Kamala Das , the powerful feminine voice in Indo-English poetry, is typically Indian in her choice of locale, characters, themes and feelings. Her poetry has a frank, confessional vein and unique feminine quality as that of Sylvia Plath??™s. The poem ???Fancy-Dress Show??? articulates the tendency of the people to deliberately create an impression of themselves which is quite different from what they are in reality. The title and the poem itself are expressive of this tendency. The title is suggestive of the dichotomy of the real and the sham. A fancy-dress show is colourful and pleasing to the eyes though it displays a pseudo reality.
The emphatic assertion with which the poem opens reminds one of the definition poems of Emily Dickinson.
???Every virtue requires today
A fancy dress……???
The poet observes that the virtues in the present parade ostentatiously imparting enjoyment to the spectators who seem to be unconcerned with the duality. Hence the emphatic statement.
The poet then gives instances of certain masqueraded virtues. The cassock which is the symbol of austerity and purity remains merely as a cassock for a priest whose hypocrisy is skillfully concealed in it. Similarly a clever politician dons a saint??™s apparel only to render himself before the public as a simple and unassuming figure. The may be hinting at the khadi of Mahatma Gandhi, a symbol of purity and simplicity, now being worn by certain politicians who are basking in the sunshine of luxury and splendour. A holy man is nowadays is shockingly unholy with the holy ash on his forehead and the holy water in the container. Confessions in the present are mumbled ones made regularly in the dark as they give a license to perform further wrongs. The patriots who are devoid of patriotic fervour have survived their longs fasts with satisfactory gains. But the children of the poor fast without any gains. That is the real suffering. The city morgues are full of unclaimed cadavers, resulting from the erosion of virtues.
The poet concludes with the same sustained impersonal voice:
???God is in his heaven and all
Is right with this stinking world.???
an adaptation of Robert Brownings lines;
???God is in his heaven
All??™s right with the world.???
The robust optimism of the past has now given way to corruption, deterioration of values, rottenness and depravity. The world seems to be very much like the world witnessed by Hamlet who says:
???The world is out of joint
And I??™m not the one to set it right.???
The poet concludes her analysis of the present with a note of resignation exposing also of the futility of reposing one??™s faith in God who appears to be indifferent and callous to human sufferings.