The Pickle King - Notes
Having found something good, there is a temptation to want to preserve it forever. However, the act of preserving something also changes it unalterably. We've tried to add new ingredients to each of our shows, to make them fresh each time. Now, as we draw towards the completion of The Pickle King, I sometimes find myself struggling with a desire to bottle what has been a wonderful partnership.
In the time I have been working with Jacob, we have made three productions that have been successful beyond anything I ever imagined. We have toured nationally and internationally, ended up living with our partners and have had children. It has been, quite literally, a very fertile time. I feel very privileged to have worked with Jacob and the other wonderful people who have contributed so much to Indian Ink. I count many as my firm friends.
The figure of Death first appeared to us when studying the commedia dell'arte in Italy. Death is a stock character in the commedia; ever present in daily life, but always outwitted at the last gasp by the comic zanni (crazy servants). In these times of refrigeration and irradiated food we often try to pretend he is not there. We use medicine, science, cosmetics, diets, exercise regimes, work, and ever increasing wealth to keep him at bay. But he is as present as ever and working on this show I have come to believe that we lose sight of him at our peril - he reminds us what is truly worth preserving.
The story goes that 200 years ago there was a Maharajah, a King, whose daughter suffered a terrible illness during the course of which she went blind. The royal physicians were powerless to help her so the maharajah sent word throughout the kingdom of his daughter's illness in the hope that a cure might be found. Doctors and holy men came from near and far. Month after month potions were made, incantations were muttered but none could help the girl. Finally, when it seemed that there was nothing more that could be done a doctor named Kaliyilal, from a far away village, came to the palace. He sought permission to treat the princess. Kaliyilal applied a poultice to the girl's eyes. He asked that the bandage remain in place throughout the night. In the morning when the poultice was removed the princess could see. The maharajah was overjoyed. Kaliyilal was showered with gifts, gold and land. What's more, to ensure that Kaliyilal's knowledge was passed on, it was decreed that his descendants would never pay taxes as long as they were doctors. And for 200 years, even though the tax exemption has lapsed, there has always been a doctor in the Kaliyilal line.
I'm a descendant of that line. I never made it to medical school but this piece of family history infuses this play like garlic and chilli flavour cold pressed oil. I dedicate The Pickle King to the memory of my father, Dr Kaliyilal Luke Rajan.