GENDER DISCRIMINATION IN MAHESH DATTANI`S `TARA` BY DR. RAM SHARMA, SENIOR LECTURER IN ENGLISH, J.V.P.G COLLEGE, BARAUT, BAGHPAT, U.P., INDIA
Mahesh Dattani has presented the bizarre reality of the woman playing second fiddle to man.This play opens with Chandan changed into Dan in order to absolve himself from the guilt of killing his sister.He has to bear the brunt of his grandfather`s and mother`s cruelty .He considers himself responsible for his sister`s death. In this play Dattani plays with the idea of female infanticide that is prevalent among the Gujratis and also suggests Patel`s hegemonic patriarchy when he insists that proper division in the gender roles be made Tara gives us a glimpse into the modern society which claims to be liberal and advanced in its thought and action. In a society which claims that its mothers are educated today and have `Devis ` like Durga, Kali, Saraswati , Lakshmi etc whom not only women but men also pay obeisance , differentiate between a male child and a female child.All the propagandas of equality between male and female , equal opportunities to women in all the fields are belied..Dattani`s deep preoccupation with gender issues leads to the emergence of the idea of the twin side to one`s self -quite literally embodied in one body and the separation that follows Mahesh Dattani mentioned in one of his interviews with Lakshmi Subramanyam : “I see Tara as a play about the male self and female self.The male self is being preferred in all cultures .The play is about the separation of self and the resultant angst“[p-134]1
.Erin Mee writes in the note of the play,
“Tara centres on the emotional separation that grows between two conjoined twins following the discovery that their physical separation was manipulated by their mother and grandfather to favour the boy[ Chandan] over the girl [ Tara] .Tara , a feisty girl who isn`t given the opportunities given to her brother [although she may be smarter ] eventually wastes away and dies. Chandan escapes to London , changes his name to Dan , and attempts to repress the guilt he feels over his sister`s death by living without a personal history .Woven into the play are issues of class and community , and the clash between traditional and modern lifestyles and values.“ CP [p-319]2
Patel and Bharati are educted parents but they created new discriminations. Bharati`s father, a resourceful person , is also considered to be one of the factors in this mishap. If Bharati had been led astray by her father`s high handed decision , why didn`t Patel put his foot down and stand against their decision?Father should be strong enough to fight this discrimination.The relationship of Bharati and Tara , mother and daughter is subordinated to her subjugation to the expectations of the society .She has no free will and her compassion for Tara , proves weak in her preference for her son Chandan. She plans for the surgery for the separation of the children and determines to offer her kidney to give a new lease of life to Tara .When Chandan enquires her if she has any plans for Tara , Bharati says,
“Yes, I plans for her happiness .I mean to give her all love and affection which I can give .Its what she deserves have can make up for lot[ CP p-349]“3
Bharati is quite much fearful about the future of her daughter,
“It`s all right while she is young .It`s all very cute and comfortable when she makes witty remarks .But let her grow up .Yes ,Chandan the world will tolerate you. The world will accept you- but not her! Oh! The pair is going to feel when she sees herself at eighteen or twenty .Thirty is unthinkable and what about forty and fifty! Oh, God ! [ CP p-349]4
Bharati tries to shed her burden of guilt by showing maternal love and concern for her daughter and to assert her moral superiority over her husbandShe also tries to expatiate by the act of donating kidney to her daughter which was ultimately futile.Dattani establishes that mother and daughter relationship is ultimately subordinated to the directives of patriarchy .All cultures and all countries by establishing values , roles , gender perception and prescribe unequal means to achieve.Dr. Thakkar occupies the one on the highest level throughout the play.Tara and Chandan are conjoined, Siamese twins who must be separated to survive. The dichotomy between the twin `gendered` selves is recognized , and a physical separation is made through surgery “ Like we`ve always been.Inseperable .The way we started in life.Two lives and one body in one comfortable womb .Till we were forced out—- And separated“ [ CP p-325]5
The problem begin when it is recognized that it has been unequal , unfair operation , with the mother , Bharati, her father and the surgeon collaborating to afford the male with better chances , physically -the second leg.Dr. Thakkar , the god -like `life giver ` is aware that the third leg would adhere better to the female half , and yet becomes party to the decision..Dan tries to define his other half, the feisty Tara “ She never got a fair deal .Not even from nature.Neither of us did .May be God never wanted us separated .Destiny desires strange things—–But even God does not always get what he wants.Conflict is the crux of life“`[ CP p-330]6
Mr. Patel , an emblem of male chauvinism , maintains his absolute authority in the decision making about the family Bharati is a pathetic victim of patriarchy .She was exceptionally conscious for her safety for Tara , not for the sake of Tara but for her own sake.It was irony of fate that Chandan and Tara were entwined in such a way that their separation was impossible .Chandan enjoyed greater preference and Tara was left to enjoy the position of a subaltern. The effort to separate them through surgery left Tara cripple for life. The suffering of Tara and Chandan is a symbolic justification to the perception that the grace of the relationship exist not in their separateness but in their moving in a coordination or interdependence.The famous theatre director Erin Mee writes“
Dattani sees Tara as a play about the gendered self, about coming to terms with the feminine side of oneself in a world that always favours what is `male` , but many people in India see it as a play about the girl child.“ [ CP-p-320]7
Tara was more enthusiastic and full of jest and spark of life .She had high aspirations which she could not accomplish because of her handicapped state while the boy was comfortably ensconced and had come to terms with his handicapped life,Why was then Tara denied the privilege of the good leg. Why? Is it because she was a girl ? Is being a girl in the society a curse. Why so much partiality and differentiation done to women in the country which has rich heritage and where women are otherwise placed on the pedestral Dr. Thakkar belied his godly profession and led himself to be bribed by Bharati`s father into becoming an accomplice in the bizarre act of severing the leg. He should have upheld his profession by denouncing the decision at his inception whereas he in a way took Tara`s life by severing the leg. His wise decision could have given Tara a safe, secured and complete life.Patel , meanwhile seems much beleaguered “Yes, call me a liar, a wife beater, a child abuser.It`s what you want me to be! And you .You want them to believe you love them very much “ [ CP p-354]8
Again he tells Tara , “ 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—-“ [ CP-p-354]9
This is why the play generates a death like response from Tara when she learns the truth, she was discriminated against , because of her gender, but not by her father- it was Bharart`s decision that deprived her of what she wanted more than anything else in the world- a second leg.Bharati`s father further strengthened his indulgence for male grand child by leaving his property after his demise to Chandan and not a single penny to Tara. Chandan and Tara`s maternal grandfather was a wealthy man. He was in politics and came very close to becoming the Chief Minister.His will is a testament of the kind of treatment that is meted out to girls in Indian society.Mr. Patel and Chandan are talking,
“PATEL. He [ grandfather] left you a lot of money. CHANDAN . And Tara? PATEL . Nothing CHANDAN. Why? PATEL It was his money.He could do what he wanted with it.[CP p-360]10
Patel`s attitude has also been negative. He belames his wife and father-in-law for the damage done cannot be denied. The fact that male is always given the greater chance is obvious from Patel`s planning for Chandan`s education and future career.No consideration whatsoever for her feelings! Tara is the victim of this collective social system.Her father, Mr. Patel , is not much different from his wife , though Bharati is guilty of a more serious crime against Tara. He continuously and doggedly favours Chandan when it comes to giving him higher education abroad. , and a career.
“PATEL .You are turning them against the whole world. BHARATI I am doing that. PATEL . Yes ! Look at the way you treat Tara .As if she is made of glass. You coddle her , you pet her, you sdpoil her, She`s grown up feeling she doesn`t need anyone but you.! BHARATI. What d`you want me to do? Just tell me in plain simple words what you want me to do and i`ll do it! PATEL. Let go. Just let go.And let me handle them. BHARATI. All right .You stay at home then ! You stay at home and watch what they can do and what they can`t .You remind them of what they can`t be. It`s easy for you to talk about their future and your plans.But tell them what they should do now .This day , this hour , this minute .Tell them ! I want to hear.! PATEL. Chandan is going to study further and he will go abroad for his higher studies. BHARATI. And Tara? PATEL. When have you ever allowed me to make any plans for her? [ CP p-352]11
But Tara could have made her defiency , her strength and fight the society to etch a place of her own.Tara is discoraged openly, notwithstanding her feelings in the matter , even though she is more intelligent , sharp and witty and would perform well if given ooportunities in life. Economic and cultural factors have been responsible for the antipathy against and inferiorization of the girl child .All these factors combine to create the social system in which the girl child has to live and die.Tara is killed by social system , which controls the minds and actions of the people.The trauma of coming to know the role her mother had played in her life , and the discrimination become too much for her. And why is she killed? Tara is not wanted. Girls are not wanted.
“TARA. Oh! What a waste! A waste of money .What spend all the money to keep me alive?It cannot matter whether I live or die. There are thousands of poor sick people on the roads who could be given care and attention , and I think I know what I will make of myself.I will be a crer for those people .I —- I will spend the rest of my life feeding and clothing those. —-starving naked millions everywhere is talking about.May be I can start an institution that will —- do all that.Or I could join Mother Teresa and sacrifice muself to a great cause.That may give— purpose to my —existence .I can do it .I can do it , can`t I ?I will be very happy if I could , because that is really what I want .That really —[with emotion].Oh! , bullshirt! I don`t care .I don`t care for anyone except mummy! [ CP- p-370]12
The above statement shows that Tara is not deterred by the injustice done to her by her parents but she presents herself as an empowered lady to face all the hurdles.She also shows her sympathy towards the downtrodden.She was bubbly and energetic girl who had all the qualities of a normal girl. If she had been given moral support by her parents .She might have shone like a star as her name signifies. Her life was a burden on this earth .This made her lose interest in life altogether .Further she refuses to go to physiotherapy or fill forms for college.
TARA.. How do you expect me to feel anything for anyone if they don`t give me any feeling to begin with? Why is it wrong for me to be without feeling? Why are you asking me to do something that nobody has done for me?[ CP p-371]`13`
Tara was a bright and shinning star which was a source of cheerfulness and happiness of the family.A complete life could have done wonders and she would have scored the limits which her brother Chandan couldn`t have.Tara`s potentiality was sacrificed on the alter of gender. Identity crisis becomes a chain with which a female is fettered when the question of choice between male and female arises.
“ TARA The hospital staff. At the reception , they asked me who I wanted to see. I told them. They asked me to wait .One of the nurses passing by recognized me .She drew the receptionist aside and spoke to her in a low voice .She thought I couldn`t hear what she was saying .But I heard ! She told her that she had received strict instructions from our father that I shouldn`t on any account be allowed to see mummy on my own .[Pause] Now tell me i`m imagining things .Tell me that he doesn`t hate me! [ CP p-373]14
It is noteworthy that discrimination against Tara continues even after her death.Chandan , who was always interested in writing , and who has come to England for higher studies , has transferred into Dan .He turns the story he writes into his own tragedy. Dan apologises to Tara for doing this “Forgive me , Tara .Forgive me for making it my tragedy.“`[ CP p-380]15
In the end I can say that Mahesh Dattani has very deftly revealed the theme of gender discrimination in this play.
NOTES AND REFERENCES 1-Subramanyam,Lakshmi[ed]. ,Muffled Voices: Women in Modern Indian Theatre, New Delhi,Shakti , 2002, p-134 2-Mee, Erin, A Note in the Play ,Collected Plays, Mahesh Dattani, Penguin Books, New Delhi, p-319 3-Dattani, Mahesh, Collected Plays, Penguin, New Delhi, p-349 4- ibid p-349 5-ibid p-325 6-ibid p-330 7- Mee, Erin, A Note in the Play, Collected Plays, Mahesh Dattani, Penguin, New Delhi p-320 8-Dattani, Mahesh-Collected Plays, Penguin Books, New Delhi, p-354 9-ibid -p-354 10-ibid p-360 11-ibid p-352 12- ibid p-370 13 – ibid p-371 14 -ibid p-373 15-ibid p-380