Iswaran the Story Teller – R K Laxman

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  1. Who was Mahendra? What was his job?
    Mahendra was a junior supervisor in a firm which offered on hire supervisors at various types of construction sites such as factories, bridges, dams, and so on. His job was to keep an eye on the activities at the work site. He had to keep moving from place to place every now and then as ordered by his head office: from a coal mining area to a railway bridge construction site, from there after a few months to a chemical plant which was coming up somewhere. Besides, Mahendra was a bachelor. His needs were simple and he was able to adjust himself to all kinds of odd conditions, whether it was an ill-equipped circuit house or a makeshift canvas tent in the middle of a stone quarry.
  2. In what sense was Iswaran an asset to Mahendra?
    Iswaran was Mahendra’s cook. He was attached to Mahendra and followed him wherever he was posted. He cooked for Mahendra, washed his clothes and chatted away with his master at night. He could weave out endless stories and anecdotes on varied subjects. Iswaran also had an amazing capacity to find vegetables and other cooking ingredients with no shops around. He would miraculously prepare, like a magician, the most delicious dishes made with fresh vegetables within an hour of arriving at the zinc-sheet shelter at the new workplace.
  3. How did a day pass in Iswaran’s daily-life when Mahendra was gone to the workplace?
    When Mahendra was gone, Iswaran would tidy up the shed, wash the clothes, and have a leisurely bath, pouring several buckets of water over his head, muttering a prayer all the while. He would bathe till lunchtime and then, after eating, he would read for a while before dozing off.
  4. How did Tamil literature inspire the story-teller in Iswaran?
    Iswaran read a number of Tamil novels of his time. They were popular Tamil thrillers running to hundreds of pages. Their imaginative descriptions and narrative style thrilled Iswaran. His own descriptions were greatly influenced by the Tamil authors that he read.
  5. How did Iswaran employ his narrative skills?
    When Iswaran was narrating even the smallest of incidents, he would try to work in suspense and a surprise ending into each account. Instead of saying that he had come across an uprooted tree on the highway, he would narrate as if he had personally been involved in the incident. He employed his gestures and most part of the body to create a dramatic effect upon Mahendra.
  6. What did Iswaran tell Mahendra about the elephant incident?
    To tell the elephant incident, Iswaran began with a brief introduction to his own village as one famous for timber pulled and hauled to lorries by elephants. He then gave an account of the richly wooded forest all around his village. He described the elephants as huge well-fed beasts. He then particularly chose a wild elephant that went mad one day and described all the chaos caused by it. Very carefully and elaborately Iswaran entered into this story as a brave hero who calmed the elephant by whacking its third toenail with a cane that he had snatched from a teacher from the crowd of frightened onlookers.
  7. How does Iswaran describe the elephant’s fury?
    The elephant went too wild that even the most experienced mahout was not able to control it. It went on tamping on bushes, tearing up wild creepers and breaking branches at will. Finally the elephant reached the outskirts of Iswaran’s town, still breaking the fences down like matchsticks. It came into the main road and smashed all the stalls selling fruits, mud pots and clothes. People running for their lives, the elephant now entered a school ground where children were playing, breaking through the brick wall. All the boys ran into the classrooms and shut the doors tight and the elephant grunted and wandered about, pulling out the football goal-post, tearing down the volleyball net, kicking and flattening the drum kept for water, and uprooting the shrubs. Meanwhile all the teachers had climbed up to the terrace of the school building; from there they helplessly watched the madness of the elephant. There was not a soul below on the ground. The streets were empty as if the inhabitants of the entire town had suddenly disappeared.
  8. How did Iswaran “I was studying in the junior class at that time, and was watching the whole drama from the rooftop. I don’t know what came over me suddenly. I grabbed a cane from the hands of one of the teachers and ran down the stairs and into the open. The elephant grunted and menacingly swung a branch of a tree which it held in its trunk. It stamped its feet, kicking up a lot of mud and dust. It looked frightening. But I moved slowly towards it, stick in hand. People were watching the scene hypnotised from nearby housetops. The elephant looked at me red-eyed, ready to rush towards me. It lifted its trunk and trumpeted loudly. At that moment I moved forward and, mustering all my force, whacked its third toenail on the quick. The beast looked stunned for a moment; then it shivered from head to foot — and collapsed.”
  9. At this point Iswaran would leave the story unfinished, and get up mumbling, “I will be back after lighting the gas and warming up the dinner.” Mahendra who had been listening with rapt attention would be left hanging. When he returned, Iswaran would not pick up the thread of the story right away. Mahendra would have to remind him that the conclusion was pending.
  10. “Well, a veterinary doctor was summoned to revive the animal,” Iswaran would shrug casually. “Two days later it was led away by its mahout to the jungle.”
  11. “Well, how did you manage to do it, Iswaran — how did you bring down the beast?” “It has something to do with a Japanese art, I think, sir. Karate or ju-jitsu it is called. I had read about it somewhere. It temporarily paralyses the nervous system, you see.” Not a day passed without Iswaran recounting some story packed with adventure, horror and suspense. Whether the story was credible or not, Mahendra enjoyed listening to it because of the inimitable way in which it was told. Iswaran seemed to more than make up for the absence of a TV in Mahendra’s living quarters. One morning when Mahendra was having breakfast Iswaran asked, “Can I make something special for dinner tonight, sir?
  12. After all today is an auspicious day — according to tradition we prepare various delicacies to feed the spirits of our ancestors today, sir.”
  13. That night Mahendra enjoyed the most delicious dinner and complimented Iswaran on his culinary skills. He seemed very pleased but, unexpectedly, launched into a most garish account involving the supernatural. “You know, sir, this entire factory area we are occupying was once a burial ground,” he started. Mahendra was jerked out of the pleasant reverie he had drifted into after the satisfying meal. “I knew on the first day itself when I saw a human skull lying on the path. Even now I come across a number of skulls and bones,” Iswaran continued. He went on to narrate how he sometimes saw ghosts at night. “I am not easily frightened by these things, sir. I am a brave fellow. But one horrible ghost of a woman which appears off and on at midnight during the full moon… It is an ugly creature with matted hair and a shrivelled face, like a skeleton holding a foetus in its arms.” Mahendra shivered at the description and interrupted rather sharply, “You are crazy, Iswaran. There are no such things as ghosts or spirits. It is all a figment of your imagination. Get your digestive system examined — and maybe your head as well. You are talking nonsense.”
  14. He left the room and retired for the night, expecting Iswaran to sulk for a couple of days. But the next morning he was surprised to find the cook as cheerful and talkative as ever.
  15. From that day on Mahendra, for all his brave talk, went to bed with a certain unease. Every night he peered into the darkness outside through the window next to his bed, trying to make sure that there was no movement of dark shapes in the vicinity.
  16. But he could only see a sea of darkness with the twinkling lights of the factory miles away.
  17. He had always liked to admire the milk-white landscape on full-moon nights. But after hearing Iswaran’s story of the female ghost he avoided looking out of his window altogether when the moon was full.
  18. One night, Mahendra was woken up from his sleep by a low moan close to his window. At first he put it down to a cat prowling around for mice. But the sound was too guttural for a cat. He resisted the curiosity to look out lest he should behold a sight which would stop his heart. But the wailing became louder and less feline. He could not resist the temptation any more. Lowering himself to the level of the windowsill he looked out at the white sheet of moonlight outside. There, not too far away, was a dark cloudy form clutching a bundle. Mahendra broke into a cold sweat and fell back on the pillow, panting. As he gradually recovered from the ghastly experience he began to reason with himself, and finally concluded that it must have been some sort of auto suggestion, some trick that his subconscious had played on him.
  19. By the time he had got up in the morning, had a bath and come out to have his breakfast, the horror of the previous night had faded from his memory. Iswaran greeted him at the door with his lunch packet and his bag. Just as Mahendra was stepping out Iswaran grinned and said, “Sir, remember the other day when I was telling you about the female ghost with a foetus in its arms, you were so angry with me for imagining things?
  20. Well, you saw her yourself last night. I came running hearing the sound of moaning that was coming from your room…”
  21. A chill went down Mahendra’s spine. He did not wait for Iswaran to complete his sentence. He hurried away to his office and handed in his papers, resolving to leave the haunted place the very next day!
Grammar
  1. Editing
  2. Omission
  3. Gap
  4. Jumble
Writing
  1. Describing a Person
    1. Face
      1. Eyes – Pink
      2. Nose – Beak-like nose/ flat nose
      3. Cheek – Freckled cheek
      4. Hair – Blond, curly hair
    2. Height, weight, color
      1. Medium height
    3. The way he stands/walks
      1. Walks with a limp
      2. Stutters/stammer
    4. His attitude/character
      1. Highly helpful/miserly)
    5. Other
  2. Diary

Story Writing

Start with a Title

The morning was bright. Workmen were walking to the plantation. Boys and girls were waiting for school buses.

Raju was standing alone under a tree. He was a thin boy. He wore grey trousers and green T-Shirt. …………………………….. ……………………….. ……………………………………… . ………………………………………………………….

However, Raju was very upset. He didn’t talk to any of the boys and girls waiting for the buses. He looked up at the sky and breathed heavily. ….. The cause of his worry. How he expressed his worries. How angy he got. How much he shouted with others…… …… ——————————————–

At that time an auto rickshaw stopped by Raju and an elderly man got out. He was very tall but very weak. He looked around and appraoched Raju. ——————-

Raju smiled and smiled at the old man. He got into the rickshaw. Slowly the old rickshaw moved with Raju and the eld man. A soft drizzle began to fall. It was still early morning.

  1. The opening statement
  2. The setting / Background
  3. The main character’s entry
  4. The problem > what is the main problem the protagonist (main character) is going through. (He is upset/his father disppeared/he has no money…..)
  5. The solution > A magical solution (very rare) > A practical solution (using one’s intellgence)
  6. A closing statement.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Biju John is an educational writer, educator and the author of OM - The Otherwise Men. He gives live classes on Skype and Facebook. You can attend his 3 Day Classes (English & Business Studies) in Delhi, Bangalore, Qatar and Dubai. His Contact number is 91 9810740061.

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