Examine the theme of identity in Mahesh Dattani's Tara.

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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If we look at identity as representing a person's self conception, I think that 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.  Born as conjoined twins, Tara and Chandan, girl and boy, are to be separated.  Their parents decide that the boy, Chandan, is to be shown preferential treatment. The way in which the separation happens displays more advantage to Chandan, making Tara's condition difficult and leading to her death.  

In examining the theme of identity, Dattani suggests that subjective constructions of identity often fly in the face of social expectation.  The individual must make an active choice as to how they construct their own sense of self.  Identity becomes the net result of our choices.  Dattan argues that in forming our identity, human beings are what they choose to tolerate.  Thus, a world in which there is gender separation and prejudice are external impositions that we internalize.  Chandan recognizes this as his identity is formed.  While he might be "Dan" to the rest of the world, his own identity is impacted through the collision of social constructions of gender and his own internal sense of love towards his sister: "Like we've always been.  Inseparable. The way we started in life.  Two lives and one body in one comfortable womb.  Till we were forced out – and separated.”   In this vision, the womb is internal. It is the realm of the subjective where there is a sense of equality in identity. However, when there is "separation" and being "forced out," individual identity becomes submerged by external notions of the good.  Dattani is suggesting that human identity is poised between the world of the subjective and being "forced out" and "separated" from one another.  This theme is explored in the characterizations of Dan and Bharti, son and mother, who live with the consequences of choosing one vision over the other in the development of their identities.  Chandan must live with the love he has for his sister, and the social advancement that places his interest above hers.  This condition of being imprints itself on his identity, helping to develop Dattani's theme that individual identity is the result of a collision between subjective belief and external reality.  The choices that the individual makes in navigating both play a profound role in their identity, and in what they do and how they shall live.

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