on the other side (that is, on the side of Raja or Tara or Baba), there had been flaws and inadequacies on her side too. She realizes her imperfections so that her forgiveness of Raja becomes not only possible but also easy. There is at this time a transformation in Bim. Previously she had been harboring a long-standing grudge against Raja; she had been feeling irritated even with Tara, and she had been having a lot of tension in her mind on account of the disturbing nature of some of Tara’s actions and talk during her and Bakul’s stay in the old house. But now her mind is rid of all the grudges, all the irritations, and all the tensions. It is this clarity of thought and vision which Anita Desai has expressed through the title which she has given to this novel.