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Archive for March, 2020

The world can now be said to be inhabited by at least three kinds of Bollywood fans. These are newer communities emerging the world over, irrespective of their age, sex, religion, caste, wealth, political leanings and nationality. This is one of the several boons being granted to a despondent humanity by the dreaded Corona virus. A macro-level restructuring of the entire planet is already on its way.

One tribe is that of those who are blissfully unaware of the consequences of suffering from this virus. Members of this tribe keep going around in a carefree manner, possibly believing themselves to be far different than the hoi polloi, a cut above the rest and invincible. Experts would label members of this tribe as Covidiots. They pose a serious threat to most of us.

Another kind are the ones who are clueless, suffering a deep sense of anxiety and dreading its arrival on their doorsteps. They keep twiddling their thumbs trying to figure out as to when it would strike them. Either out of fear or a desire to keep themselves and their near and dear ones safe and healthy, they try to follow as many do’s and dont’s which keep popping up on their smart screens with a frequency which could put an atomic clock to shame. One may call such obedient persons as Covidients.

Yet another tribe comprises die-hard optimists who believe they are watching a horror film, tucking into their favourite snack and occasionally sipping some atrociously-priced coffee, waiting for the last reel to unfold, hoping for a happy ending. Had they been watching it at home, they would have preferred to watch the same in a fast forward mode. They might be labelled as Covimists.

For succour, members of all these tribes can readily turn to some songs dished out by our Bollywood flicks over the decades. Here is a random sample of the same.

 

Songs which are best avoided by Covidients

 

Abhi na jao chhod kar

(Hum Dono, 1961)

 

Mujh ko apne gale laga lo

(Hamrahi, 1963)

 

Lag jaa gale

(Woh Kaun Thi, 1964)

 

Choo lene do

(Kaajal, 1965)

 

Rut hai milan ki

(Mela, 1971)

 

Baahon mein chale aao

(Anamika, 1973)

 

Jaane do na

(Sagar, 1985)

 

Jumma chumma de de 

(Hum, 1991)

 

Ang se ang lagana

(Darr, 1993)

 

Dhiktana

(Hum Aapke Hain Kaun…!, 1994)

 

Maiyya Yashoda

(Hum Saath Saath Hain, 1999)

 

Chupke se lag ja gale 

(Saathiya, 2002)

 

M bole to

(Munna Bhai MBBS, 2003)

 

Yeh tara woh tara 

(Swades, 2004)

 

Tere haath mein mera haath ho

(Fanaa, 2006)

 

Songs which might motivate Covidiots to mend their ways

 

Mere piya gaye rangoon

Patanga, 1949

 

Jalte hain jiske liye

(Sujata, 1959)

 

Chalo ek baar phir se 

(Gumrah, 1963)

 

Songs which may suit the Covimists

 

Saathi haath badhana

Naya Daur, 1957

 

Hum honge kamyab

(Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron, 1983)

 

Aye mere humsafar

(Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak, 1988)

 

Human ingenuity knows no bounds. Fashionistas are devising women’s headgear incorporating a noise and mouth, keeping viruses and those with amorous intentions at bay, cheering up the Covidients.

Behavioural Scientists are burning the proverbial midnight oil to come up with therapeutic packages which can help the Covidiots improve their ability to realize the limits of their own – rather limited – abilities. Human resource consultants are busy dishing out programs which would assist managements to instill a better sense of equanimity and resilience among their employees, something which was recommended by Lord Krishna more than 5,000 years back.

Covimists, delighted at the environment bouncing back to the pink of its health and noticing a trend towards better sustainability, await the day when many of the perks of the pandemic would truly get appreciated and acted upon so the human race can continue its relentless journey towards evolution.

And here is a tribute to Mother Nature:

Yeh kaun chitrakaar hai

(Boond Jo Ban Gayi Moti, 1967)

 

 

(The following inputs are gratefully appreciated:

  1. Suggestions for some of the songs listed here, courtesy Sanjana Bhatia.
  2. Terms like Covidiots and Covedients courtesy The Economic Times).

 

 

 

 

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The conversation at the bar-parlour of the Angler’s Rest revolved around cinema and, and, as often happens, Miss Postlethwaite, our erudite barmaid and avid cinema goer, was at the centre of it.

‘”Bouncy Borgias” is now one my favourite films of all time’ said she to a Stout and Bitter. ‘And Lorna Laverne was marvellous as Lucrezia Borgia. Fancy being at the heart of all that poisoning, stabbing and strangling and be able to sing, dance and keep those wily Cardinals in line into the bargain.‘

‘I beg to differ’, uttered a Scotch and Soda. ‘Her role as Agustina Domenech in “Pirouetting Peninsulars” took historical facts to a new dimension. I never thought that the balletic and vocal efforts of women could deal such tremendous blows to Napoleon’s troops. The Duke of Wellington surely learned a thing or two from them.’

‘You may well have a point, there’, said a Tankard of Ale.

‘Not to mention “Gengis, the Graceful Khan”’, said a Brandy and Ginger Ale.

This was when Mr. Mulliner, with his usual sense of timing and courtesy, stepped in. ‘I am so glad you enjoy Miss Laverne’s terpsichorean performances. But credit must be given where it is due, and, in her present case, it must be laid at my nephew Cedric’s door.’

‘You mean your nephew discovered her?’ asked Miss Postlethwaite, in wonder.

‘Discovered would be going too far. By the time they first met she already was a star in the Hollywood firmament’, replied Mr. Mulliner. ‘What Cedric did was to point in the right direction. Or stumble. Or fall, if one wants to be precise.’

‘It must have been quite a feat’, added a Gin Gimlet.

It was not without its trials and tribulations’ (said Mr. Mulliner), since it happened almost at the end of that Coronavirus scare, when Cedric was working for the Medulla-Oblongata Studios as a humble Nodder, a position far below that of a Yesser (of which there are Senior Yessers, Yessers and Junior Yessers) at cinema script and treatment conferences where the studio boss is present. And it was one of those conferences – where tempers where already strained, given that the boss of the Medulla-Oblongata Studios had, months before, decided to quarantine all the staff and artistes in the studio lot to keep things going – that presented Cedric with the opportunity to further his and Miss Laverne’s careers.

‘Next item on the agenda: I need to find a way to keep that Lorna Laverne here and cease from pestering me’, said the boss of the Medulla-Oblongata Studios. ‘She demands that I take her career to a new level, or else she will leave and sign a deal with the Colossal-Exquisite people and sue me for “artistic damages” or something like that.’

‘But isn’t she happy with what she’s got here?’ asked a casting director. ‘If I recall correctly, she was plain Miss Lulubelle McCracker, winner of a beauty pageant in Wyoming involving wrestling bisons, juggling loaded and cocked Winchester rifles whilst hoofing and felling trees by shouting before we took her in. And now she is up there on the screen, bejewelled, coiffed and dressed in silks and furs as the favourite moll of top-drawer gangsters and ruffians – and being handsomely paid for it, too. What more can a dame want at this day and age?’

‘All this is true, my friend, but this particular dame wants more’, said the boss. ‘She wants to “venture abroad”, “enlighten the masses” or something like that. I can deal with any lawsuits she may throw at us, but her physical strength, voice and dexterity with a loaded and cocked firearm can be extremely unsettling.’

‘This is as huge a lulu as I’ve ever seen’, interjected a director. ‘Her acting capabilities beyond her present roles are negligible, and her knowledge of history extends only as far as last year’s Big League baseball results’.

‘That’s as may be’, retorted the boss, ‘but we must find a way out of this. Go away, think about it and let’s meet again here in two hours. I want solutions, gentlemen, and urgently. Bring me ideas. Find a way to give that harpy the ”enlightenment” she wants to give the masses and I will not forget the one who does it – nor those who don’t’, he ended, menacingly.

On that note, Cedric nodded and left the conference room in a sombre mood. He desperately wanted to get on in life so as to be able to marry his affianced and, for the past months, had been practising his “Yesses” in the privacy of his studio bunk in the hope that, once he had proved beyond doubt that his nodding was as good as any, he could get a leg up to Junior Yesser – and getting the sack now would put paid to all his plans. But he knew that the task ahead was gigantic and time was short: beyond the statuesque figure, alabaster skin, sultry eyes, cascading hair and dazzling smile that had propelled her to the silver screen, Lorna Laverne was, literally, a slab of granite – and one thoroughly refractory to being interfered with by any hammer and chisel at that. Besides, the enforced confinement in the studio had taken its toll on him, sapping his mental faculties and setting his nerves on edge.

But we, Mulliners, do not run away from the battlefield, however large the odds against us may be. Thus, Cedric decided to fortify himself with a hamburger and a frosted malted milk at the commissary before entering the fray, and duly made his way there, where he found himself seated next to a stuntman of unmistakeable Latin extraction and inquisitive stare.

‘You look troubled, amigo’, said the stuntman, in a demonstration of unexpected sympathy and insight. ‘Whatever your problems are, you will not solve them with malted milk. What you want is a good, chilled bottle of Corona beer. It will help you think straight, believe me. By the way, my name is Garcia and I work as a stuntman here’.

Cedric was surprised by such a friendly intrusion and alarmed at the mention of the name Garcia, but – unlike the unshaven, unkempt, uneducated, uncouth and untrustworthy desperados, gunslingers, cattle-rustlers and corrupt colonial despots that ancient family supplies in astonishingly large numbers (matched only, and occasionally, by the Gonzales) to Hollywood’s films – that particular Garcia seemed capable of passing muster in polite society.

‘That’s very civil of you’, said Cedric, ‘but I fear that alcohol will impair my judgement. I have an important meeting in two hours’ time, and must keep all my wits about me so as to be able to have some ideas and, maybe, land a promotion. And does this beer have anything at all to do with that virus that has been doing the rounds? Oh, and my name is Mulliner, by the way’.

‘There’s nothing to it, Mulliner. Corona is known for its soothing, refreshing action and is also a heck of a guaranteed virus-killer. I usually have a couple before being chucked down some flights of stairs or hurled off the back of a bull and trampled by the rest of the herd. If anything, it helps dull the ensuing pain’, said the genial stuntman in an encouraging way.

That did it. Cedric needed to refresh his brain, soothe his nerves and take insurance against the probable pain of the sack later on, and ordered a bottle. It came chilled and with a wedge of lemon stuck down its neck, something that did not prevent him from downing it in one go and gave it an extremely pleasant lemonade-like taste. But now the table he was sitting at began to fill with a dozen or more friends of the stuntman: fellow stuntmen, gofers, assistant directors, a wardrobe assistant and suchlike, and the arrival of every newcomer had to be marked and celebrated with bottles of Corona beer, again downed in one.

‘This is Cedric, a Limey who nods at board meetings’, was the way he was introduced to every newcomer. Cedric took a thorough liking to that jolly group of stalwarts of the film industry who made him forget his troubles (most particularly Lorna Laverne and what to do for her) and emulated their drinking to the point of first getting utterly yet unwittingly sozzled and, then, engaging in jovial and earthy banter with them – which climaxed in a food fight that brought a whole, freshly baked and expertly thrown apple pie to land on his midriff, liberally spreading its contents over his trousers, coat, shirt, tie, socks and shoes.

The impact of the apple pie, as well as the damage its shrapnel did to his clothes, put a stop to Cedric’s revelries and brought down to earth with a thud. Apart from looking like a casualty of a botched up heist on a pastry shop, being unable to say “British Constitution” properly and stand up without swaying, he had not had a single thought about how to give Lorna Laverne what she wanted. The situation suddenly turned from festive to funereal and his face showed it, whereupon the amiable lady wardrobe assistant asked: ‘What’s the matter, Limey? You look like you have to face a firing squad next’.

‘I will schertainly have to feish one’, Cedric replied, leaning forward with arms planted on the table for support. ‘I have to be at the boardroom in fifteen minitssh and look at the schhhtate of me… The bosshhhh will not like it. I will get the shack‘.

‘Then we have to do something about it’, said the resourceful wardrobe assistant. ‘First let’s get you some clothes and then some of the boys can carry you to the boardroom’.

‘Jolly deeeshent of you’, replied Cedric, now lying in a heap on the floor. ‘Muttsh appressshiated’.

Following that, four of the stuntmen whisked Cedric away to the wardrobe cupboard in an adjoining sound studio and the wardrobe mistress rummaged inside it to see what could fit him, having found a pair of Arabic slippers with curled toes, riding breeches, a Napoleonic army tunic and a Mongolian pointed hat – and that would have to do. Cedric was quickly decanted into that potpourri of clothes whilst forced to ingest half a gallon of black coffee and have cold water thrown on his face in the process. Then the four stuntmen carried him to the boardroom whilst trying to give instructions as to how to behave once there:

‘Walk towards your chair whilst having your back pressed hard against the wall’, said one.

‘Do what you do best: say nothing, look at the boss and just nod – but not so hard as to bang your head on the table’, said another.

Presently, they arrived at the conference room’s door, where, from within, the sounds of a most serious altercation could be heard, since Miss Lorna Laverne had decided to give the boss of the Medulla-Oblongata Studios an ultimatum in person and stormed into the conference room full of executives, Yessers and Nodders before Cedric could arrive there.

‘Come now, Lorna. There’s no need to break things or point that gun at me. I have my best people working on ideas to give you what you want’, the boss was heard to say, sounding clearly afraid for his life.

‘Really, sweetie? Do you? And what have your so called best people done, so far?’ Lorna retorted, in a voice dripping with scorn, as she sent a china ornament smashing against a wall. ‘Nothing. Zilch. Bupkes. That’s what. This collection of idiots can´t think of anything original for me. Look at them: afraid to pitch a single good idea and incapable to say a word about it out of fear. I will have to take steps! I have my reputation to protect! I have an artistic name to consider! I have warned you! I have the Colossal-Exquisite people right outside, despite the quarantine, with a big fat contract awaiting my signature, a lawyer ready to file a major suit against you and a press-agent rubbing his hands in anticipation of a juicy story about how you have been hampering my career on purpose!’

‘But Lorna. Lulubelle, dear…’ croaked the studio boss, pleadingly. ‘Please understand…’

‘Don’t you Lulubelle me, you insect! It’s Miss Laverne to you from now on. And good-bye forever!’ shouted Lorna as she threw her Colt 45 revolver up in the air before catching it in her handbag and jerked open the door to leave the conference room and the premises of the Medulla-Oblongata Studios forever. And this is when the tables were turned, both in the figurative and the literal sense.

What no-one inside the room knew was that such a magnificent altercation, carrying with it the exciting possibilities of furniture being smashed, glass broken and shots fired, had galvanised the attention of Cedric and the four stuntmen, with bets on who would come out of that room unscathed, slightly injured or in need of an ambulance placed. And also that Cedric, due to his inebriated state and to better hear how events were unfolding inside, together with the stuntmen, had been leaning sideways with one ear pressed against the door. So, when Lorna Laverne yanked the door open from the inside, she caused Cedric and the stuntmen to enter the room from the outside in a most spectacular, unusual and, in her eyes, entrancing manner.

Cedric, in his melange of an attire and inebriated state, unused to breaking falls and caught unawares by the sudden lack of support to his body, came first. He took five sideways, uneven and twirling steps into the conference room whilst rotating his outstretched arms like a dervish whose gyroscope had been damaged and plunged sidelong on to the floor, upsetting, in the process, an occasional table, a coffee table and a hat-stand. Two of the stuntmen closest to Cedric at the door came into the room almost at the same time as he did, but managed to avoid the debris on the floor, somersaulted over his falling body and landed neatly on their knees on top of the conference table with their backs arched backwards and arms extending upwards as if to indicate that their performance had been completed. The other two stuntmen entered the room a second later in judo-like, downward and sideways movements, rolled noiselessly on the floor and stood up in one single motion as if that was their usual way of entering rooms. For a moment, nobody else in the conference room could do anything but to stare in utter disbelief at what had just happened, and it fell upon Lorna Laverne, looking fixedly at Cedric’s collapsed form on the floor, to break the silence.

‘That’s it! That’s what I was looking for! You’ve done it!’ she said in a voice that shattered an ashtray next to one of the “Yessers”.

‘Who did what, Lorna? What do you mean?’ asked the boss, now trying to nurse a perforated eardrum.

‘He did it! The one who came in first! The one who performed that wonderfully exotic dance whilst dressed like one of those French sultans who served in the Colombian-Russo-Manchurian cavalry, as we read about in history books! That’s what I mean: this is culture! This is history told in a way anyone can like! This is foreign!’ Lorna said, clearly enraptured.

‘He is a foreigner, Lorna. He’s a Limey’, painfully retorted the studio boss.

‘So much the better’, replied Lorna. ‘I’ll bet his family is as old as New York City Hall and he has been to a university founded some years before Wrigley Field was built. And what is the name of that genius, that hero, and what does he do here?’

‘His name is Cedric Mulliner, and he is a Nodder’, said the boss, now realising that, for some reason still unclear to him, his problems with Lorna Laverne seemed to be disappearing.

‘Not anymore, buster’, said Lorna decisively. From now on, not only he is a Senior Yesser at ten times his present salary but also – and on a separate, special contract at that, at two thousand dollars a week, plus an extra five hundred apiece for his four assistants here who will ensure the historical integrity of every plot – my sole advisor and script developer for singing and dancing historical movies in which I will star! Ah, yes! And you will lift this dreadful quarantine that you have imposed on us! That’s what I demand. And if you don’t like it, I’ll take myself, Cedric the Limey and whomever he wants from this two-bit outfit and go to Colossal-Exquisite. It’s entirely up to you, mister!’

‘Let me see if I am getting this right, Lorna’, said the boss, now with some of his composure regained. ‘If I give you Cedric Mulliner, lift the quarantine, agree to all your terms and conditions and let you create and be the star in what you call “historical movies to enlighten the masses” you will remain with us, stop harassing me and no longer pose a threat to my life?’

‘Attaboy!’, replied Lorna. That’s exactly what I mean’.

‘And you, Mr. Mulliner? Do you agree to be promoted from Nodder to Senior Yesser and also become Miss Laverne’s chief scenario developer, all that under the terms and financial conditions she has just put to me? If not, is there anything more you want?’ asked the boss.

Apart from medical attention to deal with his bruises and the inevitably ensuing hangover, there was nothing more that Cedric could even contemplate wanting. And given his still inebriated condition and also by force of old habit, he could but nod in agreement.

(Eduardo Garcia introduces himself thus:

Eduardo “Duca” Garcia is quite probably the most un-trendy and least technologically-savvy person involved with Trends Studies. He is also a human salad, having been born in Rio, received an anglicised education and lived in the UK, Spain, Central Asia and Portugal. To complicate matters further, he is married to a woman of Brazilian, English, U.S. and Greek extraction – whose stepfather was a Dutchman – and his son lives and works in Denmark.

His career was mostly devoted to Marketing and Advertising, something that forced him to look at the consumer, society and mentalities in more detail – if only to avoid sending the wrong message to the wrong people at the wrong time and being rightly sacked for doing so – and his start in Trends Studies began when he was in Kazakhstan and Carl Rohde was unwise enough to invite him to contribute to Science of the Time.

He can be contacted at eduardo.garcia@40maislab.pt or through Facebook.)

(Permission to publish this piece on this blog site is gratefully acknowledged!)

 

(Illustration courtesy Wikipedia)

(Related Posts: 

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2020/03/20/jeeves-deals-with-croronavirus-guest-post-by-eduardo-garcia

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2020/03/23/psmith-shares-with-lord-emsworth-a-smart-marriage-plan-to-ward-off-corona-virus)

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You would not find the Bhagavad Gita in the self help section of a library or a book store. It is good that it is so. A book of the stature of Bhagavad Gita should not be reduced to the level of popular, (maybe even best seller) self help books which give a feel good message when you read and are shallow and misleading when you probe deeper. But if you ever get to understand the core message of Bhagavad Gita, you will find that this is the self help book you have been looking for all your life.

There are reasons why I say so. Self help books focus on one thing – how to get what you want. Self help authors and motivational gurus suggest various seemingly easy and short cut methods to achieve what you want. But they don’t tell you what you should want. Bhagavad Gita does so. It tells you what should be the highest goal of a human being.

It is important first of all to know what you want. Quite often people work hard for years for something, but after they get it they become more frustrated. They wish they should not have desired to achieve that.

Secondly, when you only prescribe ways for getting what you want, it can be utilised for good purpose as well as evil purpose. It can also be utilised for pure selfish purpose which would come at the general good of the society. In fact many self help books encourage you to be selfish and recommend unethical methods to achieve your goal.

These so called motivational authors call their books self help books. But tell me about any self help book where first of all some idea about ‘self’ is given. The fact is that they themselves may not be knowing what self is all about. Bhagavad Gita fulfills this shortcoming. It gives you some idea about your innermost core which is elusive to the conscious mind but can be experienced in deep meditation. Let me assure you, if you don’t have the proper perspective about the ‘self’, no amount of tips, tricks, and hacks will be of any long term use to you.

We are all interdependent, not only from human society point of view, but also from the point of view of our surroundings consisting of living and non-living elements. We cannot progress in isolation. Self help books rarely talk about your position in the cosmic order of things. These books never give you the big picture. Remember that if your actions are not aligned with the big picture of things, the selfish goals you achieve by using the unethical and near- unethical tips and tricks of self help books will frustrate you in the long run even after you get all your desires fulfilled.

In an earlier post also while explaining the fallacy of the self help books I had recommended Bhagavad Gita as one of the few books that I have come across to be of real help. But, to understand the core message of Bhagavad Gita there are practical difficulties. There are thousands of translated versions of Bhagavad Gita available in various languages. If you do not have expertise in Sanskrit, you will not know how wide off the mark many of such translations and their commentaries are. Even knowing Sanskrit is not enough. To understand Bhagavad Gita one should have basic knowledge of various systems of Indian philosophy known as Darshanas.

While going through various books on Bhagavad Gita in the three languages that I can read and write I found that many of the interpreters did not have any experience in yoga or meditation. Such people who set out to interpret Bhagavad Gita do great injustice to the book.

In spite of all the shortcomings it is worthwhile to try the Bhagavad Gita in whatever versions you may land your hands on. These days of course you have many online versions. It may be useful to compare two to three versions to enable you to at least get the core versions. By the way my own version is also underway. From time to time while going through various versions of the Bhagavad Gita I have made notes of insights gained. My advantage is that I can fairly understand Sanskrit even though I am no expert in it.

 

(The original post can be accessed at ‘Pebbles and Waves’ : durgadash.com. Permission to repost it here is gratefully acknowledged).

(Related Posts:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2017/02/01/sacred-scriptures-of-india-and-the-bhagavad-gita

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2019/03/27/when-ceos-are-left-twiddling-their-thumbs-bhagavad-gita-could-help)

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Lord Emsworth went to the window and looked out. The sun was shining brightly, the birds were chirping along merrily, the hollyhocks, carnations and Canterbury bells were swaying in a gentle breeze and bees, ants and butterflies were going about their business with vigour and vim. In short, God appeared to be in heaven.

But Lord Emsworth was in one of his melancholic moods. What weighed on his conscience was not the loss of his glasses, which were perched firmly on his nose and he could see all things clearly. Baxter, the world’s most efficient secretary, had just parted company with him owing to a difference of opinion in respect of the former hurling flower pots at the window of the latter. He suspected he will have a tough time finding another secretary as capable as Baxter.

However, this melancholy was short-lived. Psmith had just joined him and had successfully managed to secure for himself the vacancy that had arisen. Even though Psmith had confessed to having no prior experience of being a secretary, what went in his favour was the self-confidence with which he proposed his candidature, the fact that he was a member of the Senior Conservative Club and that he was the son Smith, the owner of the Corfby Hall, who had won a prize for tulips at the Shrewsbury Flower Show the year Lord Emsworth had won the prize for roses.

Psmith announced that he was about to be married to Ms Eve Halliday, probably the finest library-cataloguist in the United Kingdom.

‘She is a nice girl,’ said Lord Emsworth.

‘I quite agree with you.’

‘Congratulations are in order, my dear fellow, to both of you.’

‘I am extremely obliged,’ said Psmith. ‘But we are planning to go in for a slimmer, trimmer and smarter marriage, unlike one of those bigger and fatter marriages which take place elsewhere, like in Greece or India.’

‘Eh?’ said his lordship. ‘Is there anything which is causing any problem?’

Psmith patted the shoulder of his employer reassuringly. ‘Yes,’ he said. ‘You might have heard of the Corona Virus which is catching up like wild fire across our planet these days.’

‘Cyrus….do you refer to George Cyrill Wellbeloved?’, enquired his lordship, shaking like an aspen. A dark cloud appeared to be casting a shadow on his visage.

‘No. I allude to a deadly virus which kicked off its journey in China and has rapidly spread across very many countries,’ responded Psmith. ‘It causes fever, cough and breathing difficulties. Human contact must be kept to a minimum to avoid its further spread.’

‘Do you think the Empress could contract this as well,’ cried his lordship, staring like a war horse at the sound of the bugle.

‘I would not venture a guess. Perhaps we need to consult a vet immediately.’

‘Let us do this right away,’ responded his lordship, peering sharply through his glasses. ‘The next Shropshire Show is not too far off, and we need to provide her all the protection she deserves.’

‘Absolutely’, said Psmith. ‘But allow me first to update you on the marriage plans without further delay.’

‘Marriage, eh? But who is marrying whom?’, queried his lordship.

‘Eve and I have plans of walking down the aisle pretty soon.’

‘Oh, yes, yes….quite, quite. Capital. Capital.’

‘As I said, we plan this to be a slimmer, trimmer and smarter affair. If you permit me, I wish to share some details with you.’

‘My dear fellow, you may do so quickly and then rush to arrange my meeting with an eminent vet.’

‘Obliged. We are working on a short video invite which would get delivered on the smart phones of our relatives and close friends. The invitation will request them to be available on their phones at the prescribed time. The marriage will take place only in the presence of our parents. The ceremony will be shown live to all invitees on their phones, thereby minimizing the chances of the virus becoming a contagion of sorts.’

Lord Emsworth drew himself up. But beneath the solemn friendliness of Psmith’s gaze hauteur was not easy to sustain. He sagged again, resigning to the situation.

‘So no wedding cake for all those invited?’ he commented dryly.

‘Far from it. To all those who are virtually present, we plan to send them return gifts comprising yoga manuals, some delectable chocolate figurines showing a marked likeness to the bride and the groom striking a Charleston pose and, of course,  hand sanitizer tissues with which they might wipe all the contents before touching the same. If the epidemic is already under control by then, we would send them gift coupons from famous restaurants located in their city of residence. This way, the carbon footprint of our marriage would be minimal and we shall make a modest contribution towards protecting our near and dear ones from the kind of exotic viruses which Nature keeps unleashing upon us at frequent intervals. Nature is calling upon humanity to change its polluting lifestyles and we need to heed the same. When Nature starts healing itself, all of us shall benefit. Roses, hollyhocks and others of their ilk would be happier. Birds would chirp more merrily. Bees and butterflies would go about doing whatever they do with renewed enthusiasm. Blandings Castle would thus be a happier place.’

Lord Emsworth perked up. ‘A novel idea, my dear fellow,’ he said.

‘We do believe so. It would be a win-win situation because all would get a bird’s eye view of the ceremony, avoiding travel, free of security bottlenecks due to VVIP attendees, no fat charges for hiring large venues, minimizing catering and other incidental costs.’

‘But the warmth of personal contact would be missing, don’t you think?’ commented his lordship.

‘Yes. Many of us would be missing the back-slapping, bonhomie and networking which entails at a traditional wedding. But social distancing is the key idea these days. One has to make tough choices in tougher times.’

Eve passed by on the terrace below. Psmith waved at her. She waved back at both of them and continued with her stroll.

Psmith continued with his tirade.

‘There are many other benefits of a smarter marriage of this kind. One, parents are spared the trauma of plastic smiles they have to put on so they may appear to be fair and polite to all those who land up in flesh and blood. Two, one does not need to hire detectives so as to ensure that all valuables remain safe. Three, with lesser number of those who keep firing instructions at the bride and the groom, both breathe easy and enjoy the proceedings better. Four, elaborate arrangements invariably make our income tax sleuths sit up and take notice. Such obnoxious occurrences are best avoided.’

‘Income tax!’ cried Lord Emsworth. Income tax and pigs were the only two subjects which really stirred him. ‘Let me tell you that the more you speak of a marriage of this kind, better sense you appear to make. Do please go ahead with your commendable plans. I hope you have drawn these up in consultation with Ms Halliday!’

‘Yes, indeed. Many of these happen to be her ideas,’ said Psmith graciously.

‘God bless you both.’

‘Permit me also to point out that under such circumstances when close encounters with others are best avoided, you could even exercise the option of cancelling the August Bank Holiday this year.’

‘Oh, that would be nice, indeed. The invaders would then not be able to trample over my flower beds, and I do not have to wear stiff collars and make infernal speeches!’

‘I thought you might like the idea,’ said Psmith.

‘Er, now about that vet…..’

‘Yes. I am just rushing off to enable a meeting of the kind desired by you. Meanwhile, may I suggest that you persuade Ms Monica Simmons to keep a strict watch on the Empress’ diet? Any large deviation therein could indicate her indisposition. If you consider it proper, you may even spread a rumour about her having attracted a contagious disease. This would keep pig-stealers of all hues, sizes and shapes under check for some time.’

‘Splendid. I shall attend to it right away’, said his lordship.

With a slight bow, Psmith withdrew.

(With due apologies to Plum; Inspired by https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2020/03/20/jeeves-deals-with-croronavirus-guest-post-by-eduardo-garcia)

 

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As ever, Jeeves entered the room at the exact time. Neither too soon or too late, but just when I was about to begin to open my eyes, the honest man shimmered into view holding the salver with the invigorating cup of morning tea.

‘Good morning, Jeeves’, I said.

‘Good morning, sir’, said Jeeves.

‘What’s the weather like, outside?’

‘Extremely clement, sir. A balmy afternoon can be expected.’

‘Just the thing to encourage a chap to go for a constitutional around the park after breakfast, preparatory for a good lunch at Simpson’s, eh, Jeeves?’

‘Under usual circumstances, most definitely, sir.’

There was a clearly unhappy undertone in that. Almost imperceptible to the untrained ear, but definitely there. I decided to probe further into the matter.

‘Is anything the matter, Jeeves? Is the park being drilled for oil? Is the Serpentine being converted into some sort of dam to generate electricity for the Metropolis?’ I inquired.

‘Not exactly, sir. But circumstances have arisen that will prevent our leaving the flat for some time.’

‘Surely not, Jeeves. An Englishman’s right to roam the land of his birth is sacred. Am I being stalked by some malevolent aunt wanting to use me as an instrument of her devilments? Are we surrounded by bailiffs clamouring for the settlement of unpaid bills or some such nonsense?’

‘No, sir. No aunts have presented themselves at the door, and neither have any bailiffs. And all the bills have been satisfactorily settled.’

‘What’s the snag, then? Why can’t we leave the flat? Have our basic liberties been rescinded?’

‘Rescinded is not the right word for the present situation, sir. Suspended would be a more apt choice of word, if I may say so. And only in the case of venturing outside, sir. For one’s own health, sir.’

‘Come, come, Jeeves. I think that this massive brain of yours has sprung a leak. There’s nothing healthier than the bracing air of the Metropolis on a fine day. It has been proven time and again, eh?’

‘The metropolitan air is now filled with a new strain of virus, sir. It is called Coronavirus, and hails from China. Its effects are most unpleasant and human contact must be kept to a minimum to avoid its dissemination and contagion.’

I was jolted by that. I sat up in bed as if my spine had become a switchblade and the steaming cup was nearly flung across the bedroom in the process. But I composed myself and pressed on with the questioning.

‘Are you trying to tell me that we are facing some kind of Spanish Flu, Jeeves?’, I asked, clearly alarmed.

‘Of a kind, sir. But I have been reassured by an article which appeared in The Lancet that if all the proper precautions are taken, there is not much to be concerned about.’

‘Dash it, Jeeves! Confound it! Of all the bally things that could have been sprung upon is, this is one of the balliest, eh?’

‘It certainly disrupts one’s normal life, sir. But one must also look upon it as bringing some measure of not unimportant rewards.’

‘And beyond remaining in proper form to take part in the 02:30 Sweepstake at Kempton Park on Saturday, what rewards might those be, Jeeves?’

‘Well, sir, you will remember telling me that you urgently needed respite from Mrs. Gregson’s constant campaigns to affiance you to a suitable young lady.’

‘I do’, I replied pensively.

‘Also, the chances of encountering Miss Honoria Glossop will be most slender’.

‘They will’ said I cheering up considerably.

‘Not to mention Lord Sidcup. And Miss Madeline Basset…’

‘And her blasted father, Sir Watkyn Basset!’ I added, now positively positive about the whole thing.

‘Indeed, sir.’

There was definitely a hopeful, even cheerful note about the whole thing ringing in the air. The dark gloom lifted from the atmosphere, which became instantly light and suffused by golden hues. I could gladly face a bit of domestic incarceration if I could be protected from that oriental virus and the aforementioned human pests.

‘Well, Jeeves. There certainly are some compensations in all this, eh? Besides, I have recently stoked up on records and music sheets, as well as a dozen or so of the ripest detective stories available. And I am sure that you have made arrangements for a decent supply of victuals for the flat and books for you, also, eh? Spinoza’s latest and all that, what?’

‘Precisely, sir. And I have been fortunate enough to secure on loan from Lord Yaxleys’ wife her book of recipes for cocktails, a memento she kept from her days at the Criterion.’

‘Have you now, Jeeves? I have heard that some of them are legendary and have never been tasted ever since she retired’.

‘And there is one more thing, sir. I fear I have been remiss about not having advised you sooner about it.’

I knew it. Just as I had cheered up in the face of such news, Fate was there, about to wield the stuffed eel skin once more. But we Woosters are made of stern stuff. I braced myself for the blow.

‘What is it, Jeeves?’

You will remember, sir, that yesterday the Junior Ganymede Club hosted a dinner for Monsieur Anatole, for his services to culinary excellence.’

‘I seem to remember you mentioning it before you left to go there, Jeeves’.

‘When the ceremony ended, I offered to escort M. Anatole to Paddington, to catch the last train to Brinkley Court. But, alas, the taxicab developed a mechanical problem and we were unable to reach the station in time, so I took the liberty of offering M. Anatole a bed in the spare room.’

‘You mean to say, Jeeves, that Anatole is here for the duration?’

‘Yes, sir. And he is so grateful for our hospitality in the face of this virus that he has committed to cook for us on a daily basis for as long as he is prevented from returning to Brinkley Court.’

‘You mean to say, Jeeves, that on top of being free from pests of all imaginable sorts, having more than enough reading and musical material and being able to taste once more cocktails that have gone into legend we will be having Anatole’s culinary wonders for breakfast, lunch and dinner’?

‘Not to mention tea, sir.’

The beauty of the plot dawned on me. Jeeves had done it again. That gigantic brain had found the perfect solution for a tricky problem once more.

‘Jeeves’, I said, ‘Did you know about this Coronation virus, or whatever it is called, before the curfew was announced?’

‘My copy of the Lancet arrived here, as ever, three days ago, sir.’

‘So can one also take it that the problem with the taxicab was not altogether due to chance?’

‘The fact that the driver is married to one of my cousin Albert’s nieces cannot be wholly discarded from the equation, sir.’

‘Jeeves, you’re a wonder.’

‘Thank you, sir.’

 

(Eduardo Garcia introduces himself thus:

Eduardo “Duca” Garcia is quite probably the most un-trendy and least technologically-savvy person involved with Trends Studies. He is also a human salad, having been born in Rio, received an anglicised education and lived in the UK, Spain, Central Asia and Portugal. To complicate matters further, he is married to a woman of Brazilian, English, U.S. and Greek extraction – whose stepfather was a Dutchman – and his son lives and works in Denmark.

His career was mostly devoted to Marketing and Advertising, something that forced him to look at the consumer, society and mentalities in more detail – if only to avoid sending the wrong message to the wrong people at the wrong time and being rightly sacked for doing so – and his start in Trends Studies began when he was in Kazakhstan and Carl Rohde was unwise enough to invite him to contribute to Science of the Time.

He can be contacted at eduardo.garcia@40maislab.pt or through Facebook.)

 

(Permission to publish this piece on this blog site is gratefully acknowledged!)

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The big and fat weddings which keep taking place all across the length and breadth of India are well known. These are occasions on which gullible parents, overjoyed by the prospect of finally getting rid of their respective wards, loosen their purse strings, showcasing their wealth, power and pelf.

Ostentatious decorations, lavish dinner spreads which could make Anatole raise his eyebrows a fraction of an inch, sumptuous upholstering of those in attendance and a chain of rituals which keep the hapless bride and the groom on their toes – all of these create an ambience which befits the social status of the well-heeled parents, making many others green with envy. It is another matter that such display of wealth often makes our tax sleuths sit up and take notice. The Bartholomews under their supervision promptly start sniffing around, their bare teeth on full display. Unless prompt steps are taken through proper channels, such visits get followed by a couple of tax notices. Tax consultants lose no time in demanding their own pound of flesh in the whole affair.

The Hapless Bride and the Groom

Clueless to-be-weds, having initially announced their matrimonial intentions, look helplessly around as the drama unfolds.  They may have had little say in the tough negotiations between their families as to the commercial terms and conditions of the proposed merger and amalgamation of two families.

Detailed arrangements to be made for their big day need the supreme intelligence of Reginald Jeeves. Around the big day, the poor youngsters go through a complicated litany of rituals, acting like dumb puppets under the command and control of senior relatives. When they make a grand entry, the grinning groom would normally be riding a well-decorated mare which is visibly shuddering due to the high pitch music being played by the band accompanying the procession. The dashing bride walks in, all decked up, a hand-held flowery canopy over her held by relatives and friends. The couple exchanges heavy garlands and soon starts experiencing cervical spondylitis.

High-end technology-backed priests chant unintelligible ‘mantras’ from Indian scriptures to the accompaniment of seven vows the couple takes while going around the sacred fire. The camera men call the shots as the wide-eyed couple refrain from openly complaining about tired facial muscles due to a need to keep smiling without a break, commercial or otherwise.

While the couple sounds bright and beaming, one never knows what is ailing them within. Realization dawns that while they may derive momentary pleasure in the proceedings, they have unwittingly unleashed some sinister forces which have snatched the initiative from their hands. It would not be surprising to find that both are resolving never to go through all the rigmarole once again in this life of theirs.

A Carnival of Egos

However, people assembled rejoice, not losing time to start gorging on rich food being served. Their taste buds reign supreme. Laughter and merriment is spread all around. A carnival of egos gets rolling, with each of the attendees shamelessly trying to prove his or her superiority to those around. Supercilious gazes, duly laced with ill-concealed jealousy, abound. Spruced up by expert cosmetologists, most of them come in wearing their societal masks, offering either a limp handshake or, in these virus-threatened times, a simple ‘namaste’.

Hosts suffer from having to put on synthetic smiles and greeting all and sundry – the essential ones, the desirable ones and the not-so-desirable ones. Their real worries are multi-dimensional: whether all arrangements would play out well, whether the gang of guests who whole-heartedly support a healthy supply of tissue restoratives would be exercising abundant caution, and if either the bride or the groom would play a vanishing act on the big day.

Onerous Duties of Detectives

Like Maudie, several owners of detective agencies prowl around the grounds, keeping an eye over the proceedings. One of their mandates is to keep guests like absent-minded Lord Emsworth on a tight leash, lest they pocket a couple of scarabs, if any happen to be floating around. Nabbing the likes of Smooth Lizzie before they could lay their hands on anything precious adorning the guests’ pear-shaped physical frames is yet another goal of theirs. Gifts and envelopes containing cash bestowed on the couple need to be kept under strict surveillance, lest these get pinched. Gangs of perennially giggling sisters of the bride need to be kept under a closer watch, so as to render their plans of stealing the groom’s footwear null and void. Bride’s ex-suitors who plan to throw rotten eggs and tomatoes at the groom when he struts out of the wedding need to be kept at bay, so he does not suffer the fate of Teddy Week in one of the Ukridge stories.

In other words, the detectives endeavour to avoid any kind of disaster which could sully the reputation of the hosts and lower the dignity of the occasion. Obviously, they have no control over the basic disaster occurring in the lives of the couple who happen to be blissfully unaware of what is about to hit them, much like the cosh used to deadly effect by Jeeves occasionally – the marriage itself.

Of Smarter Marriages

As technology invades all aspects of our lives, the marriages in the near future may become qualitatively different. E-Invites are already the norm. Video invites could soon become the order of the day. Gifts for the couple could be received by courier. Bobby Wickham’s Royal Academy of Goofy Technologies has already come up with a range of gift packs to suit all kinds of attendees. Return gifts – like laser-guided needles meant for puncturing hot water bottles – could reach potential attendees by courier services, along with pre-paid food coupons.

Celebrations could be telecast live over smart phones, thereby reducing the carbon foot print of the marriage and protecting our denizens from the kind of exotic viruses which Nature keeps unleashing upon us at frequent intervals. It is a win-win situation for everyone, providing a bird’s eye view of the proceedings, avoiding security bottlenecks due to VVIP attendees, fat charges for hiring large venues, huge catering costs, cushioned seating and other incidental costs.

Yes, many of us would miss the back-slapping, bonhomie and networking which entails at a traditional wedding. Some may shudder at the prospect of losing out on those awkward elbow shakes and clumsy fist bumps. Parents who are scouting around for potential soul mates for their progeny would get dismayed. Relatives who despise each other would miss the sadistic pleasure of passing caustic comments within the earshot of the party of the other part. Service providers of all hues, sizes and shapes would be upset at the downturn in their billings. But one has to make tough choices at times.

The time of smaller, slimmer and smarter marriages is already upon us. Rupert Psmith and Eve Halliday would surely approve.

(Illustration courtesy the www)

(Related Posts:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2015/12/23/a-goofy-career-opportunity-for-marketing-professionals

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2017/10/12/an-invitation-from-the-international-league-of-happiness

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2017/11/05/a-plummy-wish-for-a-bride-to-be)

 

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Dustedoff

I have been watching with increasing despair and sorrow these past few months as India has teetered on the brink of disharmony and violence, hoping against hope that it was just a passing phase. There were moments when I felt things were looking up, for instance, when people of other faiths—not just Muslims—came together at Shaheen Bagh and elsewhere to oppose CAA and NRC. There were times I told myself it was getting better, that India was essentially secular, and that divisive forces would eventually be defeated.

Then the Delhi carnage happened. Many were killed, even more injured. Property was destroyed, people were forced to flee their homes. Curfew was clamped. We mourned. Not just for the dead, but for the way the hydra-headed monster of hatred, bigotry and violence had again reared its head.

I have lived in Delhi for most of my life, and to see the city…

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