Iswaran the Storyteller
By R. K. Laxman
About the Author
Image reference: thefamouspeople.com
Rasipuram Krishnaswami Iyer Laxman was an Indian cartoonist, illustrator, and humorist. He was born on October 24, 1921 in Mysore, India, at the home of a headmaster. He was the youngest of six brothers and also had one sister. The famous writer, R. K Narayan was his elder brother. He loved to draw from a young age and would cover the floors and walls of his house with doodles. He spent a lot of time observing the drawings and illustrations in the magazines and would try to copy them. As he grew up he started drawing caricatures of his father and teachers, much to the amusement of his siblings and classmates. One of his brothers, Narayan was a budding writer and Laxman used to illustrate the stories his brother wrote.He was best known for his creation The Common Man and for his daily cartoon strip, You Said It in The Times of India, which started in 1951.
He was once married to Bharatanatyam dancer and film actress Kumari Kamala but the marriage ended in divorce. He later remarried another woman, also named Kamala. His second wife wrote books for children.
He was honored with The Ramon Magsaysay Award in 1984 in the category Journalism, Literature, and the Creative Communication Arts (JLCCA).
He suffered a stroke in 2003 which left him paralyzed on his left side. He suffered multiple strokes since 2010 and was keeping in ill health since then. He died in Pune on 26 January 2015 at the age of 93.
Text Reference: thefamouspeople.com
The title of this chapter- “Iswaran the storyteller” tells us that this story is about Iswaran. He is called the storyteller because as storytelling is an art, he is good at it. Iswaran uses special effects, does voice modulation, uses his body language to make the story realistic so that the listener, i.e. Mahendra gets attracted and captivated in his story. The writer wants to highlight this quality of Iswaran that he was so good at telling stories that they appeared to be real. His stories were a source of entertainment for Mahendra.
This is a story about Mahendra, a junior supervisor at construction sites and his cook, Iswaran. Mahendra had to keep moving from place to place as it was the nature of the job. But he had fortunately an expert caretaker, Iswaran who cooked his meals, washed his clothes and chatted with him at night.
Iswaran was very fond of reading Tamil thrillers during his spare time. As a result he innovated his own thrillers and would tell about it to Mahendra. Mahendra used to hear patiently without finding any loopholes in the story.
Iswaran often in his stories narrated about elephants. For example, he told a story of a mad elephant that escaped from the jungle and entered a school ground where children were playing. Children and teachers ran helter and skelter to save their lives. Iswaran told that he grabbed a cane from a teacher and faced the elephant with bravery. The elephant was stunned when he hit at the elephant’s third toe nail. The secret was if the elephant is hit there, his nervous system gets paralyzed.
Finally, one day talking about spirits of the ancestors, Iswaran began to talk of ghosts. He said that the place where they had their shed was once a burial ground. He also had come across ghosts but he was not scared of them. He told Mahendra about a woman ghost seen only on a full moon night. She moaned and carried a foetus in her arms. This terrified Mahendra so much that he finally thought of that woman ghost on a full moon night. He could hear a low moan outside his window. He peeped from his window and there stood the ghost of the woman. He flung himself down and found that he was often dreaming of that woman ghost. Iswaran used to ask grinning at Mahendra, “Sir, you were angry with me the other day when I told you about the ghost but didn’t you see her yourself last night?” Mahendra never used to listen to Iswaran’s questions and finally decided to resign from his job and leave that haunted place.
Q. In what way is Ishwaran an asset to Mahendra?
Ans. Ishwaran was a skilled cook. He cooked for him, washed his clothes and chatted away with his master at night. Mahendra always kept him wherever he was posted. The cook was also quite attached to Mahendra and followed him uncomplainingly. That is why he was an asset to Mahendra.
Q. How does Ishwaran describe the uprooted tree on the highway? What effect does he want to create in his listeners?
Ans. Ishwaran described the uprooted tree with eye browse suitably arched and handles held out in dramatic gesture and said that road was alone suddenly he saw an enormous bushy beast lying sprawled across the road. He was half inclined to turn and go back. As he come closer and found that it was fallen tree.
Q. How does he narrate the story of the tusker? Does it appear to be plausible?
Ans. Ishwaran had a great narrative skill. Once he narrated the story of a tusker escaped from the jungle .The tusker destroyed everything what came into the way. At last it reached to Ishwaran’s school and pulled out football goal post teasing down volley ball net. Everyone was helplessly watching the whole drama. Sudden Ishwaran grabbed a cane from the hands of a teacher and faced the dangerous tusker. He attacked with the cane on the third toe nail of tusker and it stunned, shivered from head to foot and collapsed. No, it does not appear to be plausible since it is not possible with a small cane to make a dangerous elephant collapsed.
Plausible = Appearing worthy of belief.
Q. Why does the author say that Ishwaran seemed to more than make up for the absence of T.V. in Mahendra’s living quarters?
Ans. The author says so because Ishwaran was a fascinating storyteller. He narrated everyday some stories packed with adventure, horror and suspense. Whether the story was credible or not, Mahendra enjoyed listing to it because of the inimitable way in which it was told.
Inimitable = impossible to copy or imitate.
Q. Mahendra calls ghost or sprits a figment of the imagination. What happens to him on a full moon night?
Ans. Mahendra was a man with scientific approach. He often chided Ishwaran not to believe ghost or spirits because these all are nothing but a figment of the imagination. On one full moon night he heard a low moan close to his window. At first he thought it as a cat prowling around for mice but the sound became louder & louder. He looked through the window and found a dark cloudy form clutching a bundle. It was his ghastly experience.
Ghastly = Shocking or horrible
Q. Why did Mahendra decide to leave the haunted place?
Ans. A chill went down Mahendra’s spine when Iswaran asked him in the morning if his opinion about the presence of ghosts had changed after witnessing one the previous night. Convinced that he had seen a ghost, Mahendra left immediately for his office to hand over his resignation and decided to leave that haunted place the next day.
Q. Can you think the other end of the story?
Ans. Mahendra could have found the right reason of his ghastly experience. He should not resolve to go on leave but face the bull by its horns. It would be better as Mahendra could catch Ishwaran’s trick red handed next time.
Long Answer Type Questions
Q. What impression do you form about Iswaran?
Ans. Iswaran was a multitalented person. His character teaches us the values of dedication, cheerfulness and creativity. He carried off his duties as a cook by preparing the most delicious dishes like a magician. He was dedicated to Mahendra and served him uncomplainingly regardless of the situation or the place. He enjoyed his job and would not sit idle when Mahendra was at work. In Mahendra’s absence, he would finish off cleaning and washing tasks. Iswaran was a curious learner. He developed the art of storytelling by reading Tamil thrillers. He could narrate a story every day by mixing suspense, adventure and horror to the episodes. He was a good and loyal companion to Mahendra and entertained him more than a TV. He was large-hearted and did not sulk even after getting a scolding from Mahendra. His innumerable positive values make him memorable.
Q. Iswaran was a master storyteller. Describe his amazing narrative’ skills.
Ans. Iswaran is a fascinating storyteller who could weave out endless stories and anecdotes. He acquired this talent by reading Tamil thrillers. He would read these novels every day after lunch and relate them to his master in his leisure time. He always added suspense and surprise even to the smallest incident and could make up innumerable stories on different subjects. He would use facial and body expressions to add interest to the story. He would raise his eyebrows, wave his hands, and jump about imitating the characters in his stories. He would narrate a story in instalments and purposely leave it unfinished midway. On returning, he would not pick it up right away till reminded by his listener. He would narrate a new story every day and fill it with adventure, horror and suspense, thus entertaining Mahendra as television does.
Q. What did Iswaran tell Mahendra about a ghost? Describe Mahendra’s horrible experience one night. Why did he resolve to leave that place?
Ans. lswaran told Mahendra that entire factory area where he worked was once a burial ground. lswaran told Mahendra that he often saw ghosts at night. Sometimes, there appeared a horrible ghost of woman. She held a foetus in her arms. Hearing this tale, Mahendra shivered. But he told lswaran that there were no ghosts in realty. From that time, Mahendra felt somewhat uneasy at night. One night, Mahendra was awakened up from sleep by a moan. The moan became louder. He looked out of the window. He saw a dark cloudy form of a woman, not very far away from window. She was carrying a bundle in her arms. Mahendra began to sweat with fear. The next morning, Iswaran told Mahendra that he had also heard the moan at night. He had come to his room. He had seen that Mahendra was looking out of the window at the ghost of the woman. Mahendra was cold with fear. As soon as he reached office, he handed in his papers for transfer from that place.
Q. Mahendra calls ghosts or sprits a figment of the imagination. What happens to him on a full-moon night?
Ans. Mahendra claimed that he was a brave and rational man. He scolded Iswaran when the latter talked about ghosts or spirits. He told him that such things were merely a figment of the imagination. However, deep inside he got scared when Iswaran told him that he had seen a female ghost and that the entire factory area where they lived was earlier a burial ground . One full-moon night, Mahendra was woken up from his sleep by a low moan close to his window. At first, he thought it to be some cat looking for mice but soon realized that it was not the case. However, he did not look out because he was afraid that he might find a ghost. When the sound grew louder, he could not resist anymore and lowered himself to the level of the windowsill to look out. There he saw a dark cloud like form holding a bundle. Mahendra got so frightened that he broke into a cold sweat and fell back on his pillow, breathing heavily.