Indian society is multicultural and heterogenic. It has taught ‘Vasudhaiva-Kutumbakam’, non-violence, love, respect the women and many more ideals and philosophy to the world. Though India had a glorious past, many stigmas and stereotypes prevalent into it. Our contemporary influential dramatist Mahesh Dattani uses family is a central unit to discuss such unheard issues of Indian society as Parental Authority, deterioration in medical profession, gender discrimination, child abuse, and lacuna in human relationships as well, in his third most famous Drama TARA. He presents bizarre reality of Indian society and exposes these dark sides before the world. Further he shows, in what extant these taboos or dark stains on our visage spoil individual and society at large. Two conjoined twins, jointed at the hip, unethically separated, moreover third leg is given to Chandan instead of giving it to the medically deserving Tara, on the basis of gender. Doctor Thakkar who obsessed with money and fame commits this heinous crime. Their emotional separation ruins their life with their family too. The interest behind this writing, primarily comes out from the fact that the play like TARA has the potential that reach wide audiences that can foster an environment of awareness, on very invisible issues. Primarily, Dattani attacks the cultural construction of gender and thereby explain their own emotions and often unmask themselves and society at large.
Keywords: Invisible, Gender Discrimination, Child abuse, Parental Authority.
Mahesh Dattani is the first Indian playwright who won the widely acclaimed literary honor Sahitya Academy for his FinalSolutionsandotherplays in 1998. He has established himself internationally by writing plays for BBC Radio and other international collaborations. His important plays are Where There’s Will (1986), Dance Like a Man (1989), Tara (1990), Bravely Fought the Queen (1991), Final Solutions (1993), Do the Needful (1997), On a Muggy Night in Mumbai (1998), Seven Steps Around the Fire (1999) and so on. He founded his own literary company named Playpen, in 1984. Usually Dattani’s play revolves around the major issues which prevalent not in Indian society but beyond that too like love relationship, Homosexuality, feminism, incest, child abuse, marginalized people as well as communal struggle.
Dattani effectively remarks, “our culture is so rich with tradition, that’s a great advantage and great disadvantage as well, because….we are living in the present and there are so many challenges facing us-you just have to cross the road and you have an issue,…I think it is very important for our country to spawn new playwrights…who reflect honestly and purely our lives, because…that is our contribution to the world (CP 319).”
Mahesh Dattani is a playwright who creates a potent combination of Indian theatrical conventions and the textual rigor of western models like Ibsen and Tennessee Williams. Dattani has a power to pen down such a conventional issues without being melodramatic. His plays often deals with the characters who are questioning their identity, in a modern world. His characters are not stereotypical, they are well balanced who can easily get proceed the conventional expectation of the audience. The complicated dynamics of the modern urban Indian family becomes the subject of his plays. He unfasten the taboos and invisible dark sides out from the carpet and then place on the stage. Dattani says, “You can talk about Feminism, because in a way that is accepted. But you can’t talk about middle class housewife fantasizing about having sex with the cook or actually having a sex life-that isn’t Indian either- that is confrontational even if it is Indian.”
With education and adding some sophistication we tend to believe that urban society doesn’t consist such things as authoritative power of parents, gender discrimination and child abuse. Tara is a bright and shining star, a twinkle Tara constant source of cheerfulness and happiness for the family, who becomes victim of her parent’s authoritative nature. She cannot take any decision by her own. She is separated without her consent on the bases of gender and makes her crippled for whole life, eventually she wastes away and dies. Moreover Dattani also shows how, her disability becomes a fun for her neighboring girl Roopa and her circle. When her mother got hospitalized for curing mental disorder, Mr. Patel doesn’t allow her to go there and meet her after her many requests. Tara is not merely an individual character but emerges as an archetype, an icon of the Indian girl child who is vanquished but protest against the authoritative nature of Mr. Patel.
“Chandan. If daddy want to stop her from saying something to us, maybe it’s not good for us to Bear it.”
Tara: And who decides what’s good for us to hear and what isn’t” (54)
Mr. Patel and Bharati always try to impose their notions and convictions on their children. Bharati being a woman favors the boy at the time of operation and later on tries to make her understand how much she loves her. On the other side Mr. Patel only bother about Chandan’s future. After watching that Chandan is helping her mother in knitting, he becomes furious and he decides his future without knowing his aspiration, his goal. Mr. Patel wants that his son comes with him in the office and quarrel with him, though Chandan is deeply interested in writing. Dattani portrays nasty sides of Indian Family where parents quarrels without thinking about their children. For few minutes Tara losses her consciousness because of her parents wrestling. In this way family becomes microcosm for whole Indian society where children are treated as their properties and try to mold them according to their needs and desires.
TARA is about a boy and a girl, the Siamese twin born in Gujarati family, such a twin invariably of the same sex. Dattani takes a medical liberty and focuses more on emotional separation. Erin. B. Mee one of the critics whose observations are considered as significant in her note on Tara “Dattani’s preoccupations in the play are the invisible Indian social issues.” The critic adds, “The play deals with the feeling of gendered self, about coming to terms with the feminine side of oneself in the world that always favors what is male”. There is also metaphor that male-female are not separate entities but two sides of same self and forcefully separation always ends in trauma. At the beginning of the play Tara gently remarks to Chandan “And maybe we still are. Like we have always been. Inseparable. The way we started in life. Two lives one body, in one comfortable womb. Till we were forced out….and separated” (5). Gender discrimination always renders bad. Roopa, friend of Chandan and Tara reveals Gujarati culture and their age old stereotypes and remarks “Gujarati used to drown their daughters in the milk”, in the case of Tara it is alike but in different form. Doctor Thakkar knows that third leg is more fitted to Tara and survive long if it will be perfectly operated to her, but for the piece of land for his nursery, he puts aside all his doctoral ethics. It is sign of deterioration in values and ethics inprofession, especially in Medical, which is always considered pious and ethical. Here political hegemonic power also sound, Bharti’s father, who holds good position in politics, thus by using his power he succeed to give third leg to Chandan instead of Tara. As nature has tendency to repay, the third leg which is given to Chandan, hardly of him only for three days, on the contrary which can be Tara’s for whole life.
Patel, who always blames Bharati for giving third leg to Chandan without taking his consent. He is not bother about Tara’s condition, he is more anxious of his superiority, he cannot endure that his wife and her father take decision without considering him. So he always taunts and insults Bharati and very rude with Tara. His authoritative behavior over Tara can easily get when Tara says to Chandan, “you say that because he is nice to you…he talks to you very often”. (52) He is more curious and worry about Chandan’s future, particularly his education. He plans to send Chandan abroad for getting good education, but he doesn’t have any plan for her. He asks Chandan to come office with him but not along with Tara.
Patel: Was just thinking…it may be good idea for you to come to the office with me.
Chandan: What for?
Patel: Just to get a feel of it.
Chandan: You can take Tara. She will make a great business woman. We will both come with you.
Mr. Patel always tries to pour his hegemonic power over Bharati, taunts her for pampering Tar as if she is made of glass. He often quarrels with Bharati over making their children against him. Mr. Patel always makes his efforts to get sympathy from Tara, as he acknowledges of the fact that she loves her mother desperately. As he says, “Tara, please believe me when I say that I love you very much and I have never in all my life loved you less or more than I have loved your brother. But your mother……” (34) Bharati desperately wants to give her kidney to Tara, but Mr. Patel opposes her decision. Even he fully takes control over her mental process also and by undergoing that much stress and becomes a victim of male Chauvinism Bharati meets nervous breakdowns. And eventually dies. This is not only Bharati’s traumatic situation, which she comes across whole life, but every Indian woman overtly and covertly faces it. Even Tara’s maternal grandfather doesn’t give her single penny out of his large estate, all renders to Chandan only, as he is conscious of the fact that boys are only prolong their lineage. Tara is discriminated by all the persons whom she can call their own, at every level physically, emotionally and psychologically too. Female infanticide is nothing new as per Roopa’s remarks, it comes into modern Indian society in quite new form. In an interview with Lakshmi Subramanyam, Dattani points out, “I see Tara as a play about male self and female self. The play is about the male self is being preferred in all cultures. The play is about the separation of self and the resultant angst”. Dattani connotes that twins are not different self, but one self of two sides, and make them separate is to crumble the whole pattern of the universe. Chandan goes to London for writing, but he cannot get over his feeling of self-guilt. He wants to wash out his history, so he changes his name to Dan but as Stephan Dedalus in Ulysses, he cannot go out of it as Stephen Remarks, “History is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake”. So Chandan now a playwright, recollecting his past memories, particularly his early years, which he has spent with Tara. As Mee remarks, “Dan writes Tara’s story to rediscover the neglected half of himself, as means of becoming a whole”.
Another dark stain is Child abuse, in the whole play Dattani spreads a black truth of child abuse grows in heaps and bounds not in India but whole sphere of the world. Every child in Indian family suffers from some kind of exploitation physically, emotionally and psychologically. Tara is abused physically by her own mother and grandfather, we can feel aftereffect of it on Tara psychologically. Being overloaded with the feeling of guilt Chandan goes to London, changes his name as Dan still cannot go forward in his Career and life. He suffers psychologically by an unknown crime which is committed by his family. At the end of the play he pleads, “Forgive me Tara. Forgive me for making it my Own Tragedy”.
Along with dark invisible sides of Indian society, Dattani comes with slight positive notes of Indian society. He portrays Chandan in modern sense as we see him helping her mother in knitting, always takes side of her sister and so on.
As Dattani always deals with the invisible dark sides of the modern urban family like child abuse, gender discrimination, and deterioration in medical profession, parental authority shows how these complicated dynamics ruin the age old beauty of Indian society. And particularly it is modest attempt to study gender based injustice. Researcher’s intention is to unfasten these stigmas to the wide audiences, feed their mind with awareness and compel them to take an action without being emotional. By presenting dark sides of Indian society Dattani tries to challenge the constitution of India, as they have been presented in modern English theatre.
Farhina Shekh, Research Scholar (H.N.G.U Patan)