Kamala Das is first and foremost, a confessional poet. In the rendering of her poems,she has divorced herself completely from social stigma and societal inhibitions. Her “The Fancy-Dress show” is an indictment of the society that is driven by brazenness and hypocrisy. She has utilized the metaphor of the fancy dress most aptly. The fancy dress show is always a competition, as is any concept in the modern world. People are always, what they are not. Inherent in the metaphor, is the feature of parading the same. They wear the guise primarily for outward profit, and not for inner satisfaction. Iago, the archetypal villain echoes the same when he exclaims in Othello: “I am not what I am.”
In the contemporary times, the poem rings a bell, for people are noticed more for their outward appearances and ostentation of public life. Inherent goodness is no longer the criteria for the identity of an individual. The hallmark of a priest remains his cassock. It is as if he is not a priest without this prescribed norm. And sadly ,the priests of the Modern day have deteriorated in principles to such an extent that their vocation is acknowledged only from the cassock. Gone are the days, when they were judged based on spiritual learning and instilling values.
Politicians are the most corrupt of the lot. They neither possess the prerequisites nor the compassion to rule the nation. The earlier politicians were in jail for their patriotism, but now they are in for their nepotism. Posing as a leader, that unifies people, they rather divide people based on vote-bank politics. They take advantage of the sentiments of the common man. In India, the typical politician adorns a dress of khadi that echoes simplicity and straightforwardness. However, far from the ideals of Gandhi, they are like rotten eggs in the basket that cannot be identified amongst each other, but can turn the whole lot putrid. Furthermore, a holy man is adjudged by the ash on his forehead. And it amounts to only that .His holiness is limited to the conspicuous symbol of the ash that neither denotes nor connotes. The emblem of ash on the forehead is merely superficial.
The poem then brings up the subject of patriots, who utilize fasting as a means of gaining instant publicity .As for the poor, they are compelled into fasting owing to their abject poverty. The only difference is that the former come out of the same; for the latter, this phenomenon of fasting is a vicious cycle. In distressing overtones, the poet asserts how the morgues in the city, are crammed with cadavers that are unidentified. Therefore, they are left for dissection as to cease to serve any other function. In glaring pessimistic overtones, reminiscent of Thomas Hardy, the poetess declare( adapting Browning):
God’s in his Heaven
All’s right with the stinking world.
© Rukhaya MK 2010
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