Character Sketch of Mahendra from Iswaran the Storyteller‌

In R.K. Narayan’s short story “Iswaran the Storyteller,” Mahendra serves as the central character around whom the narrative unfolds. Mahendra’s character is a nuanced portrayal of the everyday struggles and aspirations of an average individual in a small South Indian town. Through his experiences and interactions, Narayan paints a vivid picture of a man navigating the complexities of life with resilience, humor, and a touch of melancholy.

Quick Overview:

  • Name: Mahendra
  • Role: Protagonist in “Iswaran the Storyteller”
  • Personality: Ambitious, dreamy, pragmatic
  • Occupation: Clerk at the Agrahara Electricity Office
  • Aspirations: Desires to become a writer
  • Relationships: Close bond with Iswaran
  • Quirks: Prone to daydreaming, loves storytelling
  • Challenges: Struggles with societal expectations, particularly regarding marriage
  • Strengths: Resilient, imaginative, resourceful
  • Legacy: Symbolizes the universal quest for personal fulfillment and the clash between dreams and societal norms.


Mahendra, the protagonist of “Iswaran the Storyteller,” emerges as a multi-faceted character whose journey reflects the common aspirations and tribulations faced by individuals striving for a better life. Employed as a clerk at the Agrahara Electricity Office, Mahendra’s life unfolds in the quaint setting of a South Indian town. As we delve into his character, we witness his internal conflicts, dreams, and the colorful tapestry of relationships that shape his world.

Ambitions and Daydreams:

Mahendra is a man with aspirations that extend beyond the routine of his daily life. His heart is set on becoming a writer, a dream that often consumes his thoughts during mundane office hours. Narayan skillfully captures Mahendra’s daydreams, depicting his vivid imagination and the yearning for a life beyond the confines of paperwork and office routines. This aspiration adds depth to his character, highlighting the universal desire for personal fulfillment and creative expression.

The Power of Friendship – Iswaran:

Central to Mahendra’s life is his close companion, Iswaran. The relationship between Mahendra and Iswaran is more than that of an employer and servant; it is a bond of friendship and mutual understanding. Iswaran, the devoted cook and caretaker, becomes an essential part of Mahendra’s world. Their camaraderie is a source of solace for Mahendra, providing moments of levity and shared dreams amidst the challenges of everyday life.

Struggles with Societal Expectations:

Despite Mahendra’s dreams and aspirations, he finds himself entangled in the web of societal expectations, particularly concerning marriage. The pressure to conform to conventional norms weighs heavily on him. Narayan skillfully explores the clash between Mahendra’s inner world, filled with literary ambitions, and the external pressures of societal conformity. This internal conflict adds a layer of complexity to Mahendra’s character, portraying the universal struggle between individual desires and societal norms.

Imaginative Escapes:

Mahendra’s character is characterized by a vivid imagination that serves as an escape from the monotony of his daily life. His daydreams, often triggered by mundane occurrences, transport him to worlds of fantasy and adventure. Narayan masterfully weaves these imaginative escapades into the narrative, providing insights into Mahendra’s inner world and the coping mechanisms he employs to navigate the challenges of reality.

The Yearning for Creative Expression:

Mahendra’s desire to become a writer is a poignant element of his character. This longing for creative expression is a universal theme that resonates with individuals who harbor dreams beyond their immediate circumstances. Narayan captures the essence of this yearning, portraying Mahendra as a symbol of the untapped potential that exists within every person, waiting to be realized.

Resilience in the Face of Challenges:

Throughout the narrative, Mahendra exhibits resilience in the face of challenges. Whether it be the pressure to conform to societal expectations or the routine hardships of life, he approaches each obstacle with a certain fortitude. His ability to endure setbacks and continue pursuing his dreams makes him a relatable and endearing character, embodying the strength inherent in the human spirit.

Quirks and Eccentricities:

Mahendra’s character is further enriched by his quirks and eccentricities. His tendency to daydream, coupled with a love for storytelling, adds a touch of whimsy to his persona. These quirks not only contribute to the humor in the narrative but also serve as outlets for self-expression in a world that often demands conformity.

Legacy of Mahendra:

Mahendra’s character, while specific to the context of “Iswaran the Storyteller,” transcends the confines of the narrative to symbolize the broader human experience. His dreams, struggles, and the interplay between societal expectations and individual aspirations make him a timeless figure. Mahendra becomes a reflection of the universal quest for personal fulfillment and the eternal conflict between conforming to societal norms and pursuing one’s dreams.


In “Iswaran the Storyteller,” R.K. Narayan crafts a character in Mahendra who, despite being rooted in a specific cultural and temporal context, embodies the essence of the human condition. Mahendra’s journey, with its dreams, conflicts, and resilient spirit, serves as a mirror reflecting the universal challenges and aspirations that define us all. Through the lens of Mahendra’s character, Narayan invites readers to contemplate the delicate balance between conformity and individuality, the pursuit of dreams, and the enduring human spirit that transcends time and cultural boundaries.

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