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Archive for May, 2019

Lord Emsworth

Much like all masters perched on the literary high table, P G Wodehouse also used Nature as a colluding partner in his narratives. When all is well with the world, roses are in bloom, bees and birds go about doing what they are ordained to do, and the sun goes about spreading cheer with due benevolence. But when giant egos clash or a disaster looms large, Nature stops in its tracks, birds stop chirping noisily, breeze ceases to blow and even flowers stand still.

In other words, Nature is depicted as having a sensitive soul, cheered up when the proceedings are going as per plans, but looking askance when the reverse happens. In the hands of proficient wordsmiths, it assumes a character of its own and provides mute support to the goings on in the narrative.

By way of an example, consider the story ‘Lord Emsworth and the Girl Friend.’

Angus McAllister, the head gardener at Blandings Castle, has an anti-moss spirit. Lord Emsworth often wonders why Providence had not taken note of his sterling qualities and made him a first class mule. He recalls the time when, after having sacked him, McAllister, he, Lord Emsworth, had to plead with him to come back. This alone had resulted in his favorurite pumpkin winning the Agricultural Show.

It was a supreme sacrifice at the altar of an employer’s ego, paving the way for a subsequent loss of the iron hand to have an effective control over his own property, comprising not only the castle and its grounds but also the exquisite flora and fauna hosted therein. Lord Emsworth had thus ended up becoming the ground under the number twelve heel of the Glaswegian head-gardener.

He believed that he had thus evolved into a spineless and unspeakably unworthy descendant of his ancestors who had perfected the art of handling employees, even if it involved dividing an obdurate employee into four employees by using a battle-axe without any eyebrows getting raised.

Till the time Gladys popped up in the scheme of things, McAllister’s control over ‘flarze’ in the Blandings Castle gardens was absolute. Anyone desirous of acquiring some of these had to wait till the time he was in an amiable state of mind, steer the conversation around to the subject of interior decoration, and then took a pot shot at one’s desire.

If one’s Guardian Angels were in a benevolent mood, and if McAllister chose to show you around the gardens with a dash of Scottish pride, one could see the following species in full bloom:

Achillea

 

Bignonia Radicans

 

Campanula

 

Digitalis

 

Euphorbia

 

Funkia

 

Gypsophila

 

Helianthus

 

Iris

 

Liatris

 

Monarda

 

Phlox Drummondi

 

Salvia

 

Thalictrum

 

Vinca

 

Yucca

And when a small girl in a velveteen frock is seen flitting about his sacred gardens and picking his sacred flowers – that too, a girl who had copped him on the shin with a stone just the other day, he rushes out of his den at forty-five miles per hour.

Lord Emsworth’s soul quivers at the spectacle of the man charging down on him with gleaming eyes and bristling whiskers. But with the soft hand of Gladys in his hands, his spine sheds all the cottage cheese it had accumulated over time and gets converted into one made up of chilled steel.

‘This young lady,’ said Lord Emsworth, ‘has my full permission to pick all the flowers she wants, McAllister. If you do not see eye to eye with me in this matter, McAllister, say so and we will discuss what you are going to do about it, McAllister. These gardens, McAllister, belong to me, and if you do not – er – appreciate that fact you will, no doubt, be able to find another employer – ah – more in tune with your views. I value your services highly, McAllister, but I will not be dictated to in my own garden, McAllister. Er – dash it,’ added his lordship, spoiling the whole effect.

The sudden transformation in the character of the main protagonist leaves Nature baffled and astounded. All is still for some time. The Achillea, the Bignonia Radicans, the Ampanula, the Digitalis, the Euphorbia, the Funkia, the Gypsophila, the Helianthus, the Iris, the Liatris, the Monarda, the Phlox Drummondi, the Salvia, the Thalictrum, the Vinca and the Yucca – all are still.

Angus McAllister is perplexed. He decides it is better to cease to be a Napoleon than to be a Napoleon in exile. ‘Mphm,’ he says.

Nature resumes its breathing. The breeze begins to blow again. And all over the gardens the birds resume their musical notes. And the Achillea, the Bignonia Radicans, the Ampanula, the Digitalis, the Euphorbia, the Funkia, the Gypsophila, the Helianthus, the Iris, the Liatris, the Monarda, the Phlox Drummondi, the Salvia, the Thalictrum, the Vinca and the Yucca, much relieved, start swaying in the gentle wind yet again.

The repertoire of such literary giants as Shakespeare, William Wordsworth, Charles Dickens, Thomas Hardy and Kalidasa are littered with natural allusions. Same is true of P G Wodehouse.

(Illustration courtesy Suvarna Sanyal, a retired banker who has an eye and an ear for all there is to see, listen to and laugh at in this world.

Representations of flowers courtesy Wikipedia. Given the non-floricultural background of yours truly, errors and omissions in these may kindly be excused.)

(Related Posts:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2019/05/09/lord-emsworth-and-the-girlfriend-a-viewpoint

https://honoriaplum.wordpress.com/2014/01/16/great-wodehouse-romances-lord-emsworth-and-the-girl-friend-by-ken-clevenger)

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Many of the fans of P G Wodehouse suffer occasional pangs of anxiety. They fear that the species comprising the admirers of P G Wodehouse may soon become extinct. They suspect that not many of the younger generation may be getting infected enough with the delectable affliction of Wodehousitis, simply because his works belong to a bye-gone era which fails to connect with the youth of today.

When they sit down to relish the pleasures of the table, the food – even if it is dished out by a spouse who might be God’s gift to the gastric juices – simply turns into ashes in their mouths. Their brow is furrowed. They shudder at the prospect of a PGW-less society in the future, devoid of the pristine humour which makes one unwind after the harsh slings and arrows of Life have taken their toll. The human race, which is trying to cope with such dark clouds on the horizon as global warming, terrorism, economic inequality, exclusivity, et al, deserves as many rays of bright sunshine as life can offer. Unless the young ones take sprightly interest in some Plummy offerings, the future would be utterly dull, dreary, desolate and depressing, to say the least.

But what the well-meaning coves ignore in the process are the kind of positive vibes being generated and the good work being done by PGW societies in UK, Netherlands, USA and elsewhere. Erudite scholars keep coming up with delectable analyses of the Master’s works across dedicated websites and blog sites. Authors of all hues keep dishing out Plummy narratives at frequent intervals. Ardent fans keep exchanging Plummy notes with each other over various social media platforms. Then there are celebrities and members of royal families who keep chipping in with their endorsements, thereby facilitating the spread of Wodehousitis.

The bright parabola of joy

The bliss one experiences while devouring any segment of the Master’s canon is cheerfully bright. His innovative use of language is only one of the factors. The sunlit streets of Plumsville are paved with cobbled stones of subtle humour. These also have a depth which comprises a rich foundation of diverse facets of human knowledge, values and psychology. While pottering about in these, one is apt to come across not only such intellectual coves as Spinoza and Nietzsche, but also literary giants like Shakespeare, Tennyson, Byron, and even historic figures like Julius Caesar, Sir Philip Sidney and Napoleon. Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego and several other Biblical references keep popping up.

When admiring the gardens at Blandings Castle, one comes across a delightful variety of flora and fauna which enlarge the frontiers of one’s knowledge. Many of his narratives enthuse one to not to give in to the pleasures of the table and thereby keep one’s lining of the stomach in the pink of health. Some others impart lessons in morality, especially when it comes to pinching manuscripts, scarabs, silver cow creamers and even cooks. Not to forget the kind of spiritual and pragmatic lessons underlying in his works.

In fact, the more the human race hurtles forward on its perilous journey plagued by such technological developments as Artificial Intelligence, Robotics, Data Analytics and the Internet of Things, the higher would be the relevance of the kind of rich lessons embedded in the fare dished out by Plum. Industrial Revolution 4.0 (or even 5.0) notwithstanding, humans cannot be wished away. Yes, with each leap of technological faith, their role in the society would evolve. But one wonders if the psychology of the individual would ever vanish from the face of our planet. And herein lies the hope for the survival of Wodehousitis.

In defence of the Escapist tag

In a thought-provoking article ‘P G Wodehouse: Balm for the Modern Soul’, (Wooster Sauce: March 2019), Dean Abbott argues as follows:

‘Outside of the sheer pleasure that reading a Wodehouse story provides, there are deeper rewards a reader gleans from his work, benefits that accrue long after any volume is closed. Wodehouse excels at providing the reader two important spiritual benefits: consolation from the sufferings of the world and some insight regarding why we suffer in the first place. In the end, his work is singular balm for the modern soul, comedy that tends towards theodicy.

‘The reality is that modern people, even if they are unconscious of it, require consolation, a buffer against and an escape from the disappointment and turmoil of earthly life, as much as people in any other period ever did – quite possibly more so. People in the old world, at least, could admit without shame their need for consolation. We are denied even that.’

One could not agree more with the proposition that the modern man, mentally fatigued by the relentless pounding of social media and 24×7 connectivity, richly deserves to win a reprieve for himself and his loved ones. Project this into a future replete with technological advances, and one would realise the increasing relevance of the scintillating and wisdom-laced humour found in the Master’s repertoire.

A peep into the future

Just imagine the future. The day is not far off when the following would cease to surprise:

  1. Someone of the calibre of Spinoza releasing a tome entitled An Ethical Theory for Bots.
  2. Gussie Fink Nottle gushing over genetically modified newts.
  3. Madeline Bassett using an Emotion Tracking App to check the right time to gaze up at the stars and reaffirm these to be God’s daisy chain.
  4. Uncle Tom deploying Artificial Intelligence to keep the taxation wolves at bay.
  5. Aunt Dahlia using crowd-funding to keep Milady’s Boudoir alive and kicking, so her nephews like Bertie Wooster could contribute such articles as What the Well-Dressed Robots are Wearing.
  6. Jeeves using Data Mining and Data Visualisation to be able to argue against the suitability of wannabe spouses for Bertie Wooster, thereby keeping his own career prospects as bright as ever.
  7. Gussie, when suspecting that his notebook containing juicy remarks on Pop Bassett and Roderick Spode may be in Stiffy’s possession, merely using a paper-whiffing GPS-enabled gadget to locate the same, rather than trying to persuade Bertie to give up his chivalrous tendencies.
  8. Bingo Little deploying the Internet of Things to ensure that Rosie M Banks never misses her afternoon cup of tea, thereby ensuring that matrimonial peace prevails.
  9. Silver cow creamers coming with embedded smart chips, making it easier to track them, thereby rendering endeavours to register scorn at them in antique shops futile, thus reducing the carbon footprints of mentally negligible nephews.
  10. The Efficient Baxter leveraging technology to ensure that the Empress of Blandings gets her daily nourishment of 57,800 calories, as per the Wolff-Lehmann feeding standards, thus maintaining the prospects of her winning silver medals at the Shropshire Agricultural Show year after year.

The possibilities are endless. The mind boggles.

An informal reality check

Arising out of a discussion between two PGW fans at the virtual Drones Club, a query was recently posted by Pradeep Swaminathan (the gentleman who had recently unleashed his book ‘Enter Mrs Bertie’ on the unsuspecting public) as to the age of the fans in the group. Of the 145 fans who responded, as many as 103 were found to be below the age of 40! Moreover, 4 of the fans were of 80 years and above, what with Mrs Sushama Varma from India (who has already seen 88 springs in her life time, though she is merely 22 at heart) being the senior most fan active in the gang.

A very small and unrepresentative sample from the universe inhabited by Plum’s fans the world over, skeptics might be quick to point out. Admittedly, yes. But hope remains in the form of the younger ones who march into the future with their chins up and with their upper lips unstiffened, duly emboldened by the germs of Wodehousitis coursing through their veins.

And if some of them were to decide to walk the aisle together, the progeny is quite likely to inherit the pleasurable affliction alluded to here. This would mean that the nurses, the baby-sitters, the governesses, the private-school masters and the public-school masters who will take on the responsibility of looking after such rare specimen of humanity who represent a delectable blend of the genes of their parents, could breathe easy.

So could those of the well-meaning souls which worry about the future of Wodehousitis.

(Related Posts:

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

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2017/12/02/the-need-to-look-for-plummy-soul-mates

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

 

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Quite a few CEOs, when they wake up the day after having secured a crucial business deal, experience a sense of calm happiness within. The flowers are in full bloom, the sun shines with due benevolence, the birds and the bees hop around doing what Mother Nature has ordained them to do, God is in heaven and all appears to be fine with the world.

If they happen to be at a resort with a fresh water lake nearby, they prefer to splash about a bit and invigorate themselves. While taking a leisurely swim, they even start exercising their vocal chords, belting out a favourite song of theirs, generating in the process an off-tune gruesome sound which is calculated to startle the stoutest. Two bees, buzzing among the roses, stop as one bee and look at each other with raised eyebrows. Snails withdraw into their shells. A squirrel practicing for her athletic performance in the upcoming Olympics on a nearby tree nearly falls off its branch. A deer roaming around in the bushes nearby, its reverie disrupted, decides to scoot off to a quieter location. But such CEOs, blissfully unaware of the confusion being caused in the animal kingdom by virtue of their expression of inner bliss, persevere in their endeavours.

Bhagavad Gita speaks of three kinds of happiness – the Sattvic (Pure) kind, the Rajasic (Passionate) kind, and the Tamasic (Dull) kind.

Sattvic: The unalloyed bliss of happiness

The happiness that a CEO experiences when she has executed a business plan successfully, or has convinced the board of directors of the merits of an acquisition proposal, would be that of the pure kind. A path-breaking approach has been taken. Her vision, courage and conviction are easily visible. Much hard work and effort has gone into the work accomplished. Details have been examined with a fine tooth comb. While working on such plans, the proverbial midnight oil has been burnt. Some personal sacrifices have been made. Initial pain and difficulties have been suffered and overcome. A combination of the hard work put in, the self-control exercised in the process, and the resultant sense of self-perfection leads to this kind of happiness.

When we use the term Peace, this is indeed the kind of happiness we refer to.

यत्तदग्रे विषमिव परिणामेऽमृतोपमम् |
तत्सुखं सात्विकं प्रोक्तमात्मबुद्धिप्रसादजम् || 18.37||

That which seems like poison at first, but tastes like nectar in the end, is said to be happiness in the mode of goodness. It is generated by the pure intellect that is situated in self-knowledge.

For those of you who have come across the movie Invictus, the visionary leadership of Nelson Mandela comes across very clearly. He blunts the edge of apartheid by using the game of rugby to unite his populace, when they cheer Springboks, the team of the South African Rugby Union, to a victory in the 1995 Rugby World Cup.

The title of the movie could be translated from Latin to mean ‘unconquered’. Here is the poem bearing the same title:

Out of the night that covers me,

Black as the pit from pole to pole,

I thank whatever gods may be

For my unconquerable soul.

 

In the fell clutch of circumstance

I have not winced nor cried aloud.

Under the bludgeonings of chance

My head is bloody, but unbowed.

 

Beyond this place of wrath and tears

Looms but the Horror of the shade,

And yet the menace of the years

Finds and shall find me unafraid.

 

It matters not how strait the gate,

How charged with punishments the scroll,

I am the master of my fate,

I am the captain of my soul.

 

(William Ernest Henley)

 One can well imagine the kind of unalloyed happiness experienced by those at the helm of affairs in a challenging situation of that kind.

Many CEOs keep fighting the battle of the abdominal bulge. When they take their doctor’s advice seriously and start either jogging or brisk walking, the initial pain and resistance from within act as a deterrent. However, once a habit gets formed, they enjoy better health and happiness.

Rajasic: The mundane shade of happiness

The passionate kind of happiness gets experienced when her ambition of a C-suite gets fulfilled. Or, when she gets a reserved parking slot earmarked for her vehicle. Or, even when the security guard and the liftman salute her upon entry to her fiefdom. Power, pelf and prestige present a package which gives rise to a fleeting sense of happiness in her bosom. But beneath the happiness is a layer of anxiety, because none of these can be taken for granted. In fact, the risk of her developing a queen-size ego and believing that she is omnipotent is pretty high. A major setback in career could just be around the corner, sneaking up and striking her with the stuffed eel-skin of business life.

विषयेन्द्रियसंयोगाद्यत्तदग्रेऽमृतोपमम् |
परिणामे विषमिव तत्सुखं राजसं स्मृतम् || 38||

Happiness is said to be in the mode of passion when it is derived from the contact of the senses with their objects. Such happiness is like nectar at first but poison at the end.

Indira Nooyi, ex-President of PepsiCo, says:

‘Just because you are CEO, don’t think you have landed. You must continually increase your learning, the way you think, and the way you approach the organization.’

 

Tamasic: Happiness which leads to a fall from grace

The dull kind is one which is based entirely on the gratification of senses. Lord Krishna points out three specific causes which result in a happiness of this kind:

  1. When emotional and mental sleep leads to one not being able to understand the reality, or one trudges through life without a clear goal in life;
  2. A state of inertia of the intellect when one decides to let others govern one’s life, or allows one’s instincts and impulses to govern her decisions and approach to problem solving.
  3. Ignoring the ‘inner voice’, one perfects the art of heedlessness and often gets into an adventurous mode, indulging in sensory gratification, eventually leading to a spectacular downfall.

यदग्रे चानुबन्धे च सुखं मोहनमात्मन: |
निद्रालस्यप्रमादोत्थं तत्तामसमुदाहृतम् || 39||

That happiness which covers the nature of the self from beginning to end, and which is derived from sleep, indolence, and negligence, is said to be in the mode of ignorance.

Ask Martin Winterkorn, the former chairman of the board of directors of Volkswagen AG, who put in his papers during September 2015, several days after the infamous emissions cheating scandal came up. He also resigned as chairman of Audi on 11 November 2015, after further information associated with the scandal was revealed in regard to VW’s gasoline-powered engines. He was criminally indicted over the emissions cheating scandal in the USA on May 3, 2018 on charges of fraud and conspiracy. In April 2019, he was criminally indicted on charges of fraud in Germany. His is a clear case for the kind of transient happiness CEOs should not aim for.

A wise CEO who happens to be aware of different hues of happiness would manage the wild horses of her desires, her egoistic tendencies and her anger and resentments in such a manner as to truly aim for the Sattvic variety of happiness. In other words, do a great job and experience the inner glow of contentment.

Peter Drucker is also of the opinion that happiness is irrelevant in the management context:

‘Never mind your happiness; do your duty.’

 

(Related Posts:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2018/12/05/looking-for-a-ceo-who-is-peaceful-and-happy

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2014/07/02/a-quest-for-true-happiness)

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all flockbinkers are treadknicious... and other salient observations

Abstract:  In which P.G. Wodehouse’s classic creation Mr. Bertram Wooster dines at Chili’s with two classical Asian philosophers–Mr. Confucius and Mr. Buddha–and finds himself, oh, a bit out of his depth. Eh what?


If you’ve ever dipped into the fiction of British author P.G. Wodehouse, you are doubtless familiar with the character of Bertie Wooster.  You know, the somewhat sub-brainful scion of one of the English ruling families of about a hundred years ago.  And if you’ve ever dipped into the literature of the Ancient East, you are probably familiar with the characters of Kung Fu Tzu (Confucius) and Shakyamuni (the Buddha).

But…ha! And i shall say it again: Ha! Has it ever occurred to you to imagine the conversation that might arise should Young Bertram find himself in the presence of these two ancient worthies, at Chili’s Restaurant? No! Of course it hasn’t. That’s why i’m the one…

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ashokbhatia

A saunter down the Gallery of Rogue Kids in Plumsville leaves us amazed at the innovative skills, cunning and resource of the children we come across in the works of P G Wodehouse.

Some end up boosting the sagging morale of their fathers. Some treat their step fathers with as much scorn as theyPGW PiccadillyJim can muster at a tender age. They do not spare them while out to collect protection money. Their antics could make or break matrimonial alliances in a jiffy. Souring up business deals comes easy to them. When they burn down cottages, guests are forced to seek shelter in garden sheds.

When seniors devise a Good Conduct award, they leave no stone unturned to prove their mettle. When infatuated with celebrities, they devote their lives to being worthy of their affections. When in the company of clergymen, they end up making them more spiritual, thereby making them…

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ashokbhatia

We have already discussed the antics of some of the kids we encounter in Plumsville. Barring Edwin the Boy Scout and Ogden Ford, we have failed to meet anyone who can aspire to rise to the same heights of roguishness that Master Thomas achieves.

Thos

Master Thomas is the King of the Underworld. He is also known as The Shadow. He has carroty hair and a cynical expression. His manner is curt and supercilious. Annoy him, and he could arrange for a drawing pin to greet your fleshy parts when you sit on your favourite chair.

A tip from Captain Flint

In Jeeves and the Impending Doom (Very Good, Jeeves), Thos is being tutored by Bingo Little at Woollam Chersey, Aunt Agatha’s place, where Bertie has been invited over. Unbeknown to him, the aunt aspires for a secretarial career for Bertie, assisting Mr Filmer, the Cabinet Minister.

When…

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ashokbhatia

Bingo Little Junior and Prudence Baxter earn a negative ranking on the Richter scale of Roguishness. However, there are several others who deceive us with their apparent innocence – Kid Clamentina, Oswald and Peggy Mainwaring, to name the ones we have covered in the last post.

Here are a few more who deserve to be considered.

Bonzo

Bonzo, the son of Aunt Dahlia, has a sound reputation as a pest. But if Thos sets a gold standard in devilry, Bonzo is merely a good, ordinary mischief-maker. His proud mother compares the two as follows:

‘Whenever it comes to devilry, Bonzo is a good, ordinary selling-plater. Whereas Thomas is a classic yearling.’

When Bonzo is in love, his nature gets altered. He tries to lead a finer, betterVeryGoodJeeves life. When tempted to climb on the roof and boo down Mr Anstruther’s chimney, he refuses to oblige. When prompted to burst a…

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