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Archive for October, 2018

ashokbhatia

Most of us love Bertram Wilberforce ‘Bertie’ Wooster. Unlike some goofy female characters who would not mind taking ‘a whack at the Wooster millions’, we do not love him for his money. We love him for his self-less attitude and simplicity.CodeOfTheWoosters

Some of us pity him for being ‘mentally negligible’. His tendency to keep getting into one soup or the other often makes us feel superior to him. Whenever he gets stuck, Jeeves rallies around. He keeps pulling him and his pals out of the kind of predicaments they keep facing from time to time. If ever Bertie’s pride gets hurt and he decides to untangle an issue all by himself, disaster lurks around the corner.

All through, Bertie’s actions are governed by The Code of the Woosters which is essentially about never letting a pal down. However, I do believe that there are several finer shades to it. Each…

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Howsoever irrational and demanding his pals, Bertie would never let them down. Show him a soul in torment and he would rush in to provide the healing touch. A couple whose union is threatened by either a parent or an uncle gets his unstinted support, even if it means his taking the rap for a misdemeanor he is not at all connected with.Code of the Woosters Cover 5

We see him rallying around when a member of the so-called sterner sex is incapable of expressing his tender feelings to a member of the tribe of the delicately nurtured. Often, we find him persuading a member of the opposite sex to end a bitter feud with a friend who has been returned to store on account of some misunderstanding.

At times, we find him charming his returned-to-store pals against running across the Atlantic. This ensures that they remain readily available for a speedy reconciliation between the…

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The code that Bertie Wooster follows while interacting with the denizens of Plumsville has several finer shades to it.Code of the Woosters Cover 3

Here are some more examples, as gleaned from The Code of the Woosters.

Being a Boy Scout and a Bulldog

Bertie is invariably happy when playing the role of a boy scout. Performing little acts of kindness makes him happy. When Aunt Dahlia sends him off on a mission to sneer at the cow-creamer in an antique shop, he does not mind his morning plans getting changed.

When he arrives at the shop on Brampton Road, he runs into Sir Watkyn Bassett, CBE. The bulldog strain in the Woosters comes into play. He does not run away. He stands firm.

A Resilience of Nature

These are his feelings when, prodded by Jeeves and Stiffy, he agrees to go and tell Pop Bassett that he plans to marry Stiffy.

It has…

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While dishing out the unique fare that P G Wodehouse specialized in, never would he have imagined the kind of spell it would cast upon the unsuspecting youth in a country like India which remained a colony of the British Empire for quite some time. The kind of whodunits which he unleashed on the gullible youth occasionally launched an array of goofy schemes and practical jokes. And if the setting for rolling out such schemes happened to be an educational institution, one can merely bemoan the fate of its Reverend Aubrey Upjohns and other illustrious lion-tamers who had no other option but to be at the receiving end.

Imagine an educational institution which is teeming with a bevy of intellectually inclined youth. It is not difficult to surmise just how busy the institute’s Wodehouse Society office bearers would be, whipping up one goofy scheme or the other at regular intervals.

Late night raids on cookie jars and smoking cigarettes in the shrubbery were surely considered passé by them. Instead, they specialized in organizing some practical jokes which would have an undercurrent of the kind of subtle humour Plum stoutly believed in. Apparently, this was one of the annual features of the activities of the P G Wodehouse Society located on the campus.

Here are some which were narrated to yours truly by a dignified senior Mr Mulliner, who happened to be a distinguished alumnus of the institution concerned. It was a chance meeting which came about while we were undertaking an otherwise listless bus ride in Chicago recently.

A musical charade

The names of two famous singers from neighbouring Pakistan, ostensibly on a visit to India, were touted to attract a large audience to the auditorium. Faculty members from even the nearby colleges showed up, accompanied by spouses ornately dressed for the great occasion.

Since there was a shortage of volunteers to dress up as Pakistani ‘ghazal’ singers, only three could manage the feat, though. Thus, a troupe comprising a single singer, what with a tabla player and a harmonium player in tow, got formed. Some strings got pulled and a decent car with a diplomatic number plate was organized. The trio arrived at the venue in true style and was cheered lustily by the crowd, agog at the prospect of listening to some soulful melodies.

Once the trio had been greeted with customary garlands, bouquets and shawls et al, the person believed to be the singer stood up and started an elaborate ‘alaap’. When he continued with his off-tune rendering for quite a length of time, the audience started getting a bit jittery. Some thought it was perhaps a Pakistani custom to belt out some random notes, just to kick-start the proceedings. Pretty soon, it transpired that both the instrumentalists were merely twiddling their thumbs and playing some notes furtively, somewhat out of sync with the singer.

The jamboree ended with the singer finally announcing that the performance was merely a charade. Wisdom dawned upon the audience that a practical joke had been perpetrated on the unsuspecting hoi polloi.

Cora Bollinger, had she been present, could have possibly saved the day by belting out a version of ‘Sonny Boy’. However, that was not to be.

The case of the missing dead body

At the stroke of midnight, a rumour was heard that a student had committed suicide by hanging himself from the roof of the college gymnasium. Negative news spreads virtually at the speed of light. In no time, a crowd gathered outside the gymnasium building. True enough; a dead body appeared to be swaying gently from the roof. The gymnasium door was bolted from inside. A soulful suicide note was also apparently found outside.

The warden got called in. He lost no time in waking up the Principal who trooped in after some time, much like the US marines arriving at the site of a natural disaster. But lo and behold, the body had done the vanishing trick by then, possibly taking a leaf out of one of the whodunits of Agatha Christie.

As the pseudo-suicide unleashed by the society members dawned upon those assembled, the warden obviously got an earful from the irate principal, who did not like the prospect of losing his beauty sleep on such frivolous, or even non-existent, grounds.

The nocturnal presence of a female

In the hostel rooms of what was then an exclusive territory of the so-called sterner sex, the presence of a member of the tribe of the delicately nurtured beyond certain hours was not permissible.

However, on one apparently innocent night, word went around that a soft and shiny leg perched on a table was clearly visible from the window of a particular room in the hostel, reminiscent of the 1960s Hollywood flick ‘The Graduate’. Tongues started wagging. Imagination had a free run.

When notified, the warden decided to investigate the matter without any delay. But his repeated knockings on the door of the room concerned produced rather discouraging responses from within. Entreaties to open the door were met with stony silences. Threats uttered while his clenched fists pounded on the door were met with stout refusals to oblige.

Enraged, the warden went across the back lawns, so as to be able to peek inside the concerned room through a back window. Unfortunately, status quo prevailed and satisfactory results were not produced. Some kindly souls amongst the office bearers then took charge of the situation, calling upon the occupant to open the doors.

This brought home the bacon, so to say. The neatly shaved leg came off the table. The door flung open and out came the only occupant of the room, merrily parading his legs to all those who had assembled outside. Once it was established beyond doubt that one of his legs alone had been adequately prepared and presented to the unsuspecting public and that no female was in sight, a sigh of relief emanated from the warden. However, the decibel level of the merriment which ensued and the giggles that emanated from the crowd of students was far higher in the otherwise silent night.

The perils of being an educationist

Roberta Wickham and Stiffy Byng would have surely approved of these fruity schemes.

But had Reverend Aubrey Upjohn been present, he would have been frustrated at not having had the liberty of retaliating with some juicy canes in the soft spots of the office bearers.

Alas, such are the perils of the kind of rules and regulations which bind our hapless educationists these days. Only stiff-upper-lips and sterner gazes appear to have survived in their disciplinary arsenals.

Some of you may agree that the likes of Aubrey Upjohn, Miss Tomlinson and Miss Mapleton lived in far happier times.

(Notes:

Illustrations courtesy the world wide web.

The incidents described here took place sometime during the relatively innocent times of 1970s. The youth of today, armed with Artificial Intelligence, Robotics, Social Media et al, could surely come up with far more juicier schemes. The mind boggles at the limitless possibilities.

One is truly grateful to the senior Mr Mulliner who narrated these incidents in juicy details to a perfect stranger like yours truly.

Here is hoping he, an eminent educationist in his own right, would soon chronicle his Plummy memoirs in exhaustive detail, possibly inspiring the youth of today to come up with even fruitier schemes, thereby hastening the spread of the epidemic of Wodehousitis all over the world.

(Related Posts:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2015/07/30/the-epidemic-of-wodehousitis

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2016/10/01/the-class-of-1976-how-it-managed-to-get-suspended-for-a-week

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2018/01/01/spreading-wodehousitis-some-plummy-awards)

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Abstract

The human race has come a long way in attaining its present state of evolution. From a single cell amoeba to the complex mechanism of our present-day physical bodies, one can look back at the journey so far with some reverence and pride.

But what does the future portend? What would be the salient features of the next level of our species? This article is an attempt at answering this query through the haze of our present-day myopic vision and limited capabilities.

As you read this, possibly with a steaming cup of coffee by your side and soothing music playing in the background, little do you realize the kind of miracle you and I represent.

One, we are both uniquely configured. As a physical body, we stand alone. As mental beings, we carry a unique set of beliefs and value systems which define our thoughts, actions and words. Our…

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The character of Bertie Wooster is a study in contrasts. He has a dreamy sweetness about him. He is soft and chivalrous. He has a generous soul. He declines all proposals of marriage in a very polished manner. He never bandies about a woman’s name. Code of the Woosters Cover 1

But very often he also displays a unique strength of character. He can also speak his mind. If there is a fruity scheme which might result in the Code of the Woosters getting compromised, he is not game.

The delicately nurtured invariably corner Bertie and persuade him to do something truly goofy and get him into a jam. Gwladys puts her boyfriend with a broken leg in his flat. Pauline Stoker invades his rural cottage at the dead of night in a bathing suit. Florence Craye, Pauline Stoker, Roberta Wickham, Vanessa Cook, Nobby and Stiffy Byng are some other characters which immediately spring to one’s…

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In order to celebrate the 137th birth anniversary of P G Wodehouse, the Pittsburgh Millionaires decided to meet up on the 14th of October, 2018. The meeting took place at one of the Panera Cafés in the Oakland area of Pittsburgh, USA.

Lest some of you get an impression that the millionaires foregathered to discuss some trustworthy sources from where one could secure either a cow creamer or a scarab, you would be sadly mistaken. If your ambitions lead you to believe that you could have run into an arts dealer offering The Girl in Blue, the famous Gainsborough miniature, to one of the millionaires present at the gathering, you would be even more off the mark.

Had you been able to make it to the gig, you would have discovered the Pittsburgh Millionaires to be a group of strong and adventurous folks, well endowed and successful in more ways than one.

Besides being successful at keeping their respective bodies and souls together, they possess an immense wealth which could make many of us green with envy. Their wealth is not to be measured in terms of the millions of dollars they possess, but in terms of the trillions of units of common love and fondness they have for the verbal musician of our times, P G Wodehouse. A profound knowledge of his canon is another wealth they possess.

Eve Halliday and Phyllis Jackson were already seated on the table when Rupert Psmith and the not-so-efficient Baxter trooped in. Stiffy Byng fluttered in like a rose-leaf on the wind. Pauline Stoker floated in pretty soon thereafter and the meeting was called to order. Picture post cards featuring The Empress of Blandings were gifted by Eve Halliday to those present.

The management of the Panera Café has a stiff-upper-lip policy. Target practice by throwing bread crumbs is out of the question. The place does not boast of fans of any kind, ceiling or otherwise. Hence, hurling boiled eggs at such contraptions is also ruled out. The ambience of the place is not such as to allow a boisterous rendering of The Sonny Boy.

Wisdom prevailed. A reading of the story ‘Goodbye to All Cats’ followed. Curious customers on nearby tables were taken aback by the intermittent ripples of mirth emanating from the table. The management was polite enough not to interrupt but ensured that the tray-carrying trolleys generated sound-bytes which were loud enough to deliver suitable admonitions to the members of the Plummy troupe. Needless to say, the same were duly ignored.

Bits and pieces of the Wodehouse canon were fondly recalled by those present. The Bertie-Jeeves relationship was dissected at length. The challenge of popularising his works amongst the youth of today was discussed. Eve Halliday recommended the practice of ‘fairy books’ where some of his works, duly gift wrapped, could be left in public places, spreading joy amongst those who venture to pick these up. Stiffy Byng commented that her interests included not only the narratives dished out by Wodehouse but also the ones whipped up by Alfred Hitchcock. Pauline Stoker lovingly mentioned the BBC series.

Deferring to the wishes of the café management, no cake was cut on the occasion. The meeting ended on a cordial note, with much ‘What-ho’-ing and ‘Pip-pip’-ing. Baxter was wished a happy travel back to India.

(Note: Yours truly is grateful to Abigail Thompson, Filomena Conti, Allison Thompson, Carol Colby and Sandip Chaudhury, who could spare the time to grace the occasion. Special thanks are due to Allison Thompson who took special interest in coordinating the gathering and even brought along an Augustus look-alike to attract the attention of incoming millionaires).

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