Monday, 3 September 2012

The Female of the Species – A poem by: Gauri Deshpande – Analysis

The poem’s title belies the informality of expression that follows. The title in itself makes one conscious of the aspect of the female as the other and also about the fact that Deshpande was fond of Darwin’s work on the origin of species. The term ‘species’ in itself makes one wonder at the exclusiveness it represents as how many of us would have said ‘the male of the species’ for the masculine is taken as the norm and the female as the aberration of nature.

From Gauri’s view, when a woman needs to have a heart to heart talk on love and despair or about children, talking to a man has no value. The words ‘love and despair’ make one wonder at the nature of these feelings. It is a common belief that no matter how much a mother has to tolerate, she is fated to love her children and so, perhaps in context of their perceived ungratefulness the feeling of despair manifests itself.
The poet talks directly to the reader and the ‘you’ rings clear as if acknowledging a shared experience with assurance. When a woman sits down to unburden herself she needs women to help her like her mother or sister or her best friend. This is an all female world. You (if you are the woman) ask your first love i.e. your girl child and your friend’s first child, a girl, to attend this ceremony too. Interestingly, she deliberately underlines the fact that her friend’s first child is a girl.

And all these women do is sit and talk while they drink tea. You have a completely closeted world where one woman talks while her fiend sews. This women talk of the cost of provisions for they are the ones who manage the house, they are the invisible accountants. The ladies do not talk of the fact that their children don’t seem to be grateful for their love – instead they speak of the prices of tea. They talk of basic necessities and how they juggle them but buried within are given up dreams and ambitions that have never been given a voice.
 Then they move on to speak of the scarcity of cheese which can imply the sacrifices they have made to give their children a better future. Sacrifices their children will not understand. And though they haven’t really spoken to each other of the pain they feel at such behavior, this talk in itself is a means of silent communication. They each know what the other means for they all share this feeling and so in the end there is a sort of catharsis as each feels unburdened.

These women are not career women but housewives who may or may not have once thought of earning their bread too. However, it seems that managing the house and the rations is something that is in the nature of a woman just as these little talks are. They have managed their affairs perfectly but in the end of the day as mothers they hanker for some love or acknowledgement of the care they have bestowed. Such women can be found anywhere across India, chatting with their saris tucked as they make a vociferous group of chattering women who seem happy and content but within their hearts hold secret desires which were stifled or sacrificed a long time ago. 

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