Archive for July, 2021


India Rubber

India rubber is one name for the natural rubber that comes from the sap of certain trees. Rubber trees that grow in South America and India produce the majority of India rubber. Plum uses its properties of agility, elasticity, flexibility and robustness to cover a wide range of physical endeavours of the characters in many of his narratives.  

In Psmith in the City, we come to know of Jow who plays great cricket. He is said to behave as tough as India rubber. In ‘The Inferiority Complex of Old Sippy’, Very Good, Jeeves, Sippy is found chewing a piece of India rubber. In ‘Bramley is So Bracing’, Nothing Serious, Bingo’s baby, when left in Rev. Aubrey Upjohn’s study, does the same.

  • In The Inimitable Jeeves, when confessing his having fallen in love with Honoria Glossop to Bertie, Bingo’s eyes bulge, his cheeks get flushed and his ‘Adam’s apple hops about like one of those India-rubber balls on the top of the fountain in a shooting-gallery.’
  • In The Mating Season, the cosh which gets used by Jeeves to temporarily knock off Constable Dobbs is said to be an object which is ‘small but serviceable and constructed of India rubber.’
  • In Pigs Have Wings, we are told that Lord Emsworth’s writing desk contains not only pens, ink, sealing wax and an instrument which looks like an instrument for taking stones out of horses’ hooves, but also India rubber.
  • Those who have gone through Luck of the Bodkins may recollect how Albert Peasemarch, the steward, produces ‘from his trousers pocket a pencil, a ball of string, a piece of India rubber, three pence in bronze, the necklace, a packet of chewing gum, two buttons and a small cough lozenge’, and places these on the table.
  • In Indiscretions of Archie, when a girl who has been posing for Archie standing for a solid hour on one leg, holding a tennis racket over her head and smiling brightly, he ventures an opinion as follows: ‘The female of the species is more India-rubbery than the male.’ Modern emancipated females who care for physical alacrity and fitness may heartily approve of this sentiment. 
  • When it comes to agility in dancing, India rubber legs often get mentioned. ‘The Masked Troubadour’, Lord Emsworth and Others assures us thatFreddie is endowed with them. Money in the Bank tells us that Mr. Trumper is able to forget all about the mystery man with India rubber legs only when being told by Mrs. Cork about an emu she had known which ate aspirin tablets. In Money for Nothing, John, who lacks India rubber legs, proves to be lucky. By the time he has to prove his performance to a girl of high ideals in dancing, the floor has already become congested, allowing him merely to shuffle. This suits his individual style. In Psmith, Journalist Mr. Wolmann is said to have once danced around The Kid with an Indian rubber agility.
  • ‘Quick Service’, Indiscretions of Archie tells us that when someone’s neck appears to be growing longer any moment, it is believed to be composed of India rubber. Elsewhere, we run into Mr. Steptoe who is found rubbing his nose on his shirt front. Joss concludes his prospective employer is blessed with an India rubber neck. It is a matter of speculation if he may be alluded to as a contortionist.  
  • In Money in the Bank, we run into Mrs. Wellesley Cork, the well known explorer and a big game hunter of such India-rubber-necked animals as giraffes.
  • In The Girl on the Boat Swenson misinterprets Sam’s motives and starts resisting being pulled away from cash which he regarded as his legacy. He is an emotional Swedish gentleman, ‘six foot high and constructed throughout of steel and India rubber’. He begins to struggle with all the violence at his disposal.
  • In The Coming of Bill, Aunt Lora is described by Bill as a human cyclone and even like an earthquake. He feels that the company of a woman capable of taking other people’s lives and juggling with them as if they were India rubber balls is best avoided.
  • ‘Have you ever played a game called Pigs in Clover? We have just finished a merry bout of it, with hens instead of marbles, which has lasted for an hour and a half. We are all dead tired, except the Hired Man, who seems to be made of India rubber. He has just gone for a stroll on the beach. Wants some exercise, I suppose.’  (Love Among the Chickens)

Indian Clubs

Many of Plum’s characters have a fetish for remaining as fit as a fiddle. One of the instruments which they happen to depend upon is a pair of Indian clubs.

Something Fresh has Ashe Marson using them. In A Damsel in Distress, when Percie gets criticized by Reggie for the condition of his liver, he uses them. In Coming of Bill, the hero swings them in slow and irregular sweeps while his eyes stare fixedly at the ceiling.



The inspiration for this essay comes from the scholarly work done by Ms. Masha Lebedeva, who had earlier whipped up a research paper entitled The Russian Salad by P. G. Wodehouse.

The author expresses his sincere gratitude to an eminent expert on Plummy matters for having spared the time to go through a part of this composition and provide insightful suggestions. Some fans of P. G. Wodehouse have also suggested improvements in its contents.

Thanks are also due to Mr. Suvarna Sanyal for dishing out the main illustration in Part 1; also, to Ms. Sneha Shoney, who has edited the text.

Those of you who wish to cruise through this essay in its entirety may kindly write to akb_usha@rediffmail.com for a PDF version of the complete document to be mailed to them.

Related Posts:

Read Full Post »


Indian Ocean and Typhoons

The Indian Ocean surrounds India on most of its Eastern, Southern and Western sides. It is the third largest of the world’s oceanic divisions. Often, cyclones and tsunamis come about, enabling water, one of the five elements of nature, to demonstrate its disastrous powers. Plum uses this to comic advantage.     

  • In Jeeves in the Offing, Kipper, upon seeing the newspaper announcement of the engagement of Bobby Wickham and Bertie, writes a stinker to her. Bobby Wickham takes umbrage. She takes his head off and Kipper experiences something akin to that of facing a typhoon on the Indian Ocean. She promptly announces her intention to get married to Bertie and returns Kipper to store. Jeeves, who is off to Herne Bay on a vacation, gets promptly roped in and helps Bertie Wooster to avoid a saunter down the aisle.  
  • In ‘Feet of Clay’, Nothing Serious, Captain Jack Fosdyke tells Agnes Flack of the time he saved Princess della Raviogli in the Indian Ocean. He claims that ‘there were half a dozen sharks horsing about then and behaving as if the place belonged to them’. He used a Boy Scout pocket knife to teach them a lesson or two.

Of Fakirs and Mystic Powers

Indian scriptures often use the Sanskrit term ‘siddhi’ to signify either a remarkable accomplishment or a singular proficiency attained by an aspirant. These could be material, paranormal, supernatural or magical in nature, attained by such practices as meditation, yoga and intense ‘tapas’ (austere practices).

Such attainments could include the ability to reduce one’s body to the size of an atom or even become invisible, to become infinitely large, to become weightless or lighter than air, to instantaneously travel or be anywhere at will, to achieve or realize whatever one desires, to control nature, individuals, organisms, etc., and also the ability to control all material elements or natural forces.

Like much else, this facet of India is also used by Plum to amuse, elevate and entertain his readers.

Floating Around Like a Gas

One of the sterling qualities of Jeeves is that of quietly popping up as and when the Master needs him. This quality of his is routinely invoked by Plum, using the teleportation analogy from India.

  • In ‘The Artistic Career of Corky’, Carry On, Jeeves, he is described as ‘one of those birds in India which dissolves itself into thin air and hop through space in a sort of disembodied way, assembling the parts again just where it wants them’.
  • In such other narratives as Right Ho, Jeeves and Stiff Upper Lip, Jeeves, he is said to be like those who go into thin air in Bombay (now Mumbai), reassemble the parts a little later in Calcutta (now Kolkata), displaying the property of a kind of gas which seems to float from Spot A to Spot B without much ado.
  • Joy in the Morning compares Jeeves to Indian blokes ‘who shoot their astral bodies to and fro’, disappearing in Rangoon (now Yangoon) and reassembling the parts in Calcutta (now Kolkata).
  • In ‘Trouble Down at Tudsleigh’, Young Men in Spats, Freddie demonstrates a similar proficiency by means of the speed at which he rushes down the stairs, only to run into Captain Bradbury. He behaves like an Indian fakir who would go ‘into thin air in Bombay (now Mumbai) and reassemble the parts two minutes later in Darjeeling’.
  • Galahad at Blandings also alludes to Indian fakirs of this kind.

Curling Up on Spikes

  • In Pigs have Wings, Jerry Vail does not like the ambience of Emsworth Arms and finds a furnished villa on rent as an option. However, when inspecting the bed on offer, he shrinks from the prospect of occupying it for many nights. After all, he is not an Indian fakir who is accustomed from childhood onwards to curling up on spikes.
  • In Summer Lightning, Rupert Baxter, when he starts becoming conscious of a growing cramp in his left leg, turns on one side with the nonchalance of those Indian fakirs who spend the formative years of their lives lying on iron spikes.

Contemplating the Infinite

  • In The Clicking of Cuthbert, Plum captures the kind of discipline and meditative contemplation required while playing golf. The club gets raised at least two times, touching the ball and being raised back again after a careful inspection of the horizon. At the third attempt, he brings it down and ‘then stands motionless, wrapped in thought, like some Indian fakir contemplating the infinite. Then he raises his club again and replaces it behind the ball. Finally he quivers all over, swings very slowly back, and drives the ball for about a hundred and fifty yards in a dead straight line.’
  • In The Girl on the Boat, when Sam achieves an almost imbecile state of boredom, his position is described as that of one of those Indian mystics who sit perfectly still for twenty years, contemplating the Infinite.

Indian Love Calls

Wherever Plum is, love cannot be far behind. India has gifted the world with the Kama Sutra, but it is not surprising that Plum never alludes to this unique treatise, because he never used sex as a ploy to popularize his narratives. All of his male characters are steeped in chivalry, strictly bound by Victorian norms. This aspect of his work had been covered by me in an earlier article entitled ‘Cupid in Plumsville’: (https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2019/02/14/cupid-in-plumsville)

In his narratives, Wodehouse appears to have instead based his observations on The Garden of Kama, a collection of lyric poetry of Indian origin published in 1901, which makes liberal use of imagery and symbols from the poets of the North-West Frontier of India and the Sufi poets of Persia (Iran). The poems, written by Laurence Hope, a pseudonym of Violet Nicholson, are typically about unrequited love and loss. She had married Colonel Malcolm Hassels Nicolson, who was a commandant of the 3rd Battalion of the Baluch Regiment. The couple lived in Mhow in the central part of India from 1895 to 1900. 

One of her famous compositions, known as a ‘Kashmiri Song’, also appears in at least two of Plum’s narratives. 

  • In ‘The Knightly Quest of Mevryn’, Mulliner Nights, when Mervyn pops up at Clarice’s abode to report having suffered several privations and challenges in procuring strawberries in the month of December, he is made to wait in the drawing room where there is not much to entertain and amuse a visitor. He finds a photograph of the girl’s late father on the mantelpiece and several other items, including a copy of Indian Love Lyrics bound in limp cloth.
  • In Galahad at Blandings, Galahad strongly urges Lord Emsworth to be alert and on his guard. Dame Daphne Winkworth is not to be allowed to get him alone in the rose garden or on the terrace by moonlight. If she starts talking about the dear old days, he is to change the subject. He is to be wary if Dame Daphne Winkworth asks him to read her extracts from the Indian Love Lyrics after dinner. According to him, these have to be avoided like poison, because the consequences could be disastrous.
  • Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit opens with Bertie Wooster in his bath tub. ‘As I sat in the bath tub, soaping a meditative foot and singing, if I remember correctly, “Pale Hands I Loved Beside the Shalimar”, it would be deceiving my public to say that I was feeling boomps-a-daisy. The evening that lay before me promised to be one of those sticky evenings, no good to man or beast. My Aunt Dahlia, writing from her country residence, Brinkley Court down in Worcestershire, had asked me as a personal favour to take some acquaintances of hers out to dinner, a couple of the name of Trotter.’
  • In Ring for Jeeves, we find an alert and bright Captain Biggar crooning ‘Pale hands I loved beside the Shalimar, where are you now, where are you now? Where are you now? Where are you now?’ Jeeves walks in just then and outlines his ‘spider sequence’, a scheme to deprive Mrs. Spottsworth of a precious pendant she wears around her neck, thereby bringing some financial relief to all concerned. 



The inspiration for this essay comes from the scholarly work done by Ms. Masha Lebedeva, who had earlier whipped up a research paper entitled The Russian Salad by P. G. Wodehouse.

The author expresses his sincere gratitude to an eminent expert on Plummy matters for having spared the time to go through a part of this composition and provide insightful suggestions. Some fans of P. G. Wodehouse have also suggested improvements in its contents.

Thanks are also due to Mr. Suvarna Sanyal for dishing out the main illustration in Part 1; also, to Ms. Sneha Shoney, who has edited the text.

Those of you who wish to cruise through this essay in its entirety may kindly write to akb_usha@rediffmail.com for a PDF version of the complete document to be mailed to them.

Related Posts:

Read Full Post »


Of Civil Disobedience and Mutinies

Till the year 1947, India was under the British Raj. The period was marked by Indians struggling to gain independence through means which were peaceful as well as violent. From 1920 onwards, the self-rule struggle was characterized by Mahatma Gandhi’s policy of non-violence and civil disobedience, duly complemented by several other campaigns.  

  • When people are hungry, they become angry. They want to go out and fight. This could even be true of Mahatma Gandhi, who is given a singularly juicy mention in ‘The Juice of an Orange’ in Blandings Castle and Elsewhere.

While narrating the story of Wilmot Mulliner, Mr. Mulliner blames the modern dieting craze of women for all the unhappiness which afflicts the world.

‘Women, of course, are chiefly responsible. They go in for these slimming systems, their sunny natures become warped, and they work off the resultant venom on their men-folk. These, looking about them for someone they can take it out of, pick on the males of the neighbouring country, who themselves are spoiling for a fight because their own wives are on a diet, and before you know where you are war has broken out with all its attendant horrors.

‘This is what happened in the case of China and Japan. It is this that lies at the root of all the unpleasantness in the Polish Corridor. And look at India. Why is there unrest in India? Because its inhabitants eat only an occasional handful of rice. The day when Mahatma Gandhi sits down to a good juicy steak and follows it up with roly-poly pudding and a spot of Stilton you will see the end of all this nonsense of Civil Disobedience.

‘Till then we must expect Trouble, Disorder … in a word, Chaos.’

  • Those who are familiar with the Indian mutiny of 1857 may recall that the Siege of Cawnpore is one of its key episodes. The British forces and civilians in Cawnpore (now Kanpur) were unprepared for an extended siege and surrendered to rebel forces in return for a safe passage to Allahabad (now Prayagraj), another city nearby. As a rescue force approached Kanpur, an unfortunate massacre took place, leading even to a war cry ‘Remember Cawnpore’. On at least two occasions, Plum captures the sentiments of elation experienced by girls under siege in Kanpur when they hear the sound of the bagpipers of the British reinforcements.   

The Girl in Blue describes how an authoress feels when she finds that a horn-rimmed American is trying to locate a copy of her latest book Daffodil Days. Flannery and Martin’s book shop in Sloane Square in London does not stock her latest brain child but when a stranger walks in and asks for it, Vera Upshaw is thrilled beyond measure. 

She whips around, her lips part, her eyes widen and her lovely body experiences a tingling of sorts. Her sentiments get compared to the thrill a girl would have experienced when, in the midst of the Indian Mutiny, during the siege of Cawnpore (Kanpur, 1857), she would have heard the skirl of the bagpipes, heralding the arrival of British reinforcements.

In Pearls, Girls and Monty Bodkin, similar uplifting sentiments are experienced by Monty when he suddenly finds a friend and sympathizer in Mr. Llewellyn.

Men in Uniform, the North Western Frontier Province (NWFP) and Hunting

Military men who had served in India as part of their duties tell us interesting anecdotes about that distant land, including about their time in the NFWP. The latter was a province of British India from 1901 to 1947, when it was ceded to Pakistan. Hunting was a common pastime. Some such references enrich many of Plum’s narratives.   

  • In Right Ho, Jeeves, while allaying the fears of Gussie that his trousers will split while delivering a speech at the Market Snodsbury Grammar School, an example is cited by Bertie Wooster – that of General Bosher, who was a D.S.O. (Distinguished Service Order), ‘with a fine record of service on the north-western frontier of India, and his trousers split.’  
  • In ‘Ukridge and the Home from Home’, Lord Emsworth and Others, we find that Ukridge has turned his Aunt Julia’s house into a hotel. Amongst the six guests, we find one Lieutenant-Colonel B. B. Bagnew, late of the Fourth Loyal Lincolnshires. In Ukridge, we find a suave and genial host, presiding over the dinner-table on most nights. As and when the conversation in the group ‘touched a high level and feasts of Reason and flows of Soul occurred’, one of the major contributors was the Colonel. He narrated his anecdotes of India, where he had served his country faithfully and well.
  • In the same story, Ukridge tells Corky that Indian army men are not to be trusted.  He thinks that all of them believe themselves to be heroes. Hence, they get greatly disliked. He cites Lieutenant-Colonel B. B. Bagnew’s clear views on lesser mortals like burglars. Colonel is of the view that if he were to ‘show them a good old army revolver, they would run like rabbits.’
  • In ‘Trouble Down at Tudsleigh’, Young Men in Spats, Freddie Widgeon gets formally introduced by Lady Carroway to Captain Bradbury from the Indian Army. He is competing with Freddie for the affections of April. Freddie believes that the Captain might have such advantages as a natty moustache, a rich tan and deep-set eyes, but what bowls over a refined and poetical girl is a refined soul. He intends to devour Tennyson over the next few days and be equivalent to six souls so as to beat his rival hollow.

At the end of a get-together, Captain Bradbury draws him aside and gives him the sort of look he would have given a Pathan discovered pinching the old regiment’s rifles out on the North-Western Frontier. He also mentions to Freddie that he had won the Heavyweight Boxing Championship of India earlier  

  • In the same narrative, one gets to learn that when one is up against one of the Indian Army strategists, one realizes how thoroughly they get trained from early youth to do the dirty on the lawless tribes of the North-Western Frontier. Captain Bradbury, when outfoxed at the door, is not one to beat a hasty retreat. Rather, he tries to outflank Freddie by trying to enter through the sitting-room window.

This is how Plum describes the aftermath:

‘But the interchange of glances did not last long. These Indian Army men do not look, they act. And it has been well said of them that, while you may sometimes lay them a temporary stymie, you cannot baffle them permanently. The Captain suddenly turned and began to gallop round the corner of the house. It was plainly his intention to resume the attack from another and a less well-guarded quarter. This, I believe, is a common manoeuvre on the North-West Frontier. You get your Afghan shading his eyes and looking out over the maidan (field), and then you sneak up the pahar (mountain/hillock) behind him and catch him bending.’

  • In the story ‘Bill the Bloodhound’ in Man with Two Left Feet, we find Henry, dressed up as an old Indian colonel one week, contentedly puffing away at a cigar provided by Walter Jelliffe while fondling his silver moustache. Only when Walter finds him comfortable enough does he pop the question.

‘And now tell me, old man, which of us is it you’re trailing?’

  • In Summer Moonshine, Colonel Tanner tells Mr. Waugh-Bonner about his life in Poona (now Pune), while Mr. Chinnery plays croquet with Mrs. Folsom. Throughout the narrative, he speaks enthusiastically of his life in the city, supplementing the spoken word with a display of photographic snapshots illustrating conditions in those parts. He also speaks of the Bengal Lancers, a regiment of the British Indian Army.
  • Captain Biggar, one of the several unique characters in Ring for Jeeves, loves hunting. One would never get surprised to run into him ‘in such hunting grounds as in Kenya or Malaya or Borneo or India’! It would be perfectly in order.



The inspiration for this essay comes from the scholarly work done by Ms. Masha Lebedeva, who had earlier whipped up a research paper entitled The Russian Salad by P. G. Wodehouse.

The author expresses his sincere gratitude to an eminent expert on Plummy matters for having spared the time to go through a part of this composition and provide insightful suggestions. Some fans of P. G. Wodehouse have also suggested improvements in its contents.

Thanks are also due to Mr. Suvarna Sanyal for dishing out the main illustration in Part 1; also, to Ms. Sneha Shoney, who has edited the text.

Those of you who wish to cruise through this essay in its entirety may kindly write to akb_usha@rediffmail.com for a PDF version of the complete document to be mailed to them.

Related Posts:

Read Full Post »

(Continued )

Indian Fauna, Royalty

Indian fauna such as spiders, scorpions, cobras, elephants, tigers, cheetahs and lions regale the reader across many of Plum’s narratives. Princes and maharajas of yore also find a mention occasionally. 

  • Take the example of Summer Moonshine’s Colonel Tanner, who, during his tenure in India under the English raj, had learnt to be comfortable with the presence of Afridis, snakes, scorpions and even tigers in his sleeping quarters. Members of these species would ‘saunter into his abode as if it were a country club to which they had paid the entrance fee’.
  • In Thank You, Jeeves, Chuffy introduces Bertie to Sergeant Voules, who claims to have tackled as many as ninety-six big spiders while in India. Bertie’s protests that he is unable to sleep in his own bedroom because there is a big pink spider lurking around there (indirectly referring to Pauline Stoker, Chuffy’s fiancée, in his heliotrope pajamas!) get ignored. He gets hauled back to his bed. Luckily for all concerned, Pauline has already done the vanishing trick by then. 
  • In Aunts Aren’t Gentlemen, Orlo Porter runs into Bertie Wooster and is as startled as an Indian native who sees a scorpion in his path. He goes on to ejaculate: ‘Wooster, you blasted slimy creeping crawling serpent, I might have expected this!’
  • What does an Indian native do when bitten by a scorpion? In Uneasy Money, Plum tells us that ‘He does not stop to lament, nor does he hang about analysing his emotions. He keeps running until he has worked the poison out of his system. Not until then does he attempt introspection.’ The amiable Lord Dawlish, after a rather unpleasant meeting with Lady Wetherby, follows a similar policy. After leaving her house, he does not run. Instead, he takes a very long and rapid walk. He has an acute sense of being poisoned and wishes to work the poison out of his system. He has nothing on his mind other than walking faster and faster.
  • In Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit, Ma Trotter, upon going through a morning journal, discovers that the powers that be have gone ahead and knighted Robert Blenkinsop instead of her illustrious husband. ‘She stares at The Times much like an Indian resident would eye a cobra, had he found it nestling in his bath tub’.
  • On his part, the husband, L. G. Trotter, is a man who suffers from dyspepsia and is already out of harmony with his wife. The latter screaming her head off in the middle of the breakfast startles him, making him give her ‘the sort of look the cobra might have given the resident of India who had barged in on its morning bath.’
  • In Bachelors Anonymous, we run into Mr. Ivor Llewellyn, head of the Superba-Llewellyn studio of Hollywood. Having suffered through as many as five divorces, he wishes to remain a bachelor. However, upon Joseph “Joe” Pickering’s insistence that he visit a hospital, Cupid strikes yet again. He ends up proposing to Amelia Bingham, a nurse he comes in touch with at the hospital. He squarely blames Joe for having got him entangled into yet another prospect of marriage. Upon return, he looks at Joe with an open dislike, much like a resident of India registers ‘when he comes to have his morning bath and finds a cobra nestling in the bath tub.’
  • In Galahad at Blandings, as also in Pigs Have Wings, Plum says that Beach never buzzes off, ‘his customary mode of progression being modelled on that of an elephant sauntering through an Indian jungle.’
  • As per Meet Mr. Mulliner, as well asthe story ‘Gala Night’ in Mulliner Nights, when royalty goes a-hunting, it expects to be supported by elephants which display an easy nonchalance when their masters spot a tiger in an Indian jungle. But there are times when such hunting expeditions get spoiled by ‘the failure of the elephant to see eye to eye with its owner in the matter of what constitutes sport.’ How does one avoid the prospect of an elephant turning and galloping home? How does one ensure that a timid elephant would instead trumpet loudly and charge the fiercest tiger without any hesitation, ‘facing the tiger of the jungle with a jaunty sang-froid?’
  • Wilfred Mulliner has a solution in the form of a tonic known as Mulliner’s Buck-U-Uppo. Were a teaspoonful of it be mixed with the morning bran-mash, better results ensue.
  • Sunset at Blandings tells us how one feels when one is likely to face the prospect of facing a formidable person like Dame Daphne Winkworth? If Gally is to be believed, one would find oneself in the position of a native of India who knows that a tigress is lurking in the undergrowth near at hand and wonders how soon she will be among those present.
  • In Big Money, when Berry acts like a buoyant and aspiring sportsman in the jungles of India who has caught a tiger by its tail, he realizes that even though all has been well so far, his next move would need careful consideration.
  • Uncle Dynamite records the reaction of Sir Aylmer when being told by Lord Ickenham that he would go hundred miles to judge bonny babies. This thwarts the ambitions of Sir Aylmer no end. He starts ‘like a tiger that sees its Indian villager being snatched away from it.’ His face, already mauve, becomes an imperial purple.
  • Uncle Dynamite also describes the emotions of Hermione, a young authoress, who finds that her royalty earnings are likely to go up substantially but her father is conniving to rob the publisher of his means to publish her work. Her feelings are said to be even more poignant than those of ‘wolves which overtake sleighs and find no Russian peasant aboard and of tigers deprived of their Indian coolie just as they are sitting down to lunch.’
  • In Full Moon, Freddie, at Gally’s suggestion, smuggles Bill Lister back into Blandings Castle disguised as a false-bearded gardener, having paid off Angus McAllister. Lister soon ruins things, however, when he mistakes Veronica’s mother, Lady Hermione, for a cook and tries to bribe her to pass a note to Prudence. Later on, when Freddie appears to be whole-heartedly welcoming Lister after the latter has been asked to leave, Lady Hermione is found twitching her hands and has gleaming eyes. She is then likened to the puma of an Indian jungle about to pounce upon its prey.
  • In Piccadilly Jim, Jimmy has a unique style of proposing to Ann. He points out that if he were to go out of her life, she would be miserable. She would have nobody to fight with. She would be like the female jaguar of the Indian jungle who expresses her affection for her mate ‘by biting him shrewdly in the fleshy part of the leg, getting a shock one day to find that the mate has simply vanished.’
  • In ‘The Story of Cedric’, Mr. Mulliner Speaking, when Cedric crawls on all fours on the floor, his teeth are clenched and his eyes gleam with a strange light, he is said to look like an ‘exact replica of the hunting cheetah of Indian jungle stalking its prey.’
  • In the same narrative, when he cries out aloud, he sounds like an Indian peasant who, ‘while sauntering on the banks of the Ganges, suddenly finds himself being bitten in half by a crocodile.’
  • ‘Leave it to Algy’, A Few Quick Ones depicts Purkiss, having handed over a five-pound note to Bingo, giving a defiant look at Algernon Aubrey. His look gets likened to that of an Indian coolie, who, when he is safe up a tree, may give it to the baffled crocodile at the foot of it.
  • In The Girl in Blue, Jerry chooses to celebrate his triumph at the grill room of the Barribault’s which is said to be a ‘stamping ground of Texas millionaires and Indian Maharajas.’
  • In Luck of the Bodkins, Mr. Llewellyn wonders if his sister-in-law has ‘mistaken him for Rockefeller, Pierpont Morgan, Death Valley Scotty or one of those Indian Maharajas.’  
  • In Bachelor’s Anonymous, Sally realizes the true nature of Joseph Pickering while sitting in the lobby at Barribault’s, infested by Texas millionaires and Indian maharajas.
  • In Pearls, Girls and Monty Bodkin, Monty waits for Gertrude to show up in the lobby of Barribault’s world-famous hotel, the doors of which normally swivel around only to admit Texan millionaires and Indian Maharajas. The doors then revolve yet again to admit an elderly man with a face like a horse, Mr. J. B. Butterwick, who promptly proceeds to inform him that Gertrude will not be lunching with him on the day.
  • The story The Man Who Disliked Cats in The Man Upstairs speaks of Hotel Jules Priaulx in Paris. When rich people of any nationality come over to stay there, they often bring their pets along with. If an Indian prince has two dromedaries for company, the other one brings along a giraffe. The giraffe is reported to drink a dozen of the best champagne every day, so as to keep his coat in good shape. Young lions and alligators also pop up once in a while.



The inspiration for this essay comes from the scholarly work done by Ms. Masha Lebedeva, who had earlier whipped up a research paper entitled The Russian Salad by P. G. Wodehouse.

The author expresses his sincere gratitude to an eminent expert on Plummy matters for having spared the time to go through a part of this composition and provide insightful suggestions. Some fans of P. G. Wodehouse have also suggested improvements in its contents.

Thanks are also due to Mr. Suvarna Sanyal for dishing out the main illustration in Part 1; also, to Ms. Sneha Shoney, who has edited the text.

Those of you who wish to cruise through this essay in its entirety may kindly write to akb_usha@rediffmail.com for a PDF version of the complete document to be mailed to them.

Related Post:

Read Full Post »

What ho!

To the best of my knowledge and belief, P. G. Wodehouse never set foot on Indian soil. But he has often alluded to its exotic temples, its wildlife, its royalty, its fakirs and mystics with magical powers, and even its love lyrics. Many times he has vividly captured facets of my beautiful country, serving up a delectable curry spiced with uniquely Indian condiments.

In this essay, the reader will find a random sample of references to India in Wodehouse’s novels and short stories. Such references are found across all his narratives, whether he is writing a Jeeves and Bertie story, a tale of Blandings, or a stand-alone novel.

Plum’s Indian Connection

Plum’s elder brother, Ernest Armine Wodehouse, was an English Theosophist, poet and educator. He is better known as the tutor of Jiddu Krishnamurti, the famous Indian author and lecturer on spiritual and philosophical subjects. He was admitted to the Theosophical Society at Poona (now Pune) in 1908. Before the First World War, he held a position as professor at Deccan College in Poona, India. After the war he returned to India. One can understand the source of Plum’s inspiration when he named one of his pet cats as Poona.

One of the important landmarks on Wodehouse Road in the Indian city of Mumbai is the Cathedral of the Holy Name. The seat of the Archdiocese of Mumbai, the cathedral is one of the most striking churches of the city. Its foundation stone was laid in 1902. It had then come to be known as the Wodehouse Church since it stands on Wodehouse Road, named after Sir Philip Edmond Wodehouse who was Governor of the city from 1872 to 1877. He was a distant relative of Plum’s. Sometime back, the road was renamed Nathalal Parekh Marg.

Few writers have Plum’s mesmerizing command over English. He uses it in an innovative manner, leaving the reader stepped to the gills with an overdose of Vitamin H(umour). It comes as no surprise that English-speaking Indians who are aware of his works simply adore him.

One of the unique features of India is its linguistic diversity. By default, English is the sole means of communication between different people from across the country. It acts as a bridge between large chunks of its 1.4 billion people who otherwise speak as many as 447 languages. Of these, 22 happen to be scheduled ones, deserving official recognition and support. Six languages – Kannada, Malayalam, Odiya, Sanskrit, Tamil and Telugu – are recognized as classical ones. English being a prominent link between people, Plum’s popularity in India is readily understandable.

But we digress. We are here to consider the kind of ingredients Plum uses while dishing out an Indian curry.

Some Indian fans of P G Wodehouse who have a chin-up attitude like that of Bertie Wooster and also a hearty capacity to laugh at themselves may appreciate the kind of India-centric similes Wodehouse uses at times to depict the behaviour of his characters.

In reading what follows, it may be advisable for a reader to imagine herself taking a leisurely stroll through either the Shalimar or the tulip gardens of Kashmir, or the Mughal Gardens in New Delhi, relishing the enchanting aroma of each section at a time.

The Indian Curry

Idols, Temples and Priests

Religious fervour is one of the main strands in the socio-cultural tapestry of India. One of its many unique features is its vast pantheon of gods and goddesses, its handcrafted and bejewelled idols, its magnificent temples and its overzealous priests.

  • In Ring for Jeeves, Rory speaks to Monica of a story published in The Strand Magazine in which a gang of blighters pops over to India and pinches a great jewel which is the eye of an idol. When one of the gang is deprived of his share in the booty, he seeks revenge by tracking down all the others and wiping them out. Rory is of the opinion that Captain Biggar is likewise casting a vengeful eye on Bill, as if the latter had denied the former his share of the proceeds of the green eye of the little yellow god in the temple of Vishnu. 
  • The feisty heroine of Something Fresh, Joan Valentine, acts as a muse for Ashe Marson when he suffers from a temporary writer’s block. She suggests that ‘The Adventure of the Wand of Death’ can only be about the sacred ebony stick stolen from an Indian temple which is supposed to bring death to whoever possesses it. Priests dog this person and send him threatening messages. Yet another episode of the adventures of Gridley Quayle, Investigator, gets dished out by Ashe.
  • Mr. Chinnery of Summer Moonshine is said to be an enormously rich person in spite of the incessant demands placed on his income by a platoon of ex-wives to whom he has to keep paying alimonies. Notices keep getting served on him in that respect. He suspects Mr. Bulpitt to be following him to serve yet another notice and shares his discomfiture with Sir Buckstone. He describes his latest encounter with Mr. Bulpitt as that of someone who steals the jewel and thinks he has hid himself rather well, only to look over his shoulder to find some sinister Indian priests around the corner. (Continued)


The inspiration for this essay comes from the scholarly work done by Ms. Masha Lebedeva, who had earlier whipped up a research paper entitled The Russian Salad by P. G. Wodehouse.

The author expresses his sincere gratitude to an eminent expert on Plummy matters for having spared the time to go through a part of this composition and provide insightful suggestions. Some fans of P. G. Wodehouse have also suggested improvements in its contents.

Thanks are also due to Mr. Suvarna Sanyal for dishing out the main illustration; also, to Ms. Sneha Shoney, who has edited the text.

Those of you who wish to cruise through this essay in its entirety may kindly write to akb_usha@rediffmail.com for a PDF version of the complete document to be mailed to them.

Read Full Post »

Defining Consciousness is akin to the case of seven blind men trying to describe an elephant. People have different perspectives. So, when it comes to saying what it really is, the descriptions are often as different as chalk and cheese.

The reason for a wide spectrum of ways in which we understand this concept is what one could label as the Yin and Yang factor. Many of us use our brains to explain what we understand it to be. Many others use our hearts to do so. Perhaps this concept is rather profound. It is beyond the sensory limitations of the human mind, which has an uncanny ability to divide and analyze things. This is what eventually leads to the phenomenon called Analysis Paralysis in management. Our hapless hearts are rooted in what Daniel Goleman refers to as Emotional Intelligence. A solely emotional perspective has its own limitations.

But the situation is not as challenging as it appears to be. The common denominator underlying the entire spectrum is that of the collective good. An integrated view of the concept is surely possible, provided we move on to the level of what Danah Zohar and Ian Marshall, in their book Spiritual Wealth: Wealth We Can Live By, allude to as Spiritual Intelligence.

However, before we move further, let us consider some of the perspectives which one normally comes across.

What is Consciousness?

The Five Maxims  

Ask Jeffrey Deckman, and he is apt to say that it is imperative for a Conscious Leader to play the following roles:

  1. Being a ‘healer’, who calms, comforts and connects those around him.
  2. Of being an ‘elder’, by practicing wisdom, empathy and patience.
  3. Acting as a ‘steward’, nurturing talent and creating conditions for growth just like a gardener would act.
  4. Doffing the hat of a ‘navigator’, envisioning challenges and opportunities, defining broad goals and guiding others.
  5. Being a ‘facilitator’, acting like the conductor of an orchestra, ensuring harmony, encouraging open discussions and aligning by voting and not by consensus.    

Of Gallant Knights

Danah Zohar and Ian Marshall speak of Knights, the leaders who choose to embark on a spiritual path. Having sensed something fundamentally sacred underlying human life, they embed this reality in their actions and in their life’s work.

In both life and work, the knight abides by five principles:

  • There is something sacred, some deeper, shared consciousness, unfolding in this universe and providing a baseline for every aspect of life.
  • Life and all its enterprises are interconnected.
  • All human endeavour, including business, is part of the larger and richer fabric of the whole universe.
  • The relationship of the healthy individual to the world is one of engagement and responsibility.
  • Service conveys deep sense of humility and gratitude.

A Triple Bottom Line Approach

Stephen Karbaron exhorts businesses to embrace an approach of profiting from a purpose driven, triple bottom line paradigm. To him, this is what defines a conscious business strategy approach. He emphasizes the need to be innovative, adaptable and prepared for change, whilst being aware of all stakeholder needs. He keeps sharing live examples of businesses which follow this approach.  

Of Philosopher Kings

Dr Roy Woodhead is of the opinion that the very words ‘conscious enterprise’ imply some sense of an ‘enlightened enterprise’. In one of his thought provoking articles, he says that Plato put forward the idea of ‘philosopher kings’ to lead us. They would not be allowed material gains but would be well looked after; their economic neutrality and lack of vested interests were seen as very important for effective government by the philosopher kings.

Ramayana, one of the revered Hindu scriptures, speaks of King Janaka, the foster father of Sita, the heroine of the epic story. He is said to be a ‘philosopher king’. He is revered as being an ideal example of non-attachment to material possessions. He not only administers his country but also invites sages and intellectuals to spiritual discourses in his assembly. His interactions with sages and seekers such as Ashtavakra and Sulabha are recorded in ancient texts and are illuminating treatises on spiritual principles.

In their book ‘Rajarshi Leadership’, authors S. K. Chakraborty and Debangshu Chakraborty espouse the cause of spiritual leadership. This is a concept which sums up a key lesson from India’s tryst with spirituality: that of first discovering the divinity within, and then to manifest it without. Such conscious leadership is blissful to oneself and to others.  

A Holistic View of Affairs

Jack Beauregard is of the opinion that it is about one connecting with the wholeness and the process of creation. A higher level of consciousness opens one’s life to one’s inner cores, thereby allowing the creativity of the universe to flow into one’s life. This enables one to find innovative solutions for solving the numerous challenges that one faces. He believes that a higher level of consciousness also creates a spiritual perspective. It allows one to view one’s life, other people, our work organizations, technology, the planet earth, and the universe from a sacred point of view.

Jack Beauregard opines that one can help create a new, harmonious world in which to live by taking responsibility for transforming one’s own consciousness. When enough people choose to develop, act, and do business from a balanced, wholistic paradigm, this will automatically have a positive influence on the consciousness of our planet. We can help co–evolve with the intelligent creative process of the universe. When a critical mass is reached, we will then create a positive alternative to the negative actions and beliefs of today’s world. 

Our species will evolve to its rightful inheritance when we realize that human consciousness is a smaller part of the larger consciousness of the universe, and our individual lives, and the human species in general, are small parts of the vast web of life and just one manifestation of the mystery of creation.

The Realm of Creativity 

Hindu and other scriptures speak of one reaching a state when one’s consciousness becomes one with that of the universe, often leading to an exalted phase of creativity. Our physical body then acts as an antenna, translating signals from the universe into something human beings would comprehend. When someone like Mozart composes music, he merely writes what he hears. When a humourist like P. G. Wodehouse creates his unique characters and weaves them into a dramatic plot, he acts more like a celestial author who enables lesser mortals like us to notice a humorous strain in all things around us. 

When Science Steps In

When humanity gropes for the source or the definition of Consciousness, our scientists do not disappoint.

Consider The Global Consciousness Project which is an international, multidisciplinary collaboration of scientists, engineers, artists, and others. Their goal is to examine subtle correlations that may reflect the presence and activity of consciousness in the world. Their researchers predict structure in what should be random data, associated with major global events. Their contention is that when millions of people share intentions and emotions, their data show meaningful departures from expectation. This is an area where science appears to establish the reality of a global consciousness.

A materialistic scientist would tell us that our brains consist of neurons made of atoms. These process our external experiences. At times, our neural processes lead us to recognize a higher meaning in things. According to them, our 40 Hz oscillations happen to be the neural basis for consciousness in the brain.

A Spiritual Insight

More than a century ago, this is how Sri Aurobindo, a highly revered spiritual master and a visionary from India, described his concept of Consciousnessthus:

Consciousness is a fundamental thing, the fundamental thing in existence; it is the energy, the motion, the movement of consciousness that creates the universe and all that is in it not only the macrocosm but the microcosm is nothing but consciousness arranging itself. For instance, when consciousness in its movement or rather a certain stress of movement forgets itself in the action it becomes an apparently unconscious energy; when it forgets itself in the form it becomes the electron, the atom, the material object. In reality it is still consciousness that works in the energy and determines the form and the evolution of form. When it wants to liberate itself, slowly, evolutionarily, out of Matter, but still in the form, it emerges as life, as animal, as man and it can go on evolving itself still farther out of its involution and become something more than mere man.

— Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, pp. 236-7.

Consciousness is usually identified with mind, but mental consciousness is only the human range which no more exhausts all the possible ranges of consciousness than human sight exhausts all the gradations of colour or human hearing all the gradations of sound — for there is much above or below that is to man invisible and inaudible. So there are ranges of consciousness above and below the human range, with which the normal human [consciousness] has no contact and they seem to it unconscious….

— Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, p.233.

In a way, what he appears to be pointing out is that understanding Consciousness is akin to realizing the difference between a physical body which is alive and one which is dead. It is like the sole element which is missing from a dead body.

By providing us with a very wide canvas to understand the term Consciousness, Sri Aurobindo is also indicating that organizations which are conscious are most likely to have the following characteristics embedded in their culture:

  1. An attitude of humility and devotion which enables people to operate – individually as well as in teams – at a higher level of productivity;
  2. A flatter hierarchy which redefines the relationship between those who lead and those who are led; in other words, a Theory Y approach to human relations, a higher diversity of cross-departmental teams, a premium on gender diversity, and an optimum gap between the packages and perks of the highest and the lowest paid people;
  3. A harmonious engagement with diverse stakeholders.


  1. Inputs from Dr Ananda Reddy of the Sri Aurobindo Centre for Advanced Research (SACAR), Pondicherry, India, are gratefully acknowledged. Illustrations courtesy www and Huta, Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry, India.

2. Inputs from Dominique Conterno and Esther Robles, co-founders of Consciousness Enterprises Network (https://www.consciousenterprises.net), are also gratefully acknowledged.)

Related Posts:

Read Full Post »

Exploring the concept of Consciousness further, one may say that whereas a normal organization cares for Results alone, an organization steeped in Consciousnesswould provide an equal weight to all of its three ‘R’s – Results, Relationshipsand Righteousness – in its strategic and tactical thinking.

Results could be either of the financial kind, the market share kind, or a combination of the two.

Relationships would imply a positive working atmosphere where, besides harmonious relations, dissent is not suppressed; rather, it is encouraged. Following human values is an essential part of this attribute. So is respect and dignity towards people in general.  

Righteousness would encompass such features as concern for sustainability, giving back to the society and running operations not only within the ambit of law but beyond it, wherever possible. Being pro-active, when it comes to corporate governance; taking care of the rights of the minority shareholders; ensuring that principles of natural justice get followed; and, following values and ethics.

Yes, the precise definitions of each of these sets of attributes would vary depending not only upon the kind of business an organization is in, but also on the kind of business environment it operates in.   

If each of these three dimensions of conscious organizations is taken into consideration, organizations which are committed to achieving a higher level of Consciousness could consider doing a self-assessment by using the kind of representation shown below:

Here is a scheme which can enable an organization to rate itself against each of the attributes, on a scale of 1 (low) to 9 (high).

Conscious organizations which rate themselves very close to the (Relationships: 9, Results: 9, Righteousness: 9) position in the figure could pat themselves on the back and keep up the good work they are doing, inspiring other ones to follow suit.

The ones which are in the Aspirant (5, 5, 5) category are already on the right track and would do well to start firing at all the twelve cylinders and reach a higher level of Consciousness.

The majority of organizations we come across might fit into the Arsonist Achievers (9, 9, 1) slot. To them, both Results and Relationships count, though they could not care less when it comes to following the path of Righteousness. Such enterprises end up contributing to the kind of situation where we find that during 2020, for instance, humanity needed to be supported by the planetary resources which 1.7 Earths alone can provide. (https://www.footprintnetwork.org/2021/01/19/we-do-not-need-a-pandemic-to-movethedate)

The Bureaucratic ones (9, 1, 9) are bound in red tape, caring only for Relationships and Righteousness, with poor accountability for Results. Yes-persons rule. Sycophancy prevails. Service to the public goes for a toss.

Organizations in the Doomed category (9, 1, 1) prophesize caring only for Relationships, while neither producing Results nor caring for Righteousness. For example, some of the Bretton Woods and other institutions set up after the World War II now appear to be out of sync with the global realities.     

Then we run into some Hollow ones (1, 1, 9) which profess to care only for the path of Righteousness but in reality are shams, pampering only to the ego of a self-styled guru heading a sect. Internal working conditions are akin to labour camps. The pomp and show of serving humanity is often more of a public relations exercise. 

We also have the Preachy ones (1, 9, 9), which care two hoots about Relationships but keep delivering results while making it appear as if they are also on the path of Righteousness. Their bluff is easily called because this unique feat cannot be achieved unless Relationships are given due importance in the scheme of things. Many political outfits which we find are steering their countries away from the core tenets of democracy and turning these into a dictatorship would fall in this category. Political power surely comes their way, but at a great cost to the socio-economic fabric of the nation.  

Most of us dread dealing with the Fly-By-Night (1, 9, 1) kinds, where Results alone count. Long term survival is not the aim. Just keeping the head above the water remains the sole aim. Quite a few of enterprises – mostly in the tiny and small sector – would fall in this category, simply because they can neither afford the luxury of Relationships and Righteousness, nor do they consider it necessary to do so. Ponzi schemes and financial scams fall in this category.  

Then there are mafia organizations which are blissfully ignorant of any such niceties; these continue to chug along in an Unconscious manner. Our society shall surely be better off in their absence.

Within the three ‘R’s outlined here, there may appear to be a sort of gradation. To many of our embryonic start ups, it may appear that only when a certain stage of stability has been attained can the business imagine paying attention to Relations and Righteousness. But habits, once formed, die hard. Such organizations run the risk of getting caught in a conceptual warp, evolving into pure money spinning outfits, eventually landing either in the Fly-By-Night slot or in the Arsonist Achievers slot.

The Many Lenses of Viewing Consciousness

But this is merely one way of viewing the concept of Consciousness.

Over time, our scientists, philosophers, academicians, management honchos and spiritualists of all hues, sizes and shapes have attempted to define the same. Each of these is presents a unique perspective and is worthy of consideration.

The final choice, of course, rests on our leaders. It could be based either on the nature of activity of an organization or on the leaders’ strategic vision.

The pandemic plaguing humanity since 2020 has yet again awakened us to the urgency of uplifting our state of Collective Consciousness and getting an injection of Vitamin Consciousness.

Note: Inputs from Dominique Conterno and Esther Robles, co-founders of Consciousness Enterprises Network (https://www.consciousenterprises.net), are gratefully acknowledged.

Related Post:

Read Full Post »