“So every bondman in his own hand
Bears the power to cancel his captivity”
• Julius Caesar, Shakespeare.
Vijay Tendulkar is one of the leading playwrights of the Indian writing in English. He has always raised his voice against any kinds of discrimination. He, in `A Testament’, in Indian Literature no.147, January- February, 1992 shares his social concern,
“As a social being I am against all exploitation and I passionately feel that all exploitation must end. As a writer, I feel fascinated by the violent exploited- exploiter relationship and obsessively delve deep into it instead of taking a position against it. That takes me to a point where I feel that this relationship is eternal, a fact of life however cruel, and will never end”.
It is the duty of a writer – be he a novelist, playwright, poet or essayist – to raise voice against exploitation, injustice, malpractices, bad customs etc. and make people introspect, to bring them on right path, in order to make society a little more livable and lovable. Very few of us have moral courage to throw away age old conventions and open a new chapter. We find nothing wrong in following our forefathers blindly. But change is the rule of nature. What was considered moral, ethical; religious in the past has lost its relevance. Human relations and values have changed.
In the thought provoking play, `Kamala’, Vijay Tendulkar focuses his attention on the plight of a woman, in male dominated society. The woman does not live her own life at any stage. She has to obey her parents in her childhood, act according to the desires of her in laws in youth and has to depend on her children in her old age. She cannot afford to resist and gets no chance to grow.
Even in this advanced age, she is a silent sufferer, cannot take any important decisions for herself and her children. It is taken for granted that she has no feelings, emotions or sentiments. People do not care to peep into her heart and understand her genuine desires. There are people who consider the birth of a female child a curse. Virginia Woolf, in ` A Room of One’s Own’ rightly opines on the condition of the women:
“Imaginatively She is of the highest importance: practically she is completely insignificant. She pervades poetry from cover to cover: she is all but absent from history. She dominates lives of kings and conquers in fiction: in fact she was the slave of any boy whose parents forced a ring upon her finger…( and) in real life she could hardly read, could hardly spell, and was the property of her husband”
Vijay Tendulkar presents before us three female characters- Sarita, Kamala and Kamalabai- each having different social and economic position. But one thing found common in them is negligence and indifference shown to them. They have much to complain but there is no sympathetic listener.
In our Indian society, a girl is trained right from her childhood to look at her husband as her only savior, her God. She may be far superior to him in every respect- charming, intelligent, talented, and well-behaved but she has to spend her life being his shadow. It is the privilege of a man to ridicule, insult, humiliate even to beat her, for no fault of her own. The poor woman bears everything calmly. Sarita is one of such woman who accepts her lot without grudges. She doesn’t open her heart before her uncle, Kaka Saheb. Her uncle rightly says,
“You may be highly educated; sarita but you are still a girl from old Mohitwada” (5)
Sarita has to take all the possible care to keep her husband pleased. She performs domestic jobs well giving Jai Singh no chance to blame her. She has to note down all telephone numbers but gets scolded for not writing down the name of the caller.
Jai Singh- sarita’s husband is an ambitious journalist. In his own words,. `We are sensation seekers’. He cares little for professional ethics. In good old days, there were certain taboos. No journalist worth his name crossed limits of decency. But in today’s changed scenario, Journalists like Jai Singh run from pillar to post in search of news which may sell like hot cakes. Rape, murder, theft, financial malpractices, corruption, cheating fill the pages of newspapers.
Jai singh visits red light area to prepare a scoop on what is happening there, to startle his readers by informing them about buying and selling of women belonging to lower economical strata of the society. He wants to expose big politicians and police officials involved in this dirty game.
He buys a tribal girl for rupees two hundred and fifty. His aim is to present her at the press conference and let the world know, through her medium, about auction market held there and many other unknown facts. He narrates the plight of the women in the following words,
“They sell human beings in Bihar at Luhardaga bazaar beyond Ranchi. They have an open auction for women of all sorts of ages. People come from long distances to make their bids…The men who went to bid handle the women to inspect them whether they are firm or flabby, young or old, Healthy or diseased. How they feel in the breast, in their waist, in their thighs and….” (14)
Sarita’s journey of self realization starts when Kamala innocently asks her,
Kamala: How much did he buy you for?
Sarita: For seven hundred. (34)
Sarita realizes that her condition in the house is not better than Kamalabai. Kamala offers to reduce the burden of sarita by sharing her domestic responsibilities. She would live as a second wife of Jai Singh. Kamala says:
“ Mem sahib, if you won’t misunderstand , I’ll tell you. The master bought you , he bought me too. He spent a lot of money on the two of us, Didn’t he? If isn’t easy to earn money. A man has to labour like an ox to do it. So Memsahib, both of us must stay here together like sisters. We’ll keep the master happy. We’ll make him prosperous. The master will have children. I’ll bring them up. You’re an educated woman. You keep the accounts and run the house- Don’t worry about it… that’s my responsibility. Fifteen days of the month you sleep with the master, the other fifteen, I’ll sleep with him” (35)
Jai Singh decided to send Kamala to an orphanage. But Sarita didn’t approve it. Sarita is in the mood of rebellion. She will no longer be a puppet in the hands of her merciless husband. She begins to disobey Jai Singh. She says,
“ I am going to present a man who in the year 1982 still keeps a slave, right here in Delhi, Jai Singh Jadav. I’m going to say this; this man’s a great advocate of freedom. And he brings home a slave and exploits her. He doesn’t consider a slave a human being just a useful object… he tyrannizes his own salve as much as he likes and doesn’t think anything of it…nothing at all. Listen to the story of how he bought the slave Kamala and made use of her… (46)
Jai Singh does not heed any attention to Sarita’s pleas to keep Kamala in their own home. He says,
“It’s I who takes decisions in this house, and no one else. Do you understand? I’ll be back tonight- if there are any phone calls, say I’ve gone straight to the office, and write them down.. I can’t keep Kamala at home. Or we will lose the case against me for buying Kamala. I could even be sent to jail. That’s why Kamala has to stay in the orphanage.”
This attitude of Jai Singh shows how cruel he is in the treatment of women.
The rebellious attitude of Sarita diminishes when Jai Singh lost the chances of promotion as a chief editor as he invited wrath of heavy weight politicians. But at this critical juncture, Sarita stands by him, providing much needed solace. She drops the idea of leaving the house and opening a new chapter in her stereotyped life. She presents her agony to Kaka Saheb,
“ I’ll go on feeling it. But at present, I ‘m going to lock all that up in a corner of my mind and forget about it. But a day will come, Kaka Saheb, when I will stop being a slave. I’ll no longer be an object to be used and thrown away. I’ll do what I wish and no one will rule over me. That day has to come. And I’ll pay whatever price I have to pay for it.” (52)
Women writers like Simone de Beauvoir, Margaret Atwood, Toni Morrison etc had to face a lot of problems for speaking on behalf of the oppressed women. Thanks to their whole hearted efforts that a woman is no longer considered as `the second sex’. She has realized what inner strength she possesses. She cries out in agony,
“Why can’t men limp behind? Why aren’t women ever the masters? Why can’t a woman at least ask to live her life the same way as a man? Why must only a man have the right to be a man? Doesn’t he have one extra sense? A woman can do everything a man can?” (47)
Surprisingly, those who come forward as saviours of women and fight for their human rights and decent living outside too are guilty of domestic violence. Jai Singh’s treatment of Sarita and Kamalabai shows the type of man he is as a husband and as a master. Banerjee writes
“Though not a political play in any sense, Kamala too is a tropical drama, as Damladoipada Muktabal is. It was inspired by a real life incidence of the Indian Express, exposed by Sarin who actually bought a girl from a rural flesh market and presented her at a press conference. But using this incident as a lauding pad. Tendulkar raises certain cardinal questions regarding the value system of a modern success oriented generation which is ready to sacrifice human values even in the name of humanity itself” ( Banerjee, 581)
A woman is being exploited physically, mentally, economically, socially etc. It is a very unsafe, insecure world for her. Anything can happen at any moments. She can trust none. A religious head, a teacher, a neighbor, a close relative, even her own father or brother may make her victim of lust.
A woman is not a woe to man but a great source of inspiration who stands by him through thick and thin.