R. P. Singh’s The Flea Market and Other Plays : A Book Review
The Flea Market and Other Plays, a collection of three one act plays by R. P. Singh exposes the modern day academics, especially its preoccupation with discourse. It further makes it apparent how there exists a lacuna between academics and reality. Through subtle portrayal of Corsea and her hardships the first one act play makes it very obvious to showcase the insensitivity of the academics towards the contemporary reality and its degradation of women as mere case or object of representation. Ketan, a ‘professor by profession’ on a project to gather details about French feminism meets Cosea Antoinette, a cultural anthropologist, the author of Blue Moon, in Paris, in a very dramatic way. Ketan is an academician incarnate and thus has “forgotten the sentiments, lost all emotions!” (42). Corsea observes the same when she says “I don’t see any emotions except some academic crabs and rational weeds” in his discourse (42). She is referred as a “mode of engaging reality” (26), in other words, she represents signification. Corsea’a life explicitly exhibits an engaging of reality which is overtly and covertly observed by the professor as he admits, “Your behavior and action speak-speak more than the books I sailed though….you talked about the inequalities, yea the inequalities and the oddities of spectacle….you make literature think over it and compel, ultimately, for making a moving statement” (31). Corsea life is an avid example of the argument that feminism as a discourse does not emanate from the head of an imaginary woman rather it is the plight of a woman that is at the locus of the feminist discourse. Dr. Singh also makes a candid attempt to propagate that reality constructs the discourse not the other way. Through Ketan, the author interrogates the feminist ideology which sees men and women separately and dictates ways of life. The author also protests against the binaries that feminism as a discourse constructs. It is clearly evident when Ketan says to Corsea “You live in ideology, and ideology mars the emotions; it will molest the passion, the zest for beauty…simply put, it is rotten. Life doesn’t sail in theories, yea, they can make you mad like anything, like you are showing now…you take a royal road, yea kill the robbers, kill the usurpers who are robbing you of your freedom, your liberty and space, kill them. Corsea! We can’t dissect the human race, we can never view women and men separately’ (47). Thus, the play makes a substantial contribution to modern and postmodern realities through performance as it makes complex theoretical concept of feminism accessible to modern readers/audiences. The second play in the collection titled ‘The Expired’ is an apt comment on the degradation of social values which has been carried out by juxtaposing a dead couple who are still in love even after over a hundred years of their death as the official newsman told ‘The flames of mutiny are not extinguished still” and another couple who is an example of betrayal of love (62). The contrast between the love couples makes it implicitly evident that the contemporary society is being controlled by the carnal desire only; love has lost its meaning. The play satirizes the contemporary society by putting them in opposition with the ghosts. Even ghosts appear to be more faithful than living beings. The third play in the collection, ‘A Scientist E’ attempts to enlighten the contemporary society against one of the fastest surging social evils, alcohol, exemplifying with two cases. Ismail, who was a scientist E, is cheated of his research using alcohol as a tool by his own colleagues and that has cost him of his “five long years of experiments and observation” (70) while Darshan Singh has also been bowed down by the same monster, alcohol. He “was a brilliant professor with great laurels and patents” but as “wine was in, wit was out” (70). Thus, the last play in the collection may be construed as an agenda of what Prof. Darshan Singh calls in, professes in the play “wag[ing] a war against it [alcohol]” (70). The collection, through the dialectics of reality and discourse delineates the complexities of identity, ideology and consciousness with centrally recurring mechanism of interrogation.
Indian Literature Reviews | [amazon text=Amazon&asin=8172736878]Anurag Kumar ,Ph.D.(IIT Roorkee) is an Assistant Professor of English at Sri Mata Vaishno Devi University,Katra ,Jammu.