Human Relationships and Quest for an Identity

Apart from being a versatile English playwright, Mahesh Dattani is well known as a nice actor, director, screen playwright, film maker, teacher and a man of multiple aspects, creativities and identities.He has been awarded the ‘Sahitya Akadami Award’ for his contribution to the world of English drama. His plays carry our mind on the gritty realities of the society which is a hub of such noticeable issues but these issues are generally brushed aside under the carpet of civilization. The issues related to homosexuality, gender discrimination, communalism, child sexual abuse and the follies, foibles and prejudices of Indian society are visible here and there in his plays. His plays reveal several new and innovative perspectives along with the conventional themes .In this referenceErin Mee calls Dattani, “a young playwright who can create a new generation in the Indian English Drama which deals with the invisible social issues.”[1]

Dattani also describes his themes and concerns thus: Thematically, I talk about the areas which the individual feels exhausted. My plays are about people who are striving to expand ‘this’ space. They live on the fringe of the society and are not looking for acceptance, but are struggling to grab as much fringe-space for themselves as they can. [2]

All types of issues are mostly surrounded a variety of human relationships. Firstly relations take birth in family and secondly in society. In fact, human relationships have been at the heart of Dattani’s dramatic representation where he scrutinizes the crisis and consciences of characters trapped in the web of relationships. The social group that Dattani focuses on is broad, highly varied and differentiated. He deals not only with the primary relations of an individual within the family but lays his focus on the social relations as well. An important theme of his plays is the dynamics of human relationships and the quest for an identity particularly revealed in his third dramatic work Tara.This paper focuses on the human relationships and quest for an identity. All characters struggle sometimes to self and sometimes to the traditional values of society. Each wants space in family and society. Male easily gets his space due to patriarchal society but female has to struggle hard for it and sometimes her struggle ends with death.

When there is a matter of quest for an identity, the issue of gender discrimination which goes from beginning to the end cannot be ignored. Dattani also brings out the debilitating consequences of gender consciousness on this important family relationship.

Tara is a touchy play which shows the partiality towards the male child in highly educated and an upper middle class Bangalore society and also reveals the sense of male and female identity. In one of his interviews with Laxmi Subramanyam, Dattani has remarked, “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.” Dattani’s above statement exposes the typical Indian mindset which has down the ages, all the time preferred a boy child to a girl child.

The play Tara shows the injustice done to women such as Tara who was never asked what she wanted but also shows the injustice to men such as Chandan who was forced to lead a life of guilt for no fault of his own. Parents took the decision against the girl and did injustice with her but found their decision no use .All characters appear struggling for an identity. The play revolves around the theme of favoring the boy and frowning upon the girl with exceptional originality of conception and also depicts the triumph and the failure of an Indian family comprising the father, the mother and their children coping the trauma of disability. This sense is visible in Dattani’s statement, “I focus on cultural emphasis on masculinity and how all the characters are at conflict with that. The parents, the grandfather, the neighbor they are all in that sense in tension with their own sensibilities as opposed to cultural sensibilities they may have knowingly to unknowingly subscribed t.”[3]

Not only the male child and the female child struggle for quest of self but the other characters struggle also. Additionally, the play is centered not only on twins and their life but also reveals the domestic tragedy involving grandfather, parents and children. Dattani closely observes a variety of human relationships-husband and wife relationship, doctor and patient, son-in-law and father –in-law, parents and children, brother and sister and as a juggler he also juggles with them. Among these relationships the special focus in Tara is on father-daughter, mother-daughter, grandfather-granddaughter, and brother-sister relationship. This play shows how the devil of gender discrimination weakens and kills all other bond of familial relationship and how social –cultural myths and conventions control and construct course of the human life.

The play Tara is a comment on mother-daughter relationship with emphasis on a daughter’s place in mother’s life. It is a mother who herself is the enemy of her daughter and does injustice and partiality between her children since their birth. Bharati, the mother, has twins together at the hip. One is a boy, Chandan and the other is a girl, Tara. The twin had three legs between them and blood supply to the third leg was from the girl baby. According to the doctor, only one of the twins could have two legs and the other had to survive with only one leg. The medical report clears that in almost cases of such kind, one of the twins always died by the age of four. Twin was surgically separated at the risk of the death of the two. The probability of the leg’s survival was greater with Tara. Even then Bharati and her influential father were handing glove to undertake the risk of supplying the third leg to Chandan after knowing everything.

It is tragic that the mother also supported in this nasty conspiracy. She prefers the male child and thus strengthens the chain of injustice. Children of the same womb are treated in two not just different but opposing too.Bharati’s decision brings forth the very unhappy and absurd situation for her daughter, Tara. But Alas! The leg that had survived only for two days with Chandan but it could have been accompanied Tara’s forever. When Tara comes to know the real story of her physical disability by her father, her belief is shattered and finally dies in a great shock. It was her mother (whom she trusted more) who was involved in the conspiracy of her unfair separation from Chandan. Thus the cruelty of mother takes away the life of daughter.

The relationship of Bharati and Tara becomes weaker on the discovery of truth. Although she loves Tara a lot, but her subjection to the expectations of the society and her preference for her son, makes her compassion for Tara weak. Behind the mother’s cruelty appears only one reason –Indian gender discrimination that boy is always superior to girl as he will carry forward the family name. Bhararti yields to social norms that male are the archetypal successor or prototype of cultural progeny. As a woman she has fear because she knows the hardships a girl child might face in the event of her physical deformity thrusts upon her and knows that the leg legimately belongs to the girl child. During the conversation with Chandan, she defines the situation Tara is going to face in near future and also states to him that he as a male will enjoy so lots of privileges in comparison to Tara: It’s all right while she is young. It is 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! …….when she sees herself at eighteen or twenty, thirty is unthinkable and what about forty and fifty! Oh God! The oft-quoted lines reveal a mother scared about the prospect of her daughter; and also shows her a victim of a patriarchal society where her maternal love is marginalized as a woman and her sub eternity compels her to sacrifice her maternal love to cope up with social expectations otherwise her love for Tara is pure and unceasing .

In the beginning of the play Bharati seems convincing Tara to drink the milk and later on she bribes Roopa, her neighbor, to become a friend of her daughter. She cannot see Tara’s loneliness. She expresses her feelings to Roopa about Tara in these words: Tara is a very nice girl…..she can be very good company and she has her talents. She can be very witty and of course she is intelligent. I have seen to it that she…more than makes up in some ways for what she….. doesn’t have.She wants to bring happiness in her unlucky daughter’s life. She is just ready to do anything for her happiness-as she appears saying to Roopa, “You can watch whatever you want! Just be my Tara’s friend.” Here Bharati appears doing unnecessarily bullying of Roopa’s into friendship with Tara and even trying to bribe her into spending more time with her daughter’s disgusting and demanding. Not only this, Bharati has stopped socializing herself because she cannot endure when people would ask about her daughter. Her deep love and affection for her daughter is visible in their conversation: Bharati: Tara! My beautiful baby! You are my most beautiful baby! I love you very much! Tara: (enjoying this affection) Yes, mummy. I know that. Further Bharati appears speaking to Tara as if she is talking to an infant in her arms during her hospitalized. Bharati: Tara! My beautiful little girl. Look at her smile! Smile, Tara. Smile again for me! Oh! See how her eyes twinkle. You are my most beautiful baby! Bharati: Everything will be all right .Now that I am giving you a part of me. Everything will be all right. In addition she goes on to say, “after the operation, we will all be happy together. And I will make up for….your father, and I will make up for all the things God hasn’t given you.” At one place she tells her son, Chandan, “I plan to give her happiness; I mean to give her all the love and affection which I can live. It’s what she….deserves. Love can make up for a lot.”

The oft-quoted statements show Bharati’s motherly love for her unlucky daughter, Tara but it may be considered that her excessive love results from her past guilt, she allied with her father and gave more injustice to Tara by leaving her crippled for live. Now she wants to compensate for her unfortunate decision through her excessive concern and love for her. Now she desires of giving more and more love and comforts to her. She does not hesitate in having the hot conversation with her husband when there is the matter of giving kidney .Her husband; Mr. Patel disapproves her idea of giving her kidney to Tara. She wants to give her kidney as a part of herself and craves satisfaction out of this. As their hot conversation shows: Bharati: (pleadingly) Why won't you let me do it? Patel: (controlling) Need I tell you? Because I do not want you to have the satisfaction of doing it. Bharati: I will do it! When Bharati insists on it, Patel bluntly refuses and stoutly asserts: Patel: You will have to obey me. It's my turn now. Bharati: I want to give her a part of me! The oft-quoted conversation reveals Bharati’s love for her daughter and also a quest of self as she said, “I will do it….I want to give her a part of me.” Mr. Patel’s statement,” You will have to obey me”shows her rational attitude frequently found in a male-dominated society.

Her love for Tara makes Bharati to assert her moral superiority over her husband and struggles hard to carve out her space in the family but she fails to get victory over her husband. It also happened with her during the operation time of her children. She did as her father told her to do. She was the only child of her father. So she had to follow him. Thus she, at no fault of her, but became the victim of the male-dominated society. Identity crisis becomes a chain with which a female is shackled when the question of choice between a male and a female arises. The patriarchal code pushes mother-daughter relationship on the periphery. In this reference, Adrience Rich aptly observes: Though motherhood is the experience of women, the institution of motherhood is under male control and the physical situation of becoming a mother is disciplined by males. This glorious motherhood is imposed on women, conditions her entire life. [4]

Tara has also great love and affection for her mother and becomes ready to meet her without seeking her father’s permission. She also agrees with her mother’s love by saying that “Yes, mummy. I know that” when her mother showers her love and affection to her by calling her beautiful baby. At one place she says, “…Oh! bullshirt ! I don’t care. I don’t care for anyone except mummy.” Bitterness comes to their relationship when she comes to know the reality of her mother. This bitterness is seen in her death -like response as she utters, “And she called me her star.” Asha Kuthari Chaudhery makes a poignant remark at this juncture, “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 Bharati’s decision that deprived her of what she wanted more than anything else in the world-a second leg .” [5]

In this reference Bijay Kumar Das also opines, “it is an irony of life that a woman (to be precise, a mother) should work against a daughter to favour a son. Feminism which seeks to bring gender equality to society unwittingly discriminates against women.” [6]

Thus Dattani establishes that mother -daughter relationship proves secondary to the orders of patriarchy. As he writes, “mother and daughter relationship is ultimately subordinated to the directives of patriarchy. It makes obvious that women’s lives are organized and manipulated by the patriarchy in all ages, all culture and all countries by establishing values, roles, gender perception and prescribe unequal means to achieve the ‘wholeness’ for women. ” [7]

Like Tara, Bharati is also victimized by the male-dominated society and searches her space in the family. She was dominated by her father and her husband. Due to being the only child of her father she had to support him in nasty conspiracy done to her daughter. After his death, her condition grows worse because now her husband starts dominating her. She tries to shed her burden of guilty by showing her maternal love and concern for her daughter, Tara and also decides to donate her kidney to her so that Tara may live for years. But she is blamed by her husband, Mr. Patel and not allowed to take decision on behalf of Tara. In spite of appreciating her view he goes ahead and tries to find a commercial donor. She also pretends that the act of taking kidney from other sources would be expensive. But Mr. Patel disapproves her views and comments on her father’s wealth that has always been strength against him. When she insists on it, he easily says to her , “because I do not want you to have satisfaction of doing it.” He stands as a block to her desire and makes her life a hell on earth with his venomous outpourings on her love and affection towards Tara. This ultimately leads her to the mental breakdown. She struggles hard to carve out her space in the family and her idea of donating kidney to her daughter is an act of expiation but fails due to her husband’s dominating and sarcastic nature. She keeps starving to construct her maternal love until she undergoes mental breakdown.

Thus the play reveals a strong influence of the male members of the family over female members as Bharati was not given as much liberty authority as the male. Although her father is responsible for this catastrophe and injustice to Tara, he is not suffered .In place of him, she suffers a lot .Its effect appears on her relationship with her daughter and her husband. Only bitterness in all her relationships is visible. Without having no fault but being a victim of a patriarchal society, Bharati ruins both her and her daughter’s life; thus, both appear searching of their space and identity in family by their deaths.

Throughout the play one can notice a conflict between the parents of the twins. One of the important relationships existing within family is the one between husband and wife. This relationship often appears to be characterized by unhappiness in his plays. Most of the unhappiness is traceable to the nature of the inter caste marriages.The relationship between Bharati and her husband, Mr. Patel is not in good terms. The emotional and intellectual incompatibilities between them also emerge as one of the causes of discord in marital ties. Firstly they belong to two different states, Karnataka and Gujarat respectively. So they always seem quarrelling with each other due to cultural gap and dominance and intervention of Bharati’s father in their relationship. Her father is a powerful and an affluent politician. She feels proud of his wealth power and always uses it as her strength against her husband. Mr. Patel considers it his insult and being aware of his insult he refuses Bharati to do anything. Bharati often complains to her children about their father and especially about his attitude towards their grandfather as she appears saying, “Your father doesn’t want us to use them. He doesn’t want us to use any of your grandfather’s things (like lumblers and plates)”. The same strength was used in the operation of twins. She is quite conscious of her past wrong deed and feels full pressure of her guilt. Her efforts to compensate loss, caused to Tara by her, causes conflict with her husband.

Mr. Patel blames Bharati for everything and easily gets an escape from his own responsibilities. In this way we can find differences between them. Bitterness takes its place in their relationship which changes his attitude towards his wife and children. It is visible when he does not allow Tara to see her mother during her hospitalized .Besides he also discloses the whole truth about his wife before Tara. His act of disclosing matter about his wife also births bitterness in Tara‘s mind while he himself never loves Tara. Another cause of their conflict is that he always remains worry about Chandan’s career and future not for Tara. It bothers Bharati a lot. Bharati's internal turmoil is so intense that it often comes out in the open in her relationship with her husband. There is also an exchange of hot words between them over the issues of love and care of their children. Patel blames on her that she is turning children against him. He is giving love and affection in equal amount to both the children. We can find a glimpse of conflict in their conversation: 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 spoil 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. Mr. Patel’s relationship with his children does not also appear good. His fatherly love is limited and based on gender discrimination since the birth of them. His mute nature during the critical operation of his twins proves it because he did not object the discrimination perpetuated on Tara by Bharati and her father. At that time he was bent upon securing the future of the boy.

In fact, Mr. Patel is not much different from his wife, though Bharati is guilty of a more serious crime against Tara. He is continuously and doggedly favors Chandan and also bothers much about his future career. 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? The above conversation reveals that he chalks out plans for a better education and career of Chandan not of Tara. He also appears saying to Chandan to join the office, not to Tara. He thinks that it is good for Tara to work at home or help her mother. When he finds that Chandan is helping his mother in knitting, he is exasperated and sickened. Patel: What are you two doing? Chandan: Mummy’s knitting and I’m helping her sort out mistake. Patel: Let Tara do it. Chandan: It’s okay. Patel: Give it to her. Chandan: Why? Bharati: It’s all right, I’ll manage. Leave it. Chandan: I will just roll all this and . . . Patel: Chandan, leave that daman thing alone! . . . I can’t see you rotting at home!

Thus, it is quite obvious that Patel wants his son to grow up to be a man while Chandan wants to be an artist as has keen interest in music and painting. Although Tara is handicapped, yet she is more intelligent, more enthusiastic and full of jest and spark of life. She has high aspirations which she cannot accomplish because of her handicapped state. She is discouraged from the beginning of the day. If she has been given moral support by her parents, she may have shown like a star as her name signifies. She feels her life as a burden on this earth. This makes her lose interest in life. Further she refuses to go to college. It is significant that discrimination with Tara continues, even after death. Tara always desires of having support from her family and also searches her space. Parents have never given her proper support. At one place she appears saying, “Oh, what a waste! A waste of money. Why spend all the money to keep me alive? It cannot matter whether I live or die . ..” Despite this, she is not restrained by the injustices done to her by her parents but presents herself as an endowed lady to face all the hurdles. She makes her defiency, her strength and fights the society to etch a place of her own. In order to search for an identity she decides to help and show sympathy towards the downtrodden. Her attitude is rather positive and she feels resolved to serve the starving millions, as it is evident from her own assertion: I will spend the rest of my life feeding and clothing those . . . starving naked millions everyone is talking about. Maybe I can start an institution that will . . . do all that. Or I could join Mother Teresa and sacrifice myself 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 . . . . The relationship between father and children is also a great matter of discussion in Dattani’s plays.

The play Tara reveals how bitterness enters the minds of father and children for each other and how their relationship takes a form of revolt. Chandan whom Mr. Patel trusts more also does not have good terms with his parents. He likes to maintain distance between him and his parents. After knowing about the sad demise of his mother, Bharati by phone call made by his father, he gets tension and emotional turmoil and reminds of his childhood in place of coming to India. The relationship between Mr. Patel and Tara doesn’t also appear good. A sense of hatred develops in Tara for her father because he was not as congenial to her as he was to Chandan. Mr. Patel never thinks of her career and also refuses her to visit her mother when her mother is hospitalized. Tara begins to hate him thinking her mother wants to tell her something concerning her father. She boldly revolts against her father and expresses her longing to meet her mother without seeking his permission. Tara: We will go without your permission. Patel: You will not! Tara: Chandan, will you come with me? Patel: Chandan, you can’t! Tara: Chandan? Patel: No! Don’t go! Tara: Will you come with me or do I have to go alone? Pause. Chandan: We’ll both go.

The above conversation reveals father’s dominating nature and children’s love for their mother and hatredness and revolt for their father. Not only this but Tara frankly says “you don’t care about me, you don’t care about mummy. You don’t even want to see her. As far as you are concerned, she is already dead! ” Then Mr. Patel accepts that he never loved her in life and discloses the truth before them about their mother: Your grandfather and your mother had a private meeting with Dr. Thakkar. I wasn’t asked to come. That same evening, your mother told me of her decision. Everything will be done as planned. Except- I couldn’t believe what she told me- that they n’t take them very long to realize what a grave mistake they made. The leg was –I was meaning to tell you both when you were. Here Mr. Patel tries to prove that he is innocent .He is never asked by their mother at the time of decision. He has no space in the family so whatever happened or happens in the family due to their mother and her father. Further he seems much beleaguered and says, “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. ” Again he emotionally speaks to 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.” His remarks make Bharati responsible for Tara’s miserable condition and he himself wants to have good image in their mind. In fact, he has the supreme position in decision making of the family. His wife has to follow his decision and accept whatever is given to her. He remained a mute looker after seeing the scan “which showed that a major part of the blood supply to the third leg was provided by the girl.” It means the leg with Tara could have survived for ever while it could survive only for two days with Chandan Now we have the question in our mind 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 but he didn’t fight. This proves that he is also a party to gender discrimination as Bharati’s father. Indirectly he is also guilty as Bharati for Tara’s condition. Bharati’s father often interferes in his daughter’s family. He is a male –dominated person and the eldest among the three members of Patel’s family. Bharati and Mr. Patel have to follow him as a senior male. Mr. Patel does not like his interference which hurts his male authority again and again, yet he has to follow him. It makes him to search his identity in his family. It affects his relationship with his wife and children also. The play Tara shows that the power of wealth often joins hands with power of patriarchy for the subjection and the oppression of the women in society and brings bitterness between the relationships.

Bharati’s father is a powerful and affluent politician and comes very close to becoming the Chief Minister. He decided about the operation in which the conjoined leg was to be given to Chandan in place of Tara on the basis of his patriarchy mind and his political money power. He wielded the power of money and authority to alter the destiny of his granddaughter. He had even bribed the doctor with the sanction of a piece of land in Bangalore. He did injustice to a female child without any remorse. He did it without taking Mr. Patel in confidence. His will is a testament of the kind of treatment that is meted out to girls in Indian society. Therefore he decides to donate all his property and wealth to Chandan and not a single penny to Tara. As Mr. Patel and Chandan appear 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.

Here Dattani aptly demonstrates that how the interventions of in-laws into the family affairs destroy its smooth functioning, harmony and cordial atmosphere. Bharati’s father is responsible for the imbroglios, gender biase and class discrimination encountered by Patel’s family .He is also responsible for bringing bitterness between her daughter and her husband and their children. In this play Tara Dattani underscores how the lust for money affects different areas of human relations as it is reflected in the relationship of doctor and patient. How the doctor betrays his noble medical profession and ruins the life of the innocent twins only for fulfilling his lust.

The doctor-patient relationship has been presented through Dr. Thakkar who represents supreme position in the lives of Tara and Chandan .When he was going to decide the nature of operation, he knew that joining leg to Chandan wouldn’t be fruitful but still he succumbed to the wrong decision. Instead of taking a medical decision of leaving the leg with Tara, he had sold his conscience for the temptation to fulfill his ambition ,as he was ready to take bribe for operation fell from his high status in the society without giving a second thought only for a piece of land in Bangalore. The doctors who are supposed to be the true messengers of god ( who saves humanity from different kinds of disease and sufferings) and become life givers to the patients , are not supposed to move in the wrong directions at least on the ethical grounds. But the doctor who is presented in the play, forgets his all moral duties just for the sake of a few acre land in the prime of the city and attaches the third leg to the male child which goes rotten with the passage of time and both, the boy child and the girl child become freaks. In spite of being separated by surgically operation, Chandan and Tara (the twins) are emotionally united. Both have great affection to each other and also internal anguish to be separated. It is expressed in their conversation when Tara says to Chandan, “May be we still are. Like we’ve always been inseparable. The way we started life two lives and one body, in one comfortable womb. Till we were forced out…and separated.” Chandan’s love for Tara also reveals when he calms her in her moments of distress by saying that, “No difference between you and me? That’s the nicest thing you have said to me.” In Chandan’s words we witness a lament of everything that cannot be .The relation between him and his sister is special ,but is ridden with emotional tribulations of the harshest kind.

Chandan’s own identity is impacted through the collision of social constructions of gender and his own internal sense of love towards his sister: He births guilt in himself on being injustice to Tara because he feels himself guilty for everything is done to his sister, Tara, and such feelings constantly haunt his inner consciousness. He receives acute pain and develops psychological trauma. He realizes wretchedness and misery of his existence which is the outcome of the crime done to his sister. In order to get victory over his guilt, he neglects his own personal history and decides to create a new identity by migrating to the suburbs of London and changing his name. Now he has changed his name Chandan to Dan, cut off his relation with others and tried to live in the new world. In the real sense Chandan is innocent. He was just an object and a commodity in the hands of others. No one asked him whether he wanted the third leg at the expense of the life of his sister, no one asked him whether he wanted all the property of his grandfather; even his father doesn’t ask him whether or not he wants to go to college without Tara. Actually as a male child he was given preference over a female child as always happens in patriarchal society. Hence he would have stood the chance of having both legs. He also suffers just like Tara, perhaps even more because sense of guilt continuously grips his conscience. In the end he remains to bear the weight of truth and loneliness.

In the opening of the play Dan (older Chandan) appears at his writing table and recollecting his childhood days in the company of his sister. He wants to write a story about his childhood but writes Tara’s story which highlights the ‘guilt’ and ‘mental disruptions’ in his mind. Whatever the anguish over his sister’s childhood he had in his mind has been recorded in the play. In this reference Erin Mee states, “Dan writes Tara’s story to rediscover the neglected half of himself, as a means of becoming whole.” [8]

Dan also says, “I have my memories. But now I want them to come back .To masticate my memories in Mind and spit our the result to the world in anger.” Really the relationship between brother and sister is supreme and cannot be uttered in words. Tara’s death affects his life and shakes his soul. Although he was not guilty and responsible for Tara’s crippled condition, yet he appears with his pathetic confession by the end of the play,“wish. I wish that a long forgotten person would forgive me. Wherever she is.”He also apologies to Tara, “forgives me Tara, forgive me, for making it my tragedy”is the manifestation of Dattani’s own anguish at the exploitation of an innocent girl. The tension between the loving memory of the sister and the guilty feeling that Dan has over Tara’s death is the linear strand which one can trace through the convoluted and haphazard presentation of incidents in the play. In spite of having unjustified guilt Chandan does not realize himself guilty completely but also blames those who were behind his sister’s crippled condition as the lines reveal,“This isn’t fair to Tara. She deserves something better. She never got a fair deal. Not even from Nature. Neither of us did.” Even after their unjust and manipulated partition which is made against the law of nature, they are emotionally united. She is another half of him. She is the separated self of him.

The idea, Erin Mee aptly puts thus, “Tara and Chandan are two sides of the same self”as both share the same agony. They are spiritually inseparable. With the demise of Tara, Chandan experiences a sense of identity crisis. Hence the play can be deemed as the tragedy of human self. Tara’s death is not only more than the loss of a sister for Chandan but also the loss of his own self which makes him a cripple in the real psychological sense. The memories of his dear sister haunt him throughout his life and he feels that he will be able to unite with his sister only after his death. Both love each other more. It is only parents who put them in this condition. In fact,the cruelty of parents not only takes away Tara’s life but also fills their son with strong feelings of guilt and dejection. He has so much dejected that he wants to pass his life in isolation as he is leading his life in London. When his father informs him about his mother’s death, he refuses to come back to India and finds himself surrounded by memories. Only a decision based on gender bias brings bitterness in the relationships and ruins the life of the whole family members. Each of the family members begins to search his or her identity in family and society but at last the whole family meets tragic end. The third leg that is fitted with Chandan’s body against nature’s will, becomes lifeless. Tara, to whom the leg rightfully belongs to, has to lead the life as a crippled girl due to her mother’s patriarchal mind .If she had the leg, she would have her freedom and power to achieve not only her dreams but also would have supported Chandan in his endeavors to become a writer. She is the female. So she suffers with the ill-effects of patriarchal from her birth to death and withers away without realizing any of her dreams.

Chandan runs away to England and hides his identity. Bharati appears an obedient daughter throughout her life but fails to pour her motherly love at right time which later on causes her mental depression. In order to come out of her mental depression she decides to donate her kidney to her daughter, Tara and dies. Tara also dies in shock when she comes to know the reality of her mother.Mr.Patel, the father of twins, tries to show his identity and importance by putting his strictness which births bitterness among the family members. Bharati’s father shows his identity as a senior person and interferes in the decision of his daughter’s family without consulting her daughter’s husband only on the power of his wealth. Thus the whole family meets tragic end in the hands of wealth and patriarchal society.Dattani throughout the play tries to convey his idea that under the power of patriarchy and of wealth, the talent of man and his identity is always denied.

The play is placed around familial relationship where each individual has to follow certain norms and burden of social values. If anyone discards or breaks up these social set up, it brings misery and helplessness in their lives. Here Dattani also points out that the play Tara has mainly two kinds of separation. One separation is of Tara and Chandan through surgery of unjustly giving third leg to Chandan.The second is Mr. Patel‘s boycott by his family. Mr. Patel, a Gujarati, has married Bharati, a Kannadiga.So his family has cut off relationship with him. This root cause of both these separations lives in social prejudices and conventions which beset the lives of human beings with pain and misery. Thus the play Tara becomes a story of emotional separation which shows the strong relationship of brother & sister after being surgically separated and the false relationship of mother and father based on gender bias. It has been attributed thus: Tara centers 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. [9]

After the marriage of Mr. Patel and Bharati, Mr. Patel was left with no other option than to leave his parental home only because this relationship was not approved by Mr. Patel’s parents. He feels diffident out of his parental home. His separation from the parents and afterward the birth of the ‘Siamese twins’, makes Mr. Patel’s life totally isolated. Patel decides for the surgery of the kids to separate them. Because of this surgery everyone is affected. Tara becomes crippling, Bharati goes insane, and Mr. Patel becomes violent and aggressive. All relations among family members are affected and get bitterness for one another. On the whole the play Tara is a pyre of human relationship in which all characters bury due to bitterness among them. This bitterness makes them realized the value of their space and pushes them towards their identity .The affect of patriarchal society moves all the characters towards their tragic end and makes the play a great tragedy, a tragedy of all and everyday life. As SangeetaDas opines: Tara is neither Chandan’s tragedy nor is it really Tara’s. ….The tragic events depicted in the play are tragic actions belonging to everyday life.[10]

Whatever is happened in the play and what causes to bring bitterness in relationships of all characters is almost based on the revelation made by Mr. Patel who is himself a great supporter to patriarchal society. Undoubtedly he misguided Tara by the revelation about her mother. This revelation puts Tara in shocked condition and later Bharati in mental depression and thus both come to near death. Dattan brings out the debilitating consequences of gender consciousness on this important family relationship. In an interview Dattani speaks: Well, I think it is the revelations in the end about, you know, Tara’s love for her mother which uptil then was unquestionable. She suspected her father for having done something, you know, was in some way, but she had no idea what it was, but her love, her mother’s love was unquestioned and she did not question that, so when she comes to know of the truth of what we, I mean, we only have the father’s version. We don’t know whether that is the real truth or no. again, but it does sort of break her away like a shooting star from the mother, and I think with that she-that’s tragedy, she dies. We don’t know how she dies, but we know that’s the end of Tara, and I think that’s somehow all the attitudes towards Tara and the relationship between her mother, her father and her brother, which we see through the play. In hind sight you could see where it was colored or where it was blinkered or where it was being compensated for.[11]

Dattani throws searching and valuable light on the attitude of general public towards the handicapped. For a moment, if we imagine that Tara’s mother had preferred her at the time of operation instead of Chandan. Would she have forgiven? No, Never! Because she also is a Woman. Here women are not made to think or decide but are made to submit to the wishes of man. This man can be a father, husband, brother or son, whoever he is; at the end, they have an identity. But a mother, a wife, a sister and a daughter at last turn out to be only “women, submitting to their wills and losing their own identity.” The individual must make an active choice as to how they construct their own sense of self. Dattan argues that in forming our identity, human beings are what they choose to tolerate. The theme of identity in Tara relates to how the individual's notion of self collides with the external, social construction. Dattani applies this in terms of gender in India.


All references have been taken from, Mahesh Dattanis’s Tara, Collected Plays Vol-1, New Delhi, Penguin India, 2000.

  1. Mee, Erin. A Note in the Play, Collected Plays, New Delhi: Vikas Publishing house Pvt Ltd., 1992.
  2. Dattani, Mahesh.Collected Plays, Delhi: Penguin Books, 2000, p.xiv.
  3. Subramanyam, Lakshmi. Muffled Voices: Women in Modern Indian Theater, New Delhi: Har-Anand Publications (P) Ltd., 2002.p.129.
  4. Rich, Adrience. Of Women Born, New York: Bantam, 1967. p. 45.
  5. Chaudhuri, Asha Kuthari. Mahesh Dattani: An Introduction, New Delhi: Foundation Books, 2005.
  6. Das, Bijay Kumar. Form and Meaning in Mahesh Dattani’s Plays, New Delhi: Atlantic Publishers and Distributors (P) LTd, 2012.
  7. Agrawal, Beena. Mahesh Dattani’s Plays A New Horizon in Indian Theatre, Jaipur, India: Book Enclave, 2008. p.89-90.
  8. Mee, Erin. A Note in the Play, Collected Plays, New Delhi: Vikas Publishing house Pvt Ltd., 1992.
  9. Mee, Erin, “A Note on the Play”, Tara in Collected Plays Mahesh Dattani, New Delhi: Penguin Books, 2000. p. 319.
  10.  Sangeeta Das. Identity Crisis of Women in Tara, The Plays of Mahesh Dattani: A Critical Response, Ed. R.K.Dhawan, Tanu Pant, New Delhi, Prestige.
  11.  Angelie Multani. A Conversation with Mahesh Dattani, the Journal of the School of Language, Literature & Culture Studies(JSL), IV, p.130.


More by :  Prof. Dr. Ram Sharma

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