The Elephant Wrestler- An Indian Folklore

All that was needed was a platform and few props. All that was there was a decorative set-up. With the musical stylings of David Ward and the composition, producing and acting of Jacob Rajan, the Indian Ink Theatre Company told the Indian folklore of Punchkin. The Indian Ink Theatre Company, established in 1997 in New Zealand, graced Frostburg State University with a stunning performance of “The Elephant Wrestler,” this past Friday. Rajan, the main element of the company, put on an acting class for Frostburg students and community members the day before, giving insight into the world of acting. Based on the customary tale of seven sisters and a man named Punchkin, this amazing theater company put on a show of a more modern version of the tale.

With his “parrot” on his shoulder, Rajan commenced this spectacular show in his role of Kusitar, promising the audience with nothing but satisfaction when the curtains closed. Providing the musicality, Ward sat on stage with only a banjo and a few buttons. Despite the simplicity of the stage, the props, the one actor and the instruments, the Indian Ink Theatre Company, told a profound story of love and tragedy.

In the modern Punchkin tale of this theatre company, Rajan takes a step into Bangalore, India and rewinds a few years. A local “chai guru” by the name of Kusitar has a small, humble chai stand in the center of a busy train station. On one hot summer’s day, seven young sisters approach Kusitar with nothing but a small request of chai, later to find out the seven daughters had been abandoned by their father in that very station. The seven daughters bring the busy, loud station to a halt with just a smooth harmony, hoping it’s payment enough for a simple cup of chai. Because of their beautiful tune, they troubled the local, crooked “gang” of Bangalore who was casually passing through the station. Threatened, a police officer, by the name of Punchkin, happened to be on duty and was able to intimidate the crook, and they never returned. Every day since, the seven daughters sang their melodies, Kusitar served chai to travelers, and officer Punchkin stood watch.

Slowly over a few years, one by one, the seven sisters married, until one remained: Banla. Her voice was stronger, her words were wiser and her heart was larger than her sisters’. Summoning up the courage, officer Punchkin, cleanly shaved and smoothly dressed, asked for Banla’s hand in marriage. With her abrupt opposition, Punchkin disappeared from the station. Banla found her true love in a poet and quickly after the wedding, expected a child. After losing her husband to the same twisted gang of Bangalore, Banla needed help from Punchkin once more. Giving birth to her small, fragile son, Banla’s life, and that of her newborn son’s, was left in danger because of the same gang.Through all the madness and tragedy that Banla faced, the story ends with a rough realization; Punchkin, having been behind the Bangalore gang, rose to higher positions by intimidating the community. He killed her husband. He locked her in the cage that was his house for many years, and he once again killed someone so dear to her heart, her only son and remaining piece of her husband.

Embracing the crowd with open arms, Rajan cracked a lot of laughter but inspired many tears. The deeper meaning of the story of Punchkin was highlighted in climactic moments of tragedy and brighter instances of jokes. The original fable of Punchkin told the story of a man who had good intentions but led his life causing nothing but tragedy. On the stage of the assembly hall in the Lane Center, Rajan brings it to life.

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