Character of Raja, Bim, Tara and Baba in Clear Light of Day by Anita Desai


He is the eldest child of Mr. and Mrs. Das. While yet at school he acquires a taste for the Urdu language and Urdu literature and becomes especially interested in Urdu poetry. Then, over time, he begins to write poems in Urdu. His interest in Urdu leads to his becoming acquainted with Hyder Ali, a rich Muslim landlord in one of whose old houses the Das family lives as tenants. In the beginning. Raja is very fond of Bim and spends much of his time with her. But subsequently, he leaves Delhi altogether and goes to Hyderabad where he gets married to Hyder Ali’s daughter, Benazir. After Hyder Ali’s death, Raja and Benazir inherit all his property including the old house in which the Das family has been tenants, and in which Bim and Baba are still living. Raja writes to Bim a letter about this house and the rent payable by Bim for it. This letter is regarded by Bim as most humiliating and insulting to her, and she begins to harbor a strong grievance against Raja. Over time, Raja becomes the father of as many as six children, five of them daughters. When his eldest daughter Moyna is to be married, he sends invitations to both his sisters, Bim and Tara; but, while Tara does go to attend the marriage which is to take place in Hyderabad, Bim refuses to go. Eventually, however, Bim softens towards Raja and forgives him for his desertion of her and Baba, and also for the humiliating letter which he had written to her.

Bim (short for Bimla):

She is an independent-minded and self-assertive girl. She shares Raja’s interest in poetry and, although she does not know Urdu, she keeps him company in the reading and the recitation of English poems, especially those written by Byron, Swinburne, and T.S. Eliot. Indeed, Bim becomes quite conversant with these English poets. But her chief subject of study is history and, later, she becomes a lecturer in history in a women’s college in Old Delhi. She harbors a strong grievance against Raja who had written a humiliating letter to her: but ultimately she relents towards him and forgives him. Bim is a very introspective kind of girl, and the author has devoted plenty of space to an analysis of her mind and her thoughts. She is the most conspicuous figure in the novel, and she may be regarded as the protagonist.


While Raja and Bim were very close to each other as children, Tara had remained somewhat aloof from them because of a marked difference between her interests and theirs. On growing up, Tara becomes acquainted with a young man by the name of Bakul who proposes marriage to her, and who then marries her. Over time, Tara gives birth to two daughters who are fairly grown-up when the novel begins. Tara offers a sharp contrast to her elder sister, Bim. This contrast became quite clear when they were both at school. While Bim was an active, dynamic person with strong qualities of leadership and an enterprising spirit, Tara was a retiring sort of person, diffident and timid. Subsequently, Bim developed a strong prejudice against Raja who had forsaken her and Baba, and had also written a humiliating letter to Bim, Tara continued to maintain a normal, sisterly attitude towards him because she had not been living in India but traveling to foreign countries with her husband Bakul who was in the Indian Foreign Service, and who had served in the Indian embassies in various capitals of the world. When the marriage of Raja’s eldest daughter is to take place, Tara goes to Hyderabad to attend it, while Bim refuses to go because of her grievance against Raja. Tara has a gentle and passive nature, but she is not so sharp as Bim and does not have such a penetrating and analytical mind as Bim has. Nor is she stubborn like Bim. Besides, Tara gets married as soon as she gets the opportunity, while Bim remains unmarried and grows into a spinster, teaching history in a college, and looking after Baba at home. While Bim’s life is full of responsibilities and worries, Tara is comparatively carefree. Tara’s only worry is that Bim is not happy because of her house-hold responsibilities and the burdens which she has to shoulder.


He is the youngest child of Mr. and Mrs. Das; and he is, by birth, mentally retarded. He needs constant attention and cares for somebody because he cannot look after himself. He seems to be incapable of thinking, and he cannot speak more than a word at a time, and even that word is not fully intelligible to everybody. Subsequently, he is put in the charge of Aunt Mira who looks after him well. Later, Baba acquires an old gramophone and some old English records; and he then spends most of his time playing the gramophone and listening to the same records again and again. Eventually, he becomes the special responsibility only of Bim because Tara gets married and leaves India, while Raja settles down in Hyderabad and never visits Delhi afterward.