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Iswaran the Storyteller Summary in English
By- R.K. Laxman
The story about Iswaran was told to Ganesh by a junior supervisor, Mahendra who used to work in a firm which offered on hire supervisors at construction sites like factories, bridges, dams etc. His work involved moving from one site to another. He was unmarried and adjusted well to odd conditions because his needs were simple.
Mahendra had a dedicated cook named Iswaran. He was like an asset because he would cook for Mahendra, wash his clothes, and also chat with him at night. Iswaran was a master storyteller and could make up innumerable stories on different subjects. Another quality of Iswaran was his ability to improvise cooking material even at the remotest place. He could cook delicious dishes quickly as if he were doing some magic.
Mahendra’s daily routine started with getting up early and leaving for work after breakfast. He would also carry lunch with him. When his master was away, Iswaran would use his time to finish off daily chores and have a leisurely bath after that. After lunch, he would read for a while and then take a nap.
Iswaran was fond of reading popular Tamil thrillers. Their imaginative descriptions and narrating styles would fascinate him. Influenced by these thrillers, he would add suspense and surprise even to the smallest incident during storytelling. Mahendra loved this style and would listen to Iswaran without interrupting him.
Iswaran would start a story with an introduction (prologue) in which he would lay the background about a character, usually negative, whose story followed. Then he would describe an elaborate incident involving that character. While describing, Iswaran would get carried away and would jump about on the floor. He would continue narrating and build up a situation that required a saviour or a hero-like character to resolve it. Here, he inserted himself in the story as that hero. He would confront the negative character and magically disarm him in a snap.
Once he told Mahendra a story about an elephant that had escaped from the jungle and destroyed everything that came its way. When it reached Iswaran’s school, everyone got terrified on watching the tusker pull the football goal post and volleyball net, Iswaran told that he was a student of the junior class at that time; still, he grabbed a cane from a teacher and ran down to challenge the tusker. It tried to scare Iswaran by stamping its feet and kicking up mud. But he was so brave that he hit on the third toenail of the elephant and the animal shivered and collapsed.
Iswaran would leave this unfinished story midway and excuse himself to light the gas and warm up dinner. This would leave Mahendra hanging with suspense. On returning, Iswaran would not pick up the story right away. Mahendra would have to remind him that the conclusion was pending. Then Iswaran would wind up the story describing it as his own heroic deed. However, Mahendra would not feel satisfied and would ask Iswaran to explain how he had brought down the beast. Iswaran would attribute his success to some Japanese art, Karate or ju-jitsu, which temporarily paralyzed the nervous system.
Every day, Iswaran would recount a new story filled with adventure, horror and suspense. Mahendra enjoyed listening to these stories even if they were unbelievable. Iswaran thus entertained Mahendra like a TV.
One morning, when Mahendra was having breakfast, Iswaran sought permission to cook something special for dinner. It was an auspicious day and according to tradition, delicacies were prepared to feed the spirits of ancestors. Mahendra enjoyed a lovely meal that night and complimented Iswaran on his cooking skills. The cook seemed pleased but suddenly started narrating a horrifying account about the supernatural. He told that the factory area where they were living was once a burial ground. Mahendra was jolted out of the pleasant mood that he had got into after the satisfying meal. Iswaran continued telling that he had seen a human skull lying on the path on the first day and he still came across a number of skulls and bones. He also told that sometimes he saw ghosts at night and although he was a brave fellow who did not get easily frightened, he was afraid of one horrible ghost of a woman. She appeared off and on at midnight during the full moon. She was an ugly creature with matted hair and a shrivelled face. She looked like a skeleton and held a foetus in her arms.
Mahendra got terribly scared on hearing this description and cut Iswaran short by scolding him. He said that there was no such thing as ghosts or spirits and it was a mere figment of his imagination. Saying so, he left the room to go to bed. He expected Iswaran to sulk for some days over the scolding but to his surprise, the next morning Iswaran was as cheerful and talkative as ever. But Mahendra could not go to bed comfortably after that night. He would look into the darkness outside through the window next to his bed to make sure that there was no one nearby. But he could not see anything other than darkness and twinkling lights of the factory. Earlier, he used to admire the milky white landscape on full moon nights. But after hearing Iswaran’s story of the female ghost he avoided looking out of the window on moonlit nights.
One night Mahendra was woken up from his sleep by a low crying sound close to his window. At first, he thought it to be some cat looking for mice but soon realized that it was not so. However, he stopped himself from looking out because he was afraid. When the sound grew louder, he could not stop himself and lowering himself to the level of the windowsill, looked out at the white moonlit night. There he saw a dark cloudy form holding a bundle. Mahendra got so frightened that he fell back on his pillow, breathing heavily. When he slowly recovered from this fright, he thought rationally and convinced himself that what he saw was just a trick played by his subconscious mind.
However, he forgot everything about the previous night’s experience after his morning routine. As always, Iswaran greeted him at the door with his lunch packet and his bag. Just When Mahendra was stepping out, Iswaran told him that he had come running last night when he heard a crying sound from his room. This revelation scared Mahendra so much that he went straight to his office and put in his resignation. He resolved to leave the haunted place the very next day.
Iswaran the Storyteller Summary in English (2) :
Mahendra was a junior supervisor in a firm which offered on hire, supervisors at different sites. He was a bachelor. A cook, Iswaran, was attached to him, who did his household chores including cooking. Iswaran was a good storyteller also. Most of his stories were full of surprise and thrill. His descriptions were fine. He narrated the smallest incident in detail. He would work up suspense and add a surprising end. He was very imaginative. Mahendra always enjoyed stories. Iswaran told him a story of a mad tusker. It entered a school ground. All students and teachers were afraid and hid. Iswaran who was then a junior student controlled the elephant all alone with a stick. He also told Mahendra about his encounters with ghosts. Mahendra called him a crazy fellow. He tried to convince Iswaran that it was his imagination and there was nothing like a ghost in the world. But he himself was afraid now. One night he was woken up by a low moan close to his window. He saw outside, there was a ghost. He was frightened. He broke into cold sweat and fell back on his pillow. However, he thought that it might be a kind of auto-suggestion or a trick. Next morning, Iswaran reminded Mahendra that he had heard someone moaning outside the window. He told him that he had come running to his room after hearing the moans. Mahendra felt frightened and ran to his office. Now he decided to leave that haunted place immediately.