The Dance of The Eunuchs by Kamala Das by Bijay Kant Dubey SignUp
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The Dance of The Eunuchs by Kamala Das
by Bijay Kant Dubey Bookmark and Share

It was hot, so hot, before the eunuchs came
To dance, wide skirts going round and round, cymbals
Richly clashing, and anklets jingling, jingling
Jingling... Beneath the fiery gulmohur, with
Long braids flying, dark eyes flashing, they danced and
They dance, oh, they danced till they bled... There were green
Tattoos on their cheeks, jasmines in their hair, some
Were dark and some were almost fair. Their voices
Were harsh, their songs melancholy; they sang of
Lovers dying and or children left unborn....
Some beat their drums; others beat their sorry breasts
And wailed, and writhed in vacant ecstasy. They
Were thin in limbs and dry; like half-burnt logs from
Funeral pyres, a drought and a rottenness
Were in each of them. Even the crows were so
Silent on trees, and the children wide-eyed, still;
All were watching these poor creatures' convulsions
The sky crackled then, thunder came, and lightning
And rain, a meagre rain that smelt of dust in
Attics and the urine of lizards and mice....

The Dance of The Eunuchs is one of those poems of Kamala Das which speak of many a thing under the garb of them, the eunuchs, homosexuals, lesbians, transgenders, gay people and their rights and our understanding of their ethos and psyche.  How their heart and soul? How their sentiment, feeling, sensitivity, bonding, gesture and lacuna? Apart from, the voices of feministic discontent, revolt, suppression and repression of rights too can be heard. How were our patriarchal laws and regulations, how the bondage and social convention? How severe and rigorous? Is it enough to call them the hijras? It is a thing of law and justice? How have we understood them? How has the British judicial system in India?

The poem is no doubt about the hijra dance. But who are the hijras? How their convention? How their language and communication? How do they eke out a living? Their loose garments, dress-ups, hairstyles and make-ups definitely take us to cross-dressing, but the pains of their heart nobody has come to feel it. We the Asians, the Indians could not feel it. Who to understand their language? Who to cut the ice of their psyche and break the silence?

It had been the summertime when the eunuchs came swinging, dancing, jingling, tinkling the bells and the lanes a beat with their arrival, the footfall, the eunuchs coming to sing lullabies, to rock and roll the newborn baby crying, awe-struck and spell-bound, frightened and crying and hidden into the arms of the mother and her sari anchal. They appeared to be women, but were not, they appeared to be other than men, half-men and half-women, blessing and cursing. They lifted the baby and danced and sang and after the dance, song and folk show asked for money.

When they come to dance, the folks can be seen explaining them in whispers holding themselves in check and saying it shyly. All gather to see.

Whatever call you, the transgenders, the third genders, cross-dressers, unnatural prostitutes or beggars, they are but human beings.

The eunuchs, where did she see them in Calcutta or Malabar? Why did they come to? What is the matter? Generally, they come after hearing the news of the new born child to make it dance to get money from, bless and go away.

They cut a sorry figure as for being neither men nor women. What they are none can say about the creations of the Divine. But when they bless, they are as Ardhanarishwar Shiva and when curse they, hairs stand on. We do not know if the eunuchs came to her house or not. Was it a personal experience which she came to feel it? Whatever be that the spectacle is no doubt bizarre to experience the dissatisfied souls dancing and singing and clapping. Their lullabies too are of their type.

What can it be the theme of the poem? Does she want to describe the event, they coming to make the newborn dance with the broken drum beats and harsh lullabies, clapping, making a noise like tomboys just as notes from the broken reeds? While singing, dancing, trying to make the baby play, their antics may tickle or may annoy you with their behaviour, dress, clothing and gesture. Is it a moment to pause and think how the men and things of the world are, how have they been made by the same Almighty? How their feeling? What do they want? How do they mix up with? Or, is Kamala Das talking of her ethos and psyche? Why the purdah, the Lakshamanrekha around the courtyard, the Victorian periphery, the repressions of the patriarchal society?

When we see the eunuchs, we think it within if they are men or women, what they are unless somebody tells us that they are same human beings but with deformities and defects. Their sterility is a bane as they can neither enjoy life nor can derive pleasure from. They cannot be mothers even though look like women. They want to tend to but cannot as their voices appear to be harsh and louder.

Beneath the gulmohur blossoms, when the clusters of yellowish-reddish orange or scarlet Radhachuda and Krishnachuda seemed to be beating the heat wave and bedecking the summer, danced they, the eunuchs coming with the trailblazer of some dance hangama, one following another as a troupe. But their dance was not so natural as it had to be. Something used to hold them in check, and they were hurt from their within. Hiding the pains, how would they have? Even though were dressed, with embroidered hands and coverings, they were not so shy as the brides could be. They were but the hijras. Some beat their breasts, and some wailed for being barren. The children saw the spectacle with the eyes wide open. The women and men were sitting around forming a circle. The jarring notes and harsh voices had not the lurking of the cuckoo’s voice, but of the crow crowing. A place hit by drought or famine appeared it before the mind’s plane. They parted as brides and mothers, but were not, the men under the garb of women and this too was not. All were watching the chirrups and convulsions of the poor creatures and the skies all silent above partaking in the unnatural, artificial presentation without any taste and alignment. It thundered and the lightning struck the sky with the rain drops falling, but it did not. The lands remained the same Eliotesque waste land waiting for the Upanishadic words, the gathering of black clouds over Himavant and the penance of Bhagirath for the Sagar sons. Is it not the truth?

The eunuchs sang of dying lovers and children left unborn. As lovers, their love never could get it fulfilled. The beloveds waited it but the lovers came it not. If they could never be, how could the children have born to them? How would they have expected it otherwise? Everything but remained it a chimera. Love seemed to be a mirage and they seemed to be after. The situation is almost like Charles Lamb’s Dream Children: A Reverie.

Let us see how she starts the poem:

It was hot, so hot, before the eunuchs came
To dance, wide skirts going round and round, cymbals
Richly clashing, and anklets jingling, jingling
Jingling...

The eunuchs gather under the gulmohar tree and start dancing, the appearing to be females:

Beneath the fiery gulmohur, with
Long braids flying, dark eyes flashing, they danced and
They dance, oh, they danced till they bled...

Here the contrast can be marked in the difference between the eunuchs and the flowers hanging by. But behind their dance was their bleeding hearts. What it ailed we could not. Who can ever about the Divine dispensation of justice?

While describing the facial and make-up of the eunuchs, the poetess appears to be figurative:

There were green
Tattoos on their cheeks, jasmines in their hair, some
Were dark and some were almost fair.

The hijras were a band of the white and black-complexioned fellows. Some had green tattoos on the cheeks and had jasmines in the hair.

But the songs they sang were harsh, not so sweet and melodious resonant with unfulfilled wishes and desires, telling of dying lovers and children left unborn:

Their voices
Were harsh, their songs melancholy; they sang of
Lovers dying and or children left unborn....

Some of them beat their drums while the others their breasts and wailed and writhed in vacant ecstasy. Their story of life, how to tell it, their tragedy of living?

Some beat their drums; others beat their sorry breasts
And wailed, and writhed in vacant ecstasy.

They Were thin in limbs and dry; like half-burnt logs from
Funeral pyres, a drought and a rottenness
Were in each of them.

Even the crows had been sitting silent on the trees and children watching the .the poor creatures’ convulsions with the wide eyes unmindful of what it was going within:

Even the crows were so
Silent on trees, and the children wide-eyed, still;
All were watching these poor creatures' convulsions

The sky crackled, it thundered and the lightning flashed and struck, but it rained meagre smelling of dust in attics and otherwise. Here the poetess is symbolical as well as bodily. She means to say that meagre rains cannot wet the earth. The barren lands cannot be made fertile so easily. The lingam-yoni motif she seems to be referring to here.

The sky crackled then, thunder came, and lightning
And rain, a meagre rain that smelt of dust in
Attics and the urine of lizards and mice....
 

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14-May-2022
More by :  Bijay Kant Dubey
 
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