The Cauldron } 4th Issue


Much has already been said and written about PK, and I might say a few words more. While the film questions the rigidities of organized religion and the evils they generate, it does not negate the individual’s spiritual journey.  Remember, spiritual figures through history have had their moments of crises. The song “Bhagwan Hai Kahan Re Tu”, with much feeling, expresses the anxiety of a soul alienated from and searching for the divine, a condition not rare in a world that is not always kind. PK is an extra-terrestrial but his travails are quite human. Does the film deny God altogether? Perhaps not. Rather it suggests that God is beyond the limits of logic, a point of view that has been articulated before in spiritual writings; atheistic readings are possible nonetheless.|

Sukanya Chakrabarti

The Second Creation in Antonin Artaud’s Theater of Cruelty

Like a silkworm weaving
Her house with love
From her marrow,       
And dying
In her body's threads
Winding tight, round
and round,        
I burn
Desiring what the heart desires.

-         Mahadeviakka

Antonin Artaud desires to see a self-destructive engagement in the creation of a new world of theater – an act resembling the silkworm’s weaving of its house with its own marrow. In his disregard for the Occidental theater, he asserts the need for a change, and an urgent one. And this change that he envisions lies in the complete revision of established norms, practices, ideas and roles of each one in the world of theater.

In this attempt to rebuild an alternative reality through destruction of the prevalent norms, Artaud begins responding to Kleist’s ideas on the superiority of marionettes over human forms. Kleist, in his essay ‘On the Marionette Theater’, writes:
Each movement, he said, has a center of gravity; it is enough to direct this within the puppet, and the limbs, nothing more than pendulums, will follow mechanically of their own accord.[1]
Kleist emphasizes that the marionette, operating only on the laws of physics and the center of gravity, ‘would never put on airs’[2], unlike the human dancer. Clearly, by doing so, he is also removing the threats of human objectification, paradoxically endowing humans with a greater power to create. Artaud, on the other hand, aims to make humans both the subject and the object of the ideal theater. He sees his ideal performer resembling the Kleistian puppet.Artaud is disapproving of contemporary Occidental theater for precisely the reasons why Kleist condemns human performers who have ‘airs’.
Such preoccupation with personal problems disgusts me, and disgusts me all the more with nearly the whole contemporary theater which, as human as it is antipoetic, except for three or four plays, seems to me to stink of decadence and pus. The contemporary theater is decadent…because it has broken away from gravity [italics is mine], … because it has broken away from the spirit of profound anarchy, which is at the root of all poetry.[3]
Just as the puppeteer would direct the center of gravity within the puppet, Artaud urges the performer to tap into that center within the self. For Artaud, both the puppet and the puppeteer reside in the same body, and thus, the ‘double’.
Everything is thus regulated and impersonal; not a movement of the muscles, not the rolling of an eye but seem to belong to a kind of reflective mathematics which controls everything and by means of which everything happens. And the strange thing is that in this systematic depersonalization, in these purely muscular facial expressions, applied to the features like masks, everything produces a significance, everything affords the maximum effect.[4]

Kleist asserts repetitively in his aforementioned essay that it is impossible for human beings to equal the manikin. He says, ‘only a god could match himself with inanimate matter in this field.’[5] It seems Artaud takes this up as a challenge and tries to create a world of theater, where actors or performers resemble this ‘inanimate matter’, and, thus, bring themselves closer to divinity. For him, the actor is both the creator and the created, ‘both an element of first importance, since it is upon the effectiveness of his work that the success of the spectacle depends, and a kind of passive and neutral element, since he is rigorously denied all personal initiative.’[6]

Artaud, through his theater of cruelty, is trying to create a space that is an alternative cosmos. And since all creation necessarily must be preceded by chaos, he is constantly reiterating the need to situate ourselves and poetry in a space that tilts towards anarchy: ‘It [poetry] is anarchic also to the degree that its occurrence is the consequence of a disorder that draws us closer to chaos.’[7]Artaud is engaged in a ‘second phase of Creation’[8]. This engagement with the creation all over again, with ‘these inversions of form, displacements of signification’[9], can be read as a desire to reach that state of innocence that we have left behind.Artaud seems to be responding to Kleist’s remark: ‘we must eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge again so that we can fall back into the state of innocence.’[10]

Artaud feels the need to invert the conventions that have been accepted by civilization. He attempts to erase the entire history of signification in his alternative cosmos, where everything begins from scratch. And, thus, he devises his theater of ‘cruelty’ – a term he links with consciousness: ‘There is no cruelty without consciousness and without the application of consciousness.’[11]Kleist too recognizes the purest form as ‘that human frame which has either no consciousness at all or whose consciousness is infinite, in other words, an automaton or a god’.[12]Artaud aims to achieve both – he wants performers to resemble puppets (automatons), and not have personal or ‘psychological’ problems represented on stage; but at the same time, they should be able to create an entirely new language on stage, the language of metaphysics. In a way, he is merging the god and the automaton, and the union takes place in the body of an actor. Artaud obliterates Creation, and creates a world of ‘essential drama, [which] we come to realize, exists, and in the image of something subtler than Creation itself.’[13]He is, therefore, competing with god, and asserting his superiority by considering his creation ‘subtler’.

Thus,Artaud himself assumes the role of the Actor he has created. He assumes a double body – one creating a separate world of different signification, and the other considering the new language as a form of ‘Incantation’.[14] There is an attempt to achieve a devotion that is characterized by the union between the lord and the devotee, the creator and the created, when one merges with the other. ‘Everything in this theater is immersed in a profound intoxication which restores to us the very elements of ecstasy.’[15] Here Artaud echoes Nietzsche’s ideas of the Dionysian. Artaud reaffirms the need for ‘a theater that induces trance, as the dances of Dervishes induce trance…’[16].

Artaud embraces the duality or the ‘double’, as he theorizes his ideas of the new theater – his ideal actor is destroying the ‘human’, ‘psychological’ impulses to shift towards the ‘metaphysical’ impulses, because it is the human intervention that has corrupted the divine within him. But Artaud, paradoxically, still creates the world of human intervention, as the site of union is still the human body that creates the world on stage. Unlike Kleist, he does not completely disregard the need to have human beings as objects of creation, but asserts the need for them to resemble the marionette or those without organs. Humans in Artaud’s theater are both the subjects as well as the objects of creation, and this is where lies the duality.Artaud both challenges the Creation, but also creates his space as a religious site of rituals, where Man connects with the divine. ‘We must believe in a sense of life renewed by the theater, a sense of life in which man fearlessly makes himself master of what does not exist yet, and brings it into being’[17], but in this process of mastery, we witness a process of self-nullification, where man attains mastery only through devotion and trance. Man and god create and destroy each other in Artaud’s vision of the new theater.

[1]Heinrich von Kleist, ‘On the Marionette Theater’, p. 220.

[2]Ibid, p. 222.

[3] Antonin Artaud, The Theater and Its Double (New York: Grove Press, 1958), p. 42.

[4]Ibid, p. 58.

[5]Kleist, p. 223.

[6]Artaud, p. 98.

[7]Ibid, p. 43.

[8]Ibid, p. 51.

[9]Ibid, p. 43.

[10]Kleist, p. 226.

[11]Artaud, p. 102.

[12] Kleist, p. 226.

[13]Artaud, p. 51.

[14]Artaud, p. 46.

[15]Ibid, p. 65.

[16]Ibid, p. 83.

[17]Artaud, p. 13.

( Sukanya Chakrabarti, currently a doctoral candidate at the Department of Theater and Performance Studies, Stanford University, received her Master’s degree in English literature from Jadavpur University, Kolkata. She has been involved in various theater productions, in English and other regional languages, staged in Kolkata, where she was born and raised. She performed in Seneca’s Oedipus, and directed Sam Shepard’s Killer’s Head, both staged as a part of Stanford Summer Theater Festival 2011. She also directed Divided Together, staged in Stanford University in March 2012. She performed in various student productions and devised performances in Stanford. In May 2013, she performed in a historical play, Noor: Empress of the Mughals, written and directed by Feisal Alkazi, which premiered in Brava Theater in San Francisco. She recently performed in Yoni ki Baat (March 2014), produced by Rangmanch – the South Asian theater group in Stanford. She has been trained in Indian Classical music and dance since her childhood, and takes special interest in Rabindranath Tagore’s songs, literary works and philosophies. She participated in Performance Studies International (PSi) in 2011 and 2012, both as a scholar and a performer. Her academic areas of research include the spiritual and therapeutic possibilities of theater and performance; religion; rituals; folklore; gender studies; and multiculturalism. )


by Kushal Poddar

January Speaks

Before you speak
you touch my skin.

I can always tell

when you need to speak,
albeit more and more

I hear a blur
as if you speak

in time-lapse and
shadows pass the yard;

clouds move and all
other lives exist

in specks. Yes, you
will speak I know.

The trees cease to
ripple and water

conjures all its
patience. A cold owl

stares at us with
its blind tunnels open.

Wishful Similes

You look like a long night person
who drives through the ruins of silence
listening to a rickety
radio changing stations at
every shift of gears. You look like
ready to leave this place and drive
against the wind-stream of Northwest,
and the morning waitress knows that.
She places your coffee black and
bill off-white on your table, stares
right through you and through the door, sees
the haze bailing out one hostage
at a time. But you are not even
here to block the sight; are you?
You look like you can father some
child who will look like her and craft
those blank, unaddressed letters you
will find in your glove-compartment
because wishes sail to the strangest shores.


If the king's sword
startles you, you should
see his toilet seat.

Says the guide, a short
man, average built.

So much light crisscross
in the court, so little
in the interior.

We stand picayune
before the dead,

drawing a blade
from the shadow
lying behind.

A Chance Meeting At The Coffeehouse

Already dead, I'm.
Yes, I say, since your birth.
No, she sways her head,
not that. She stares at
the window. Outside
a pale horse sews through
the columns of haze.
One face pressed on the pane
watches the inside,
foods laid on the tables,
kettles kept asleep
on the shelves, door to
the kitchen swinging
to vent curls of smell.

Circus Girl

Summers flew over the tent,
and dream wore a circus girl's
costume, and its cape swelled like
a sail against the starry
firmament. Night fell on
the circus girl's hands. Forgive me,
but I was born yesterday;
time warmed up many
summersago. I molded
myselfinto a white lion
on a stoolbefore a ring of fire.

(Born in a warm corner of India, a lone child and brought up with his shadow mates, KushalPoddar (1977- ) began writing verses at the age of six. He adopted his second tongue as the language to dream on. Widely published in several countries, prestigious anthologies included Men In The Company of Women, Penn International MK etc and featured in various radio programs in Canada and USA and collaborated with photographers for an exhibition at Venice and with performers for several audio publications .
He is presently living at Kolkata and writing poetry, fictions and scripts for short films when not engaged in his day job as a counsel/ lawyer in the High Court At Calcutta.  He authored, The Circus Came To My Island’and his forthcoming books are “Kafka Dreamed Of Paprika” and “A Place For Your Ghost Animals”.)|


Tropical Estuary
by Rochelle Potkar

She stood on the banks of the estuary. Her white salwaar kameezfluttered in the warm breeze as she saw the last piece of sun go down on its knees. Did it look forward to tomorrow? Would it return? What if it didn't…what if it was the last drop of sun against the sky, the last evening in the world? 

Her dreams usually had too many things in them. She felt herself hurrying from here to there, going somewhere but not reaching.

Every morning she went to clean the mansion, dust, sweep and swab. There were utensils and clothes to be washed and masala to be ground. She tended to memsaab - plump and short - who wore the fineries of the time.

She remembered the gold zarisaree borders against silks of maroon, every time she thought of memsaab, which was often. What questions did memsaab have for the sun? Did she wonder why it slipped hideously towards the curved line of water everyday? Did the sun know memsaab, just like it knew her? 
An angry male voice resounded in the dung-floored house. She was at the loft of her mind with many rungs in between the voice. She felt a thud over her face and saw droplets of blood spotting the dung floor in darker circles. A haze descended and her nose ached. He slumped on the bed and went off to sleep in an instant. Heavy smoke wafted from the black earthen pot in the corner of their only room. Burned food! Why didn't she turn the fire out? Where was she?

She was at the edge of the estuary waiting to see if the sun returned. The estuary was calm, unlike the noisy sea. Who would have thought that the river was meeting the sea here? Here, where the river slyly opened its boundaries, changed her rules and readily gave up her character to bind with salt water. Like a newfound faith… like renouncing everything you earlier stood for, in a moment of change. The sun returned as if it knew she was waiting to check its integrity. It was a game they played everyday.

The gold zari border sat heavily across memsaab's body, staring at itself in the mirror. Did it like itself as much as memsaab liked her reflection? 

When memsaab left the large quiet room, she took a chance and stared at the face in the mirror. The face had a fast-forwarded sadness of old age, of desolation. But at least she knew how many times the sun dipped into the sea and howmemsaab played with her bunch of keys. Could anyone else know that? 

She heard the jingle of keys. 

"What are you waiting for here, you dumb head? There are things to do, how many times do I tell you? Hey bhagwaan, why do I get such servants? Machines are better…much better…I should get some from foreign…."

She saw the bed of the bathroom rise with water, as she cleaned utensils. It formed a small river. Where was its sea? What was the character of water…it quenched thirst and cleaned us but it could also swallow us in one of its gulps. Somewhere in the stomach of this water, lay her parents and Chutti and Gotia. What appetite did it have for a three-month old baby like Gotia? Or for the old bones of her parents? She heard the noise of the keys getting louder: "You dumb head…how much water have you wasted…running the tap like your father's tank….Arre! How many times do I tell you….fill the bucket, close the tap, then wash. See how the water has entered the room!"

So the water broke its limits again, its rules, its boundaries. Was this an estuary too? A noisy one? Not silent like the place she often reached to or like time that formed an estuary with tomorrow as slowly and slyly as the evening swelled its banks to accommodate the night. 

She sat on her haunches once again in her dung-floored hut, being watchful of the pot cooking rice. There was a noise; his legs came, swaying like the flailing roots of a banyan tree, before they motionlessly lay on the bed. 

"Sangeeta …Sangeeta - I'll marry you…I am tired of living with this barren bitch", he said in a voice spilling of drool. She looked at the mirror above the bed. Broken and distorted, it witnessed such things daily. Hot tears rolled across her face. The mirror could handle another day, not she. Was tomorrow going to be another day? Or the same day, again? 

As she floated spirally downward into sleep, she thought: "Why didn't the water take me along too?" 

…She was at the edge of the estuary. The sun was smiling at her as it slyly bobbed on the water. She was startled to see a wave of purposeful force coming at her from the opposite direction, but at the same time knowing it would come. Cutting through the submissive water like a 15 foot half-hidden ship, it opened its snout. She felt herself slipping into the soft insides, un-fearful of its fence of teeth, till she was in its belly, till she felt the embrace of its stomach like the warmth of a womb, like God's embrace…a tight circle of love. 

Ask and………… it shall be answered………………

……………………..Seek ……………………………..and you …………………..shall find

Knock ………………………..and the doors shall be opened………… to you.

Day broke. Birds chirped. It was a different day. A new one, after so long. 

She tied back her hair and set for the river, pots in hand. There was a crowd collecting some distance away, near the estuary. She left her filled pots under the shrub and went along the banks. They were talking about crocodiles. Last night an estuarine crocodile had been spotted. It would be dangerous to live here unwarned, they were saying. 

She remembered her dream. Was it real?!…

Raghu, the cook met her half way. "Why haven't you reached the mansion yet? Memsaab has been asking."

"I'm not going there. Tell memsaab". 

"Pagli, what has come over you? What will you eat, if you don't go?"

She turned toward him with a smile. 

She wasn't Kamli.

"I will search for new work where a memsaab treats me better. I cannot repeat another day in sameness. Go." she said as the calmness of her voice descended into the estuary.

(Rochelle Potkar is a fiction writer and poet. Her works have appeared in several Indian and international publications. Her first book of short stories, 'The Arithmetic of breasts and other stories' was shortlisted for The Digital Book of the Year Award 2014, by Publishing Next. Her next book, ‘Dreams of Déjà vu’ is a speculative novel.  She is at:

The Sailor and the Gumball
byAnurima Sen

Once upon a time, a five-year-old boy had pried open a floor tile and slipped in his Will. And what an impressive Will it was! It curled perfectly, was the right shade of yellow, and bequeathed to those near and dear, a yellow feather duster, bits of emerald wrapping paper, a magician’s hat and some spare gumballs.

This story starts with a similar ball of chewing gum. A few days ago, the boy’s father, (exasperated with the constant chomp-chomp-chomp) had remarked, “What is it that you keep chewing? If it is, what I think it is, I should tell you this: I knew a boy, who knew a boy, who knew someone who had swallowed a gumball…Do you know what happened to him? Let’s put it this way—it will bind together the insides of your stomach and tie everything up.” His eyes twinkled with mischief, but his voice was grim. The boy spat out the gum, wore his round, flat sailor’s cap and pedaled to the port to watch the ships go by.

It was a dire enough warning for a child—enough to supply him with nightmares for a week. But our protagonist was a curious one. He reached out for another gumball soon enough. What happened then? Before he could spit it out, he ended up swallowing it. He sat and thought for a few minutes about what had happened, and in another hour or so, had completed his Will, made provisions in it for his young sister and his best friend, and then set out on his bicycle to fulfill within a day, his life’s earnest desire.


He was seen cycling towards the local church. His tiny feet pedaled fast, his heart beat like a drum against his chest, and the miniature cross that hung around his neck swayed to and fro. He had run away from home, and he was in a hurry. He had no time for trifles.

Down he went on his knees, and touched the wooden floor of the ancient church with his cold, sweaty fingers. What could he say today? Can I, just for a day, because that’s all I have, become a real sailor? He closed his eyes tightly and repeated one or two prayers he had learnt by heart, jumbling up a few lines here and there, while his tiny heart pounded.

Off he went again, towards the port. His hands felt clammy and his eyes burnt—focused on the narrow stretch of road right ahead. Just to make his short life meaningful, he had to get aboard a ship, a real ship—not those tiny fishing boats—a majestic, spectacular, black ship. He had seen one in the harbour just a few days ago. His sailor’s cap was tucked carefully into his waistband.


The harbour was empty. Fishermen had spread soiled pieces of cloth on the ground and left little mounds of salted fish on them. They’d keep them like that for a day or two, until they had dried up completely. Our boy sat and wept for hours. The port master had told him in a gentle voice: “The ship’s gone my lad. And what a beauty it was! You wanted to see it one last time?”

The stench was unbearable, but where else could he go? If only he had cycled faster. He sat until evening hung over his shoulders. By this time, his tears had dried up; his heart sank along with the orb of glowing orange, right across the sea. Well, time to go home, he supposed. He had missed the ship, and he was still alive. His insides were not tied up. His heart felt knotted, instead. He wiped his face and returned home.


When he crept into his bed late that night, still alive, he knew he had learnt a few important things. It was not his father’s lie that troubled him. Like only a child can, he had erased the fear of impending death and had forgotten his father’s cautionary tale. The Will, however, was not taken out of its hiding place. Just in case.

(Anurima Sen studied at the Jadavpur University Department of English. She works in marketing communication. She loves reading poetry, writing and painting.)|

flow chart

frozen truth

hidden perish

in silence

please ..

soul flight
(Photography is how I express myself. Over years, my passion for it evolved and intensified; I have experimented on the subject, often failed, but gained vast experience from them.  My shoot helped many for their career and work. Gradually I came up with my creativity, put my experience to work, to produce short stories, the way I visualize them, through my mind lens.
I hail from a fairly different professional world, that of high-end software development, specialized in SAP, EDI B2B domain. Fortunately, the ongoing recession helped me re-discover myself and I realized time is just ripe to turn my passion into creative avocation.

Collectors interested in procuring Ambarnath Ghosh's photographs can communicate at +919830267275|