How important is the family in Dattani’s plays? Answer with special reference to Tara.

Dattani’s is not a world of simple dichotomies. There is a great deal of conflict in relationships and no one is willing to be an easy victim. In this world of patriarchy, women emerge as pretty strong characters. The home is a battlefield with uneasy (and perhaps disastrous) alliances being forged by various parties and everyone fights as many of the others as possible for individual turf. In Dattani’s world the socialisation process initiated in the family unit has as its aim the stunted growth of a bonsai tree. The family is there to stifle all natural instincts and inclinations, to suppress and oppress, and to curb freedom and growth. All we can produce are ugly dwarves.

The play is obviously also about the complications of family life, the facade of middle class morality and commitment to family values. What is the morality that the Patel family has practised? If the decision to give the leg to Chandan was taken by Bharati and her father, Patel had kept quiet because of Bharati’s father’s social status, as also because he had no clear-cut view to the contrary. His family has cut them off because of their inter-caste, inter-regional marriage. Hence, they are dependent on Bharati’s father for both monetary and moral support. This in turn has led to a power structure within the family where Bharati and her father take the important decisions. Thus we see the couple bickering after the death of Bharati’s father and after Bhawti has felt the full force of her guilt in taking the decision about Tara. Having sacrificed Tara’s leg, Bharati has had to struggle to construct her maternal love and concern for her daughter, to assert her moral superiority over her husband, to carve out her space in the- family. Her final act of donating her kidney to Tara is an act of expiation, even if ultimately futile.

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