Archive for February, 2023

Those of you who watch the career achievements of the Empress of Blandings with keen interest may already be aware that the silver medal in the Fat Pigs class at the one-hundred-and-seventy-fifth annual Shropshire Agricultural Show held in 2023 has been won by the Earl of Emsworth’s black Berkshire sow.

Very few people, however, are aware how near that fine specimen of the porcine species came to missing the coveted honour.

Now it can be told.

This brief chapter of Secret History may be said to have begun on the night of the 6th of February, when news trickled in that the Animal Welfare Board of India (an advisory body under the Ministry of Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairying), in its infinite wisdom, had issued a diktat exhorting all the lovers of ‘Gau-mata’ (cow mother) to celebrate the upcoming Valentine’s Day as ‘Cow Hug Day’. It extolled the many virtues of this much-revered animal, describing it as the backbone of Indian culture and even claimed that hugging with cow will bring emotional richness to the hugger, thereby making their life happy and full of positive energy.

As luck would have it, starting on the 13th of February, Lord Emsworth was away to the metropolis for a trip which was supposed to last three days. He hated being in London, but when one has to be a worthy descendant of one’s ancestors and duty calls, one has to take the rough with the smooth.  

While he was away, the Efficient Baxter hatched a juicy scheme in connivance with Lady Constance Keeble. An ingenious plan to boost the revenues of the Castle was unleashed. Learning from the unique initiative of the Government of India, a promotional poster went around on the social media announcing that, for a nominal charge, a person could walk into the Castle and hug the Empress on Valentine’s Day. As an exception, on the day, visitors were permitted to pose for a selfie with the regal animal. Of course, flash photography was not permitted, lest the Empress lose her sense of equanimity and sang froid.

Given the sound reputation of the Empress in the nearby counties, a good many people landed up on the day, and went back with big smiles on their faces, having just clicked a selfie of their having hugged the famous personality. Some even purchased different kinds of mementos, duly cast in ceramic and papier mâché, which were put up on sale on the occasion, depicting the Empress of Blandings in different poses. Special balloons shaped like her were eagerly lapped up by parents who were relentlessly pestered by their obdurate kids.    

At the end of the day, Lady Constance Keeble was delighted when The Efficient Baxter reported back on the magnitude of collections made. She was chuffed that she could not only manage to pay the exorbitant power charges for an entire year of operations at the Castle, but also execute the much-delayed plans for repairs and upgradation of facilities for all its guests, visitors, and impostors.

On the 15th of February, Empress of Blandings, always a hearty and even a boisterous feeder, for the second time on record, declined all nourishment.

On the 16th of February, George Cyril Wellbeloved, the pigman in the employ of Lord Emsworth, sent a telegram to Lord Emsworth which caused many at the local post office to raise their eyebrows by at least a quarter of an inch. The communication read thus:

Empress refuses feeding. Urgent. Need doctor immediately.

Lord Emsworth made an urgent call to the veterinary surgeon, cut short his visit to London, and rushed back to the Castle.

And on the morning of the 17th of February, the doctor called in to diagnose and deal with this strange asceticism, was compelled to confess to Lord Emsworth that the thing was beyond his professional skill.

To recapitulate the events so far:

February 6 – ‘Cow Hug Day’ notification gets issued in India.

February 7 – The Efficient Baxter comes up with a revenue-generation model by declaring the upcoming Valentine’s Day as the ‘Empress Hug Day’.

February 8 – Lady Constance Keeble, anxious about the finances at the Castle, approves the plan.

February 9 – Unbeknown to Lord Emsworth, a poster promoting the gala event gets released on social media.

February 10 – The Animal Welfare Board of India issues a terse notification declaring that its appeal for celebration of Cow Hug Day on 14th February stands withdrawn. Rupert Baxter promptly reports this to Lady Constance Keeble. Nevertheless, both decide to go ahead with their plans.

February 13 – Lord Emsworth leaves for the metropolis.

February 14 – ‘Empress Hug Day’ gets celebrated.

February 15 – Empress lays off the vitamins.

February 16 – Veterinary surgeon gets summoned.

February 17 – Veterinary surgeon baffled.


The effect of the veterinary surgeon’s announcement on Lord Emsworth was overwhelming. As a rule, the wear and tear of our complex modern life left this vague and amiable peer unscathed. So long as he had sunshine, regular meals, and complete freedom from the society of his younger son Frederick, he was placidly happy. But there were chinks in his armour, and one of these had been pierced this morning. Dazed by the news he had received, he stood at the window of the great library of Blandings Castle, looking out with unseeing eyes.

As he stood there, the door opened. Lord Emsworth turned, and having blinked once or twice, as was his habit when confronted suddenly with anything, recognized in the handsome and imperious-looking woman who had entered – his sister, Lady Constance Keeble. Her demeanour, unlike his own, betrayed the inner sense of gratification she was experiencing, having made a substantial contribution to the Castle’s coffers.

‘Clarence,’ she chipped in, ‘have you heard the good news?’

Lord Emsworth looked at her doubtfully.

‘What could be good these days? That man is an ass.’

As frequently happened to her when in conversation with her brother, Lady Constance experienced a swimming sensation in the head.

‘Will you kindly tell me, Clarence, in a few simple words, what you imagine we are talking about?’

‘I am talking about Smithers. Empress of Blandings is refusing her food, and Smithers says he can’t do anything about it. And he calls himself a vet!’

‘Then you haven’t heard? Clarence, Baxter, and I have managed to make a hefty collection on this Valentine’s Day. You no longer need to worry about our backlog of power bills and the critical repairs you were dreaming of carrying out at the Castle. Are you not happy?!’

‘And the Agricultural Show is already upon us!’

‘What on earth has that got to do with it?’ demanded Lady Constance, feeling a recurrence of the swimming sensation.

‘What has it got to do with it?’ said Lord Emsworth warmly. ‘My champion sow, with less than ten days to prepare herself for a most searching examination in competition with all the finest pigs in the county, starts refusing her food—’

‘Will you stop fussing over your insufferable pig and give your attention to something that really matters? I am trying to tell you that we have made a big pile of money while you were off to London to take care of some legal work.’

There was a silence. Brother and sister remained for a space plunged in thought. Lord Emsworth was the first to speak.

‘We’ve tried acorns,’ he said. ‘We’ve tried skim milk. And we have tried potato-peel. But, no, she will not touch them.’

Conscious of two eyes raising blisters on his sensitive skin, he came to himself with a start.

‘Pile of money, you say? How?’

Lady Constance spilled the beans. As she went on spilling the beans, the colour of her brother’s face started changing from a dull pink to a dark shade of red. His physical frame shuddered. His eyes, normally dull, looked like something out of an oxyacetylene blowpipe. As far as he was capable of being disturbed by anything that was not his younger son Frederick, he was disturbed. Somehow controlling his rage, he enquired.

‘Where is Rupert Baxter?’

‘He has gone off to the bank to deposit the amount we collected.’

‘I would surely like a word with him the moment he is back. If he thinks he can go about the place playing fast and loose with the Empress, exposing her to the trauma of getting hugged by all and sundry, and leading her to a mental state where she would refuse her daily quota of fifty-seven thousand and eight hundred calories, he is sorely mistaken. Absurd! Ridiculous! Did he think of seeking her consent before exposing her to such a preposterous arrangement?’


Lord Emsworth blinked. Something appeared to be wrong, but he was convinced that he had struck just the right note – strong, forceful, dignified.


‘We had only worked for the overall good of the Castle.’

Lord Emsworth reflected.

‘But we have to take a strong line,’ he said firmly. ‘When it comes to her, I stand no nonsense. We have no right to deprive the Empress of her right to privacy. I am now going to the pigsty to see how to go about soothing her frayed nerves.’

There is no doubt that, given time, Lady Constance would have found and uttered some adequately corrosive comment on this imbecile suggestion; but even as she was swelling preparatory to giving tongue, Lord Emsworth looked wistfully at the door.

It was smoothly done. A twist of the handle, and he was where harmony prevailed. Galloping down the stairs, he charged out into the sunshine and rushed to the Empress’ abode. Each step that took him nearer to the sty where the ailing Empress resided seemed a heavier step than the last. He reached the sty, and, draping himself over the rails, peered moodily at the vast expanse of the pig within.

The imperial residence of the Empress of Blandings looked very snug and attractive in the mild sunlight. But beneath even the beautiful things of life there is always an underlying sadness. This was supplied in the present instance by a long, low trough, plainly full to the brim of succulent mash and acorns. The fast, obviously, was still in progress.

Not surprisingly, he found George Cyril Wellbeloved on duty there, wistfully viewing the untouched trough.   

‘What does she convey, George?’

‘Sir, I have an impression that it is a matter of time before Reason returns to its throne.’

‘But time is what we do not have’, pointed out Lord Emsworth gloomily.

‘From what I could gather from her grunts and oinks, and also from her body language, she is quite upset at being exposed to so many hugs on a single day. However, she is also happy that she could spread some sweetness and light in the lives of the common public reeling under the impact of unemployment, inflation and the harsher slings and arrows of Fate which are the lot of the lower and the middle classes. She feels that by permitting people to hug her, she has contributed towards bringing about societal change and motivated many to choose the path of universal peace and harmony on a day which celebrates love.’

‘What a fine soul she has!’, quipped Lord Emsworth. ‘I wonder if she has caught the Indian craze of females of all kinds inwardly aspiring to attain what is euphemistically alluded to as Size Zero. But she has never entertained such ambitions. Those who keep a track of her dietary habits already know that she is a hearty and boisterous feeder. You know very well that she lives to feed, thus fulfilling her innate desire to drink deep from the fountain called Life. She has never cared about looking like a balloon with two ears and a tail. She lives a blissful life without bothering about her Size Infinity looks. I daresay all this hugging business has left her totally shaken and stirred, right from her snout to her tail.’

‘Indeed, sir.’

‘It fails me as to how you permitted her getting exposed to such a traumatic experience.’

‘Lady Keeble instructed me to give the Empress a nice bath for the occasion, sir. Mr. Baxter asked me to make a temporary enclosure for people who came over and waited for a long time to do the honours. I merely followed my orders, sir.’

Lord Emsworth drew himself up and adjusted his pince-nez. He felt filled with a cool masterfulness. He felt strongly tempted to fire the pig man. But an inner voice reminded him of the impending competition due to take place in a few days. He also recalled his having had to eat humble pie in respect of Angus McAllister when a favourite pumpkin had to win a prize.

‘Orders, eh, what, what, what? How many times do I have to remind you that when it comes to the Empress’ welfare, you take orders only from me. No one else, and I repeat no one else, is permitted to do so. If you do not see eye to eye with me in this matter, Cyril, say so and we will discuss what you are going to do about it. I value your services highly, Cyril, but I will not be dictated to in my own Castle in any matter, especially anything pertaining to the Empress. Do I make myself clear?’

George Cyril Wellbeloved stood aghast. He thought he had done an outstanding job by following his instructions. He knew the unpredictable temper of Lord Emsworth and wondered if he was about to get sacked. He disliked the idea very much. Blandings Castle was in his bones. Elsewhere, he would feel as if he were in exile.

‘Indeed, sir’, said the pig man sheepishly.

‘You know you have a way of saying, “Indeed, sir,” which gives the impression that it’s only your feudal sense which prevents you from substituting the words, “Says you!”’

‘Is that so, sir?’

‘But how are going to get her to start feeding again? Being an expert at pig rearing, surely you can resolve this issue without further delay? We run the serious risk of her losing out on a medal at the upcoming Shropshire Agricultural Show and instead being relegated to the mean obscurity of merely an ‘Honourably Mentioned.’

‘Sir, I have a suggestion for you to consider. You may remember the time when I was arrested by police constable Evans of Market Blandings for being drunk and disorderly at the Goat and Feathers. I was then jugged for fourteen days without the option of a fine.’

‘What has that got to do with this?’, Lord Emsworth enquired, blinking his eyes. The agony of having to rejig his memory cells showed on his face.

‘But you had then managed to persuade the Empress to approach the trough?’, he said, brightening up a wee bit.

“Oh, is it?” said Lord Emsworth, and paused awhile in thought. He had a vague recollection that someone had once told him to do something – what, he could not at the moment recall – about someone of that name.

Beach was duly summoned to resolve the mystery. He reminded his employer rather frigidly that his previous attempts at pig-calling in his company, duly aided by Angela, had failed to deliver the goods. He went on to point out that what had eventually brought home the bacon then was a pig-call made by James Belford.

The expression on Lord Emsworth’s face was that of a drowning man who sees a lifeline. He fumbled in his trouser pockets and, duly aided and abetted by Beach, could locate his smart phone. He lost no time in getting James on the line. Once the preliminary greetings had been exchanged, the challenge was brought to James’ notice.

‘Most people don’t know it, but I had it straight from the lips of Fred Patzel, the hog-calling champion of the Western States. It is a traditional call which all pigs instantly recognize and respond to. Can I get to speak to your pig-man on the line? I shall explain it to him.’

‘Splendid idea,’ said a cheered-up Lord Emsworth, handing over the instrument to Cyril Wellbeloved.

After a brief exchange, Cyril repeated what he was told.   


‘Nothing like it,’ James said. ‘You want to begin the “Hoo” in a low minor of two quarter notes in four-four time. From this build gradually to a higher note, until at last the voice is soaring in full crescendo, reaching F sharp on the natural scale, and dwelling for two retarded half-notes, then breaking into a shower of accidental grace-notes.’

Cyril went on practising the same till the time James approved of the outcome. The call was terminated, with Lord Emsworth offering profuse thanks to James and even inviting him and Angela to visit the Castle sometime soon.

The moment of reckoning had finally arrived.

Resting his hands on the rail before him, Cyril swelled before their eyes like a young balloon. The muscles on his cheekbones stood out, his forehead became corrugated, his ears seemed to shimmer. Then, at the very height of the tension, he let it go, as advised.


Slowly, fading off across hill and dale, the vast bellow died away. And suddenly, as it died, another, softer sound succeeded it. A sort of gulpy, gurgly, plobby, squishy, wofflesome sound, like a thousand eager men drinking soup in a foreign restaurant. And, as he heard it, Lord Emsworth uttered a cry of rapture.

The Empress was feeding.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Regrettably, both the unique ideas – whether that of a ‘Cow Hug Day’ or of a ‘Pig Hug Day’ – now remain consigned to a dustbin. Perhaps the ideas were a little ahead of their times. Were these to ever get revived, Valentine’s Days in future would witness disgruntled denizens experiencing a surge of positive energy and an inner glow of joy and satisfaction. Physical contact with a member of another species could work wonders for the psychology of an individual. Such initiatives would surely enthuse people to choose a more peaceable and wholesome approach to life, while keeping them away from such inane acts of mischief as aggression against some movies, coffee shops, fashionable retail outlets and even shops selling potatoes, tomatoes, and cucumbers.


  1. Based on the story of the same name by P. G. Wodehouse.
  2. Also, inspired by https://thewire.in/humour/cow-hug-day-cancelled
  3. Illustration of the Empress courtesy Shiva Kumar.

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Most authors happen to be sensitive souls. The kind of cruelty they get subjected to in their routine lives makes one wonder as to how they keep dishing out juicy narratives day after day, despite facing mighty challenges.

For those who specialize in spinning fictional yarns, the basic challenge is that of cranking up a plot and etching out characters which fit into the overall scheme of things. For those who dish out a non-fiction piece of work, the challenge is that of coming up with a novel subject which would provide some satisfaction to their target audience.

Cruelty in the Creative Phase

When their creative juices are in full flow, distractions abound. Social commitments often impede the pace of work. Spouses pop up with some mundane queries just when the proceedings happen to be perking up. Maid servants and postmen come in just at the time when the heroine…

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Many of our Bollywood heroines have waltzed into our hearts and minds based not only on their acting prowess but also owing to their knowledge of classical dance forms. The latter skill has enabled them to present some unique dances on the silver screen, with due support from their directors, music composers and choreographers. If some have been accompanied in their performances in the past by such stalwarts as Gopi Krishna, others have had the backing of legendary figures like Pandit Birju Maharaj.  

Allow me to share with you some dances which I would label as being unique. Either because these are based on classical or semi classical forms of Indian dances, or simply because the presentation as well as the sheer attention to detail leaves one awestruck. Quite a few are solo performances, backed only by instrumental music. Collectively, these present a vibrant rainbow of various human emotions, ranging from love and passion to a gutsy fury.

The Drum Dance (Nagada dance) here is the grand celebration of a royal marriage. It was well choreographed and presented in an era which did not have access to the kind of technology available these days. The story was about a feud between two brothers over their right to rule their father’s kingdom. Each of the huge drums acted like a Trojan horse, hiding soldiers from the rival’s camp. Apparently, it took six months’ practice to get this dance ready for the silver screen.

Chandralekha (1948)

Lead Dancer: T R Rajakumari

Music: S Rajeshwar Rao

Uday Shankar and Amala Shankar entertained us with quite a few classical dances in another movie released in the same year. It was the first film to present an Indian classical dancer in the leading role and was entirely shot as a dance ballet and a fantasy. Here is one gem of a dance which depicts Lord Shiva and Parvati gyrating to their heart’s content.

Kalpana (1948)

Lead Dancers: Uday Shankar, Amala Shankar

Music: Vishnudas Shirali

V. Shantaram’s offerings were invariably based on classical forms of music. Even the design of the titles was highly innovative, often summarizing the key message of the movie in a poignant manner.  

When Lord Shiva flies into a rage, he is believed to break into a special dance form: tandav. Part of this dance depicts the same. Eventually, a timely intervention by the feminine force of the universe – shakti – saves the day.  

Jhanak Jhanak Payal Baaje (1955)

Dancers: Gopi Krishna, Sandhya

Music: Vasant Desai

These are two unique dances. One speaks of the extent of imperfection in our lives. Another captures the playful spirit of Holi – the festival of colours – and even features an elephant trying to match the dancing steps of the heroine.  

Navrang (1959)

Dancer: Sandhya

Music: C. Ramchandra

Based on the classic play Abhigyan Shakuntalam from Kalidasa, this dance captures the feelings of a woman spurned in love.  

Stree (1961)

Dancer: Rajshri 

Music: C. Ramchandra

Here is yet another enchanting dance performance.  

Chhaya (1961)

Dancers: Baby Farida, Asha Parekh

Music: Salil Chowdhury

Many movies have depicted the folklore of love between Radha and Krishna. Songs like Hamen gop gwala kehte hain…(Navrang, 1955) and Mohe panghat pe…(Mughal-E-Azam, 1960) readily pop up in our minds.  Here is another such performance.

Phoolon Ki Sej (1964)

Dancers: Gopi Krishna, Vyjayanthimala

Music: Adi Narayana Rao

What we have here is a classic snake dance. A unique presentation, indeed, superbly crafted and rendered.

Guide (1965)

Dance: Waheeda Rehman

Music: S. D. Burman

Arthashastra of Kautilya mentions the grooming of visha kanyas (Poison Damsels) whose blood and body fluids had poisonous properties. They were used as assassins to eliminate powerful enemies of the state. This dance performance depicts one such case.  

Sagaai (1966)

Dance: Rajshri

Music: Ravi

When a proficient dancer gets challenged in a royal court, she leaves us spellbound by her dancing skills.   

Amrapali (1966)

Lead Dancer: Vyjayanthimala

Indian actress

Music: Shankar–Jaikishan

Yet another solo dance which leaves one mesmerized.

Chhoti Si Mulaqat (1967)

Dance: Vyjayanthimala

Music: Shankar–Jaikishan

A captivating dance performance by a multi-skilled actress who went on the become a member of the Indian Parliament.

Kinara (1977)

Dance: Hema Malini

Music: R. D. Burman.

Versatile directors like Hrishikesh Mukherjee had a knack of presenting character artists who are otherwise famous for their negative roles in a positive light on the silver screen. In this dance sequence, we find Shashikala joining hands with Rekha.    

Khubsoorat (1980)

Dancers: Shashikala, Rekha

Music: R. D. Burman

What happens when an introvert and shy person gets prodded by her well-wishers to showcase her dancing skills at a social gathering?

Chaal Baaz (1989)

Dancer: Sridevi

Music: Laxmikant–Pyarelal

This one is a temple dance by late Sridevi. Unfortunately, I am yet to trace the name of the movie.

Dancer: Sridevi  

Yash Chopra, known as the King of Romance, had a unique way of presenting his heroines at their sensuous best. His name always reminds us of the colour white and of gorgeous heroines draped in plain colour chiffon saris and sleeveless blouses, swaying to rhythmic beats composed by eminent classical musicians.

Chandni (1989)

Dancer: Sridevi

Music: Shiv-Hari

Lamhe (1991)

Dancer: Sridevi

Music: Shiv-Hari

A sophisticated way of telling the ruler to behave himself when it comes to visiting the ‘other woman’.  

Lekin (1991)

Dancer: Hema Malini

Music: Hridaynath Mangeshkar

This one captures the inner anguish felt by a woman who is part of a highly patriarchal family which tries to protect the name of a male member who, along with his friends, had gang-raped the maid servant.   

Damini (1993)

Dancer: Meenakshi Seshadri

Music: Nadeem-Shravan

Two more captivating dances from the stable of Yash Raj Films.

Dil To Pagal Hai (1997)

Dancer: Madhuri Dixit

Music: Uttam Singh

Dil To Pagal Hai: The Dance of Envy

Dancers: Madhuri Dixit, Karishma Kapoor

Sanjay Leela Bhansali is yet another director whose movies are lavishly produced and mounted on a larger-than-life canvas. Consider this song and dance sequence.

Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam (1999)

Lead Dancer: Aishwarya Rai

Music: Ismail Darbar

Here is yet another offering from Bollywood based on the Radha-Krishna folklore. This version brings in the dancing skills of Madhuri Dixit, duly backed by Birju Maharaj’s choreography, music, and lyrics.

Devdas (2002)

Singers: Birju Maharaj, Madhuri Dixit, Kavita Krishnamurthy

Composer/Lyricist: Birju Maharaj

The memories of a distant past come flooding back when the passion for dance resurfaces after the dancer runs into an old love interest.

Dedh Ishqia (2014)

Lead Dancer: Madhuri Dixit

Music: Vishal Bhardwaj

A solo dance, sans lyrics, surely leaves the entire burden of a sparkling performance on the shoulders of the heroine. Our multi-talented divas have never failed us on this count.   

It is not that our heroes do not possess outstanding dancing skills. However, these are very few. The names of Kamal Hasan, Hritik Roshan, Ranbir Kapoor, late Sushant Singh Rajput and Tiger Shroff can be mentioned in this context.  

Here are two video clips which some of you may relish.

Ek Duuje Ke Liye (1981)

Dancer: Kamal Hasan

Music: Laxmikant–Pyarelal

(Courtesy Aman and Swasti Sharma) 

Lakshya (2004)

Dancer: Hritik Roshan

Music: Shankar, Ehsaan & Loy

These days, most male actors can also shake a leg or two, though the trend is towards disco, break-dance, and such newer forms of dances as hip hop, lyrical, freestyle, and fusion.

Gaining proficiency in any form of art needs talent, passion, mentoring, and years of continuous practice. What we get to see for a few minutes on our screens is the culmination of a long-drawn-out effort towards conceptualization, synchronization, persistence, and hard work by all the crew members. One is filled with a feeling of reverence towards all the directors, choreographers, artistes, and technicians who bring such unique offerings to us.   

Recently, at a private party, some youngsters had to work assiduously for about two hours to eventually come up with a dance sequence which ran into merely 53 seconds!

One can well imagine the magnitude of effort artists, choreographers and directors put in to come up with unique dance sequences which keep us enchanted. Imagine creating something as elaborate as, say, Pyar kiya to darna kya… (Mughal-E-Azam, 1960), Hothon mein aisi baat… (Jewel Thief, 1967) and Dola re… (Devdas, 2004). The mind boggles!  

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This young lad, aged about 20 years, was one of those who Mother Nature appeared to have wholly overlooked, while distributing her largesse, to each human.

What he lacked in looks, he also lacked in intelligence. It took more than a decade of his going to school for the family to finally accept that this lad was never going to acquire an education, of even a rudimentary level. One has to look for positives in everyone, but in this case, the only positives discernible were that he had an excellent appetite/digestion, and could fall asleep with utmost ease, at any time of the day. Also, his near genius at picking quarrels with anyone and everyone coming his way. The positive here was that he’d lose out every time, at every fight.

As the years rolled by, his unsavoury looks only worsened, while his intelligence continued to be low. The family were frankly worried, about his future; attempts to inculcate some money earning skills always failed.

Asked to graze a herd of cattle, a simple enough task, he led them into a patch of land under cultivation, which the hungry cattle decimated in a matter of minutes. Asked to distribute milk to different households, almost immediately the milk cans were overturned, and the entire supply spilled. Asked to collect and dispose garbage, he just rearranged them, along the route, adding to it some more of his own. Asked to help out at the village grocery stall, somehow, he managed to set off a fire within two hours, burning it to the ground. In short, in whatever he handled, Murphy’s Law prevailed. He excelled at speedily discovering and promptly implementing ways in which any task assigned to him could be messed up, without fail.

The family elders held a council, to discuss the available options, and the future course for this lad. The discussions were long and heated, as every suggestion bore within itself the seeds of failure. The lad himself just dozed during these discussions, waking up from time to time to only to replenish his stock of peanuts which he loved chewing even while half asleep.

Suddenly, a cousin, of his age, hit upon a brainwave. Since this fellow is thoroughly useless, and will never change for the better, he said, why not launch him into the world as a spiritual leader, as a Baba? The earnings could be good, he argued, and, with reasonable luck, sustain him practically for the rest of his life. This cousin also volunteered to help with the launch of the career of the lad as a Baba. He offered himself to deputise, at least in the initial stages, as a co-worker, as a deputy Baba. In fact, this cousin was eager to help with this family problem.

The suggestion was eagerly seconded by a distant female relative, of the same age. She was a female in a purely medical sense. Her emaciated appearance, her hollowed out cheeks and her general demeanour generally caused doubts about her gender itself. Whereas females had convex curves, hers were all of the concave kind. It was only her high shrill voice that convinced people that she was indeed a female. She even agreed, in fact, volunteered, to marry him, to help his image as a Baba.

The default option, of turning him into a Baba, was agreed to, and the initiation process began. In the confusion, his marriage, to that almost-female also went through. The location where the Baba would hold his sessions was no problem. One such site was available quite nearby, under a tree. This was, earlier, in fact, a place from which another Baba was operating, with a fair degree of success.

However, that Baba was manhandled severely, and chased away, when he made some improper suggestions, to the village headman’s wife, during one of his sermon sessions. At the close of that chase, he was last seen splashing across an irrigation canal and limping away at a high speed. He was assured of an   instant assassination if he ever showed his face again within a fifty-kilometre radius. Thus, this vacated space, with some scope for an existing client base, was now available.

But, a Baba has to speak, to deliver sermons, and he has to speak convincingly, even if the audience comprises mainly of half-witted women. The deputy Baba came up with a solution here. This Baba would interact only with his Deputy, and the audience also could interact only with the Deputy Baba. The Baba himself would maintain a total silence, and therein lay the secret of his greatness – that would be the message spread across the land; everything he said would be a secret, to be divulged only through his Deputy. For a good measure, he was also conferred the title of Rahasya Baba (The Mystery Baba).

Rahasya Baba became an instant hit. The dull glazed expression on his face suggested a deep contemplation of the infinite, of a world and wisdom concealed from the rest of humanity. Armed with an ash covered body, with liberal daubs of saffron and the various large beaded rudraksha chains effectively hiding his scrawny neck, he made a distinct impression on the beholder. The women disciples, especially the half-witted ones, swayed and swooned in ecstasy. The few men disciples came to feast their eyes on the Baba’s consort, that emaciated female seated next to him, about two paces behind him; the men were not sure of what exactly that figure was and were intrigued at that apparition.

The Deputy Baba also was a busy man. He was constantly on the move, conveying messages back and forth, to and from the Baba. Tiring work, this, as well as thinking up clever responses to silly questions. This called for inventive/imagination skills of a high order. But, the pickings, the recompense was good, and kept growing. His earlier job, as a bicycle repair mechanic in a distant town, was good, but nowhere near as good as this.

But, all too often, the offerings were in kind, and, some of these  were outright painful. An offering of pictures of deities, clearly cut from some calendar, and pasted on to a piece of cardboard, was so annoying that the Deputy Baba was sorely tempted to fling it back on to the face of the offering female. However, he contended himself by merely folding his hands in prayer and handing it back. He was reluctant to initiate anything suggestive of violence, considering that he was always the closest to the audience. But, at times, there was a bonanza as well. On occasions, some devotee would hand over a bottle of country arrack, and a pack of beedis. The Deputy Baba had problems only when sharing the same, later, with the Rahasya Baba and his wife, who insisted on even shares.

Talking of shares, the Deputy Baba wanted a review of the arrangements, whereby the offerings were shared on a basis of a mere 25% to him, and the rest to Rahasya Baba, and his wife. After a rather acrimonious session, with most of the shouting done by the wife, his share was hiked to 33%. He could not quietly pocket any of the offerings, as the wife kept her hawk-like vision firmly on him, throughout the collections process.

During this phase, Rahasya Baba and his wife also were now enjoying life much more. Their humble household had undergone a drastic improvement. In the pre-Baba days, a balanced meal was one in which the meagre revenues were balanced with the meagre fare on the table. But, now, the balanced meal took on a more conventional definition – that of three square meals a day, with regular non-veg items, pure desi ghee, sweets etc.

The wife was now blooming, flourishing as never before. The emaciated appearance was a thing of the past. The cheeks were now chubby, and the concavity of her curves had got replaced with convexity, reminding males with their lecherous looks of the scenic and curvaceous track of a mountain train. Now she walked with an almost seductive swing of the hips. Her gait no longer reminded one of a mud-crab scuttling for cover. Her vastly improved appearances did attract the attention of the Deputy Baba, but she kept him at a distance. She was smart enough to know that a dumb husband is always preferable to a smart lover.

Rahasya Baba’s fame spread far and wide. His client base now included devotees from far away towns, and even some international visitors. The fair-skinned goras/goris couldn’t quite pronounce Rahasya, so, it got anglicized to Rex. It was Rex baba who they came to offer obeisance and homage to. So, the name Rex Raba became the official name.

Rex Baba (under the guidance of his Deputy, of course) now held court at different venues. Franchise arrangements were set up in different areas, and his wife also acquired an audience. She was now known, as Rex Babette. Everything went on like clockwork.

Until, one sad day, the police arrived, to ensure crowd control. One of them recognized the Deputy Baba as the very same bicycle mechanic who had stolen a bicycle from the police station when it was given for some repair work. His immediate arrest, and subsequent incarceration meant that no more guidance, no more profound secret sharing between the Baba and his devotees.

This is how the story of Rex baba ended. Incredibly sad, indeed. However, soon enough, there is bound to come along some other Baba, to provide mental solace and comfort, so the devotees could cope with the sadness, deprivation, and such other mundane challenges of life.

Be patient, friends.

(The author is a retired banker. Decades of handling of the fragile egos of his bosses, studying and acting upon the psychology of his colleagues, and mentoring irate juniors, has failed to kill his creative grey cells. His thoughts are based on contemporary reality and are duly seasoned with ready wit, wisdom, humour, and satire. He unleashes these upon his unsuspecting public through his Facebook wall. He happens to be an ardent fan of P G Wodehouse.

His permission to post this piece here is gratefully acknowledged.)

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(The final resting place of Plum at Southampton, New York, USA)

Dear Plum Sir,

I wonder if you happen to realize the kind of life your fans like me live. I can assure you it is not an easy one.

Serving Life Imprisonment at a Plummy Sing Sing

Often, I feel as if I am an inmate at the Sing Sing Correctional Facility, surrounded by high walls of delectable humour, on top of which I can see barbed wire fencing of your ready wit and sarcasm. I find it impossible to escape from this high-security prison. You may know that one of your fans (Ashok Kumar Bhatia) has even gone ahead to describe this kind of entrapment as the 3rd and final stage of what he alludes to as ‘Wodehousitis’.

I confess it is a sentence which has not been dished out by a stern-looking beak. No fines have been imposed by anyone. Nor is it an imprisonment which comes without an option. It is purely voluntary. The only crime I have committed is that of pinching one of your books from the shelf of one of my maternal uncles or one of my friends, that too at a tender age. Ideally, it would have attracted a punishment merely under the law which covers juveniles. Surely, not the harsh kind which I have to live through as long as I am alive and kicking.

Early in the morning, there is a roll call which involves all of us presenting the summary of any story of yours, or a quotation therefrom, which we might have come across on the previous day. Ashe Marson then comes in, making us do Larsen exercises, mercilessly ensuring that we jog at least two kilometres within the jail compound, before being commanded to have cold baths. A frugal breakfast designed by Laura Pyke follows. In fact, the two other meals of the day follow the same philosophy – of comprising dishes which are rich in fat soluble vitamins, but which promptly turn to ashes in the mouth.

Twice a day, Roderick Spode, the jailer, passes by for a closer inspection of our cells, giving us supercilious glances. Once a week, Doctor E. Jimpson Murgatroyd, you know the one who has sad and brooding eyes and long whiskers, checks us up, sending our spirits right down into the basement. Once in a month, Sir Roderick Glossop visits each one of us with the sole purpose of checking our Looniness Quotient.

One consolation we have is that it is a mixed-sex facility. But meetings with the members of the tribe of the delicately nurtured are few and far between. Some of the female inmates happen to be of the dreamy kind, like Madeline Bassett. Some are of the sporty kind, a la Pauline Stoker and Honoria Glossop. Few others are of the goofy kind, reminding us of Stephanie Byng and Roberta Wickham.

Another bright spot is that the facility boasts of a well-stocked library which has multiple copies of all your books, keeping us preoccupied with devouring the same, one by one. Unfortunately, no other books of any kind are available to us, creating an intellectual vacuum of sorts. 

To me, and perhaps for many other inmates, identifying such ‘vacuums’ results into our almost getting obsessed with your work, unable to leave the pleasurable cocoon you have built and left behind for us through your canon. It comes as no surprise that many call you a ‘master wordsmith’.

Of Literary Merit

In the realm of modern literature, I find authors in every language who generate the right set of emotions while documenting a particular chronicle to win over the hearts of their readers. Also, we should not forget that any work of art is subjective – whether it is likable or not is left to the reader’s discretion or intellect. Recently, I have often encountered a few authors who have successfully delivered their message to the ‘right set’ of audience and have created emotions that resonate properly with the feelings of the readers.

However, such works of art, according to me, singularly lack some critical ingredients – a witty statement, a dash of wisdom, a clever twist of the phrase, an ingenious use of the Queen’s language, a humorous situation which, even, during a crisis created for the readers to sweat, feels like a cool breeze caressing one’s face at the height of the kind of hot and humid we suffer in my part of the world. Or, like a glass of water naturally cooled in an earthen pitcher.

I started reading you when I entered college and got addicted to your works. I used to search for your books anywhere and everywhere. Earlier, I encountered some great authors like Shaw, Russel, and Priestley but, with due respect, I felt, no one was successful in putting a sense of intoxication (if that is the word I want) in myself other than you.

As fate would have it, my association with you changed my outlook towards life. I learnt to take it more and more lightly, occasionally dismissing its harsh slings and arrows in a nonchalant manner, much like dusting off an imaginary speck of dust from my jacket. I developed empathy for others and even started feeling for my enemies when they were in a crisis.

You are a Man of all Seasons

In my younger days, during my summer holidays, after coming back to the house from the playground, I used to have a glass of water from an earthen pitcher which we used to have in our house in those pre-refrigerator days. The water, as soon as it would touch my parched lips, used to give me a sense of comfort which, I daresay, no water from the refrigerator has ever given! Every single drop of that water was so perfect! Be it temperature-wise, be it taste-wise! It never failed to energize me with a great boost up forgetting all the fatigue which I carried from playground to home. I can easily compare it to the Jeeves’ trademark pick-me-ups.

During harsh winters, your works feel like the warmth of a fireplace which is ablaze. During monsoons, when parts of the city roads could put the canals of Venice to shame, these feel like a freshly pinched umbrella protecting me from the incessant downpour. When spring arrives and my fancy turns to tender thoughts of love, these feel like a post-lunch snooze in the mild sun.

You are Omnipresent

I happen to feel your presence in all the situations and people that I encounter. 

As a youth, whenever I ran into a female, my tongue would invariably dry up. My Adam’s apple would bounce like a table tennis ball. My eyes would bulge. I desperately needed someone who will mix some stimulant in my jug of orange juice.

For many years, my parents thought I would bring home a girl some day and merely seek their blessings. However, I am the subservient and obedient kind. Thus, I could eventually have only what is euphemistically referred to as an ‘arranged marriage’. I admit there are advantages to this. One, for all my matrimonial challenges, I can blame my parents. Two, in such cases, love sprouts much after a walk down the aisle. Thus, the alliance fails to mummify the corpse of love.

In my work life too, I see you everywhere. A tough boss appears like Mr. Schnellenhamer. When he yells, I feel like the young Bertie Wooster facing Rev. Aubrey Upjohn in his study, sans, of course, the cane. A friendly colleague makes me recall the equation between Mike and Psmith. A disobedient and back-stabbing subordinate generates the kind of feelings Sir Roderick Glossop would have had in his bosom when Master Seabury laid out the butter slide for him. When I face a tough challenge at the workplace, I wonder how Jeeves would have met the same. I miss him as much as Lady Constance Keeble would miss Rupert Baxter.  

Of Movies and their impact

Your works chase me even within the confines of a cinema hall.

I love watching movies. However, I keep on searching for various flavours in a single movie and have found that my opinion about wit and humour resonates with that of literature. Lots of things are successfully delivered to the audience but a few new-age films that I have watched recently have not been successful in putting a smile on my not-so-handsome visage. There is sarcasm, there is satire, there is violence and sex in gay abundance, but a refined farce or humour is sadly missing. This provokes me to watch old Indian films, many of which had a Plummy brand of subtle humour the yearning for which has so very successfully been planted by you in my feeble grey cells.

Who can forget the hilarious situation at the end of the movie ‘Rang Birangi’ (Colourful, Dir: Hrishikesh Mukherjee, 1983) whereinmost of the characters come together in a police station. It is a truly rib-tickling scene.

I remember another movie from the same director –‘Khoobsurat’ (Beautiful, Dir: Hrishikesh Mukherjee, 1980) wherein a family is saved from a Lady Adela like mother by a goofy character like Bobby Wickham.

There are many such instances in old films. Even I get Plummy vibes in many of the films that I have watched in Bengali language. ‘Mahapurush’ (The Holy Man, Dir: Satyajit Ray, 1965) is based on a story by Parashuram (Birinchibaba), who, as far as I understand, was your fan, and took many instances from your stories. The same influences are found in films like ‘Golpo holeo satti’ (True, even if it is a story, Dir: Tapan Sinha, 1966), which was remade in Hindi as ‘Bawarchi’ (The Cook, Dir: Hrishikesh Mukherjee, 1972), and ‘Goopy Gayen Bagha Bayen’ (Adventures of Goopy and Bagha, Dir: Satyajit Ray, 1966), etc.

When I think of either the closing scene of the Bengali movie ‘Jatugriha’ (The House of Lac, Dir: Tapan Sinha, 1964), or the opening scene of the Hindi film (based on the same story) ‘Ijaazat’ (Permission, Dir: Gulzar, 1987), when an estranged husband and wife run into each other after many years at a rural railway station’s waiting room, I try to suppress a giggle. The stilted conversation between them, where feasts of Reason and flows of Soul are sorely missing, somehow reminds me of the following lines from one of your greatest works of fiction, ‘My Man Jeeves’:

“What ho!”, I said.

“What ho!”, said Motty.

“What ho! What ho!”

“What ho! What ho! What ho!”

After that it seemed rather difficult to go on with the conversation.

While many movies remind me of the kind of the kind of subtle humour you specialize in, there are even songs which take my mind to your delectable works. Consider the song ‘Mere paas aao mere doston…’ from the Hindi movie ‘Mr. Natwarlal’ (1979, Dir: Rakesh Kumar) where the hero describes his encounter with a lion in a jungle.

There is a striking similarity here with one of your famous quotes from Ring for Jeeves which goes like this:

It was a confusion of ideas between him and one of the lions he was hunting in Kenya that had caused A. B. Spottsworth to make the obituary column. He thought the lion was dead, and the lion thought it wasn’t.

The Psychology of the Individual and “pi”

As a child, long before I became aware of your works, I remember getting solace by thinking of alternative endings to any terse situation. For example, someone being carried to the hospital in a serious condition used to invoke a thought in myself – what if, after checking the patient for, say, tuberculosis, the doctor felt that he/she was wrong, and the patient was suffering from nothing but an ordinary cough and cold?

Perhaps, Mother Nature had sown the seeds of a deep craving for pristine humour in me, long before I started reading you. The entire maternal side of my family was a fan of your works. Our genes and our environment surely shape our psychology. Jeeves was surely not much off mark when he extolled the virtues of studying the ‘Psychology of an Individual’ (PI in short) to resolve problems.

There are indeed times when I wonder if Jeeves, with his keen intelligence, had ever studied mathematics. If so, he would have been happy to know of the number “π” (spelled out as “pi”). I allude to the mathematical constant which is the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter, approximately equal to 3.14159. It also helps us to figure out the area of a circle, given its radius.

If so, Jeeves would have surely figured out that the circumference, as well as the area, or scope, of the challenge faced by Bertie or one of his pals is intricately related to the radius, or the magnitude, of the disgruntled person’s Looniness Quotient.

Just like “pi” (approx. 22/7) happens to be an irrational number, the decimal representation of which is never ending, human behaviour and the circumstances prevailing at the time of executing a fruity scheme are a finicky and unpredictable lot. Consider the case of Bertie’s plan to shove Oswald into the lake and getting Bingo Little to rescue him, thereby winning over the affections of Honoria Glossop. Jeeves never approves of the scheme. He believes that there are too many imponderables in the situation. Soon, we realize, that (a) Oswald knows swimming, and (b) Bingo Little is missing in action, having just transferred his own affections to a lady other than Honoria, thereby rendering the whole scheme null and void.

Lord Emsworth

The Appropriateness of Valentine’s Day

When hormones started sloshing about within my veins, I started developing attraction towards the opposite sex. However, a mushy sense of love has never been part of my psychology. Gifting chocolates, flowers and having the guts to look a pretty lass in the eye and murmur some sweet nothings happen to be beyond my level of competence.

Typically, a Valentine’s Day would find me in a sad mood, much like the feeling Lord Emsworth used to have on a Parva School Treat Day. I would see apparently happy couples around me and celebrating the day to their heart’s content! But once I became used to devouring your works, I realized that love was wherever you were. Whether it is Angela and Tuppy fighting over a shark, or Joe and Julia sharing the condition of their stomach lining, or even Mrs. Spottsworth imagining being clubbed and dragged by her hair to a man’s cave many centuries back, love invariably lurks behind most of your works.

Being an Inmate at the Psing Psing Correctional Facility

The fact that you decided to hand in your dinner pail on a Valentine’s Day was an understandable coincidence. I do feel sad on this day, but it is a sadness which has a dash of elegance to it, arising out of my being a part of your beautiful world! I guess the feeling is akin to the kind of sensation one feels while putting a sweet-and-sour dish down one’s hatch. Had you lived longer, spreading joy, sweetness, and light for all your Sing Sing fans, prompting them to never consider leaving the facility. In fact, we should refer to it as the Psing Psing Correctional Facility.

In any case, unlike the two protagonists of the movie ‘Sholay’ (The Glowing Embers, Dir: Ramesh Sippy, 1975), who planned a daring jailbreak, I entertain no such ambitions. I am sure many other fans would approve of this sentiment.

I hereby rest my case and apologize for disturbing you in your well-deserved rest and recuperation in the heavens above with a long letter of this kind. I also wish to assure you that the love for your oeuvre down here on this planet is very much alive and kicking, thanks to many experts, several societies, virtual groups, and fanatics like yours truly.

I can see you smiling down at all of us, waving a gentle hand – this, indeed, is my reward. 

A hearty pip pip!

(Photo of Plum’s grave courtesy Ms Anuradha Bharat. Illustration of Lord Emsworth courtesy Suvarna Sanyal. Inputs from Ashok Kumar Bhatia are also gratefully acknowledged.)

(Suryamouli Datta is a 42-year young fan of P G Wodehouse. He is a software professional, presently associated with Tata Consultancy Services. He is an amateurish author who is yet to knock at the publisher’s door. He is a black belt in karate and occasionally dabbles in theatre. He also happens to be a movie buff.

He believes that Wodehouse, like golf, should be caught early and that his Guardian Angels have will-nilly ensured that this is what has happened to him! Thus, the ‘child’ in him is yet to grow up and he is pretty elated about it.)

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One of the major events our marketing honchos keenly look forward to happens to be the Valentine’s Day. Promotional goods flood the market. Aggressive campaigns get launched, with a sharp eye on the purse of the customer. Producers of chocolate, balloons and heart-shaped objects rule the roost. A sense of eager anticipation prevails. Love is in the air. Couples can be seen holding hands and whispering sweet nothings in each other’s ears, cooing to each other like turtle doves.

Quite a few friends of mine believe me to be a romantic. However, I confess I have never quite understood the sentiment alluded to as love. Perhaps, I am too much of a perfectionist. Or, I may be a creature of rigid habits, inwardly shuddering at the prospect of being ‘reformed’ in any way by a member of the species of the delicately nurtured.

Often, I wonder if the concept of love is merely a mirage which people keep chasing relentlessly, possibly encountering a few oases of a deeper level of infatuation along the way.  

Love – A Gigantic Swindle? 

What exactly does it entail to be in love with someone? If at all someone gets to experience this sentiment which is responsible for a major chunk of our literature, fine arts, and movies, why would one be referred to as having fallen in love? Is this sentiment akin to the ‘bottomless perdition’ referred to by John Milton in Paradise Lost?

Instead, why can’t people follow the example of such kids as Thomas Gregson, Bonzo Travers and Sebastian Moon? Some of you may recall how they rose in love by trying to be worthy of the affections of their favourite silver screen divas like Greta Garbo, Lilian Gish, and Clara Bow.

Consider the views of the highly opiniated and strong-willed Ann Chester of Piccadily Jim fame who calls love a swindle of gigantic proportions. She hates all this noise about love, as if it were something wonderful that was worth everything else in life put together.

“Because I’ve had the courage to think about it for myself, and not let myself be blinded by popular superstition. The whole world has united in making itself imagine that there is something called love which is the most wonderful happening in life. The poets and novelists have simply hounded them on to believe it. It’s a gigantic swindle.”

She continues further.

“I believe in marriage. . .but not as the result of a sort of delirium. I believe in it as a sensible partnership between two friends who know each other well and trust each other. The right way of looking at marriage is to realise, first of all, that there are no thrills, no romances, and then to pick out someone who is nice and kind and amusing and full of life and willing to do things to make you happy.”

Of Love, Saint Valentine, and Martyrdom

I am reasonably certain that the soul of the 3rd century Italian Saint Valentine would be rather pleased at the positive press he keeps getting year after year, though his name represents not only courtly love but also being worthy, strong, and powerful. Those who have already experienced this emotion can alone confirm if these personality traits happen to be essential for one to aspire to be a star performer in the realm of love.

However, there is no evidence that poor Saint Valentine was a patron of lovers. Just before his beheading, apparently, he wrote a note to a girl, whose eyesight he had restored, signed ‘from your Valentine’. This might have inspired today’s lovers to associate him with romantic overtures. Moreover, during the Middle Ages, it was believed that birds paired in mid-February. This could have been another factor which could have led to Valentine’s Day getting widely recognized as a day for romance and devotion.

The fact that he was martyred on February 14, 269 at the behest of Claudius II, the then Roman Emperor, might have even led people to say that they fall in love. Those who are experts on the topic of love alone may be able to say if it feels like being martyred at the altar of love when one falls in it. After all, it would need nerves of chilled steel to willingly surrender one’s freedom, carefreeness, and sovereignty to another human being, thereby, in a way, getting martyred upon falling in love. Sure enough, they follow Indian scriptures which strongly advocate the spiritual concept of surrender, albeit to a higher power.

Shades of Love

Having exercised my limited grey cells a wee bit and having perused some of the narratives of P G Wodehouse, I have veered around to the view that he captures at least three shades in the rainbow of this much-revered sentiment.  

Light Pink: The Butterfly/Chamois State

Those who behave like either butterflies or the chamois of the Alps constitute this category. Consider these cases from the oeuvre of Plum and you would know what I mean.

“Are you insinuating that I am the sort of man who turns lightly from one woman to another—a mere butterfly who flits from flower to flower, sipping . . .?”

(Frederick Mulliner to Jane Oliphant in Portrait of a Disciplinarian)

“But the real reason was that he thought Boko was a butterfly.”

I couldn’t follow her. She had me fogged. Anything less like a butterfly than good old Boko I’ve never set eyes on.

“A butterfly?”

“Yes. Flitting from flower to flower and sipping.”

(Nobby Hopwood, to Bertie Wooster, Joy in the Morning)

“I haven’t seen Pongo since we were kids.”

“Even then he was flitting from flower to flower like a willowy butterfly.”

(Bill Oakshott and Lord Ickenham, Uncle Dynamite)

“I think young Mike Cardinal is a butterfly, Shorty; the kind that flits from flower to flower and sips.”

(Terry Cobbold to Lord Shortlands, Spring Fever)

“And this will show you the sort of flitting and sipping butterfly the hound is.”

(Catsmeat Potter-Pirbright, to Bertie, about Esmond Haddock, The Mating Season)

Like so many young doctors with agreeable manners and frank blue eyes, Ambrose Gussett continued to be an iodoform-scented butterfly flitting from flower to flower but never resting on any individual bloom long enough to run the risk of having to sign on the dotted line.

(Up from the Depths)

“He is a flitting butterfly and a two-timing Casanova.”

(Valerie Twistleton, speaking of Horace Davenport, The Shadow Passes)

For some time past, it appeared, he had been flitting round this girl like a pimpled butterfly, and it had suddenly come to him with a sickening shock that his emotional nature had brought him to the very verge of matrimony.

(Oofy Prosser’s self-realization, The Word in Season)

“And you stand revealed as a cross between a flitting butterfly and a Mormon elder,” said Sally with spirit. “You and Brigham Young, a pair.”

(Sally Painter to Freddie Widgeon, Ice in the Bedroom)

“The trouble with you, Bertie, is that you haven’t got it in you to understand true love. You’re a mere butterfly flitting from flower to flower and sipping, like Freddie Widgeon and the rest of the halfwits of whom the Drones Club is far too full.”

(Gussie Fink-Nottle accusing Bertie Wooster in Stiff Upper Lip, Jeeves)

“Like so many substantial citizens of America, he had married young and kept on marrying, springing from blonde to blonde like the chamois of the Alps leaping from crag to crag.”

(Summer Moonshine)

It was unfortunate that none of these arguments presented themselves to Bill Oakshott as he turned the corner. In Otis Painter he saw just another libertine, flitting from flower to flower and sipping, and we are already familiar with his prejudice against libertines.

(Uncle Dynamite)

‘What did he say?’

‘Well, he seemed to hint, unless I misunderstood him, that the above Haddock hadn’t, as it were, done right by our Nell. According to Catsmeat, you and this modern Casanova were at one time holding hands, but after flitting and sipping for a while he cast you aside like a worn-out glove and attached himself to Gertrude Winkworth. Quite incorrect, probably. I expect he got the whole story muddled up.’

(Corky and Bertie Wooster, The Mating Season)

Dark Pink: The Nightingale State

What happens when the sentiment of love has survived the ravages of time? Or, when two persons suddenly rediscover each other and sparks of love fly. Having had a rich experience in their lives, they use their astonishingly rich repertoire to ‘sing’ to each other like nightingales, sharing their social, familial, health, and many other issues with much felicity.  

In most of his works, P G Wodehouse regales us with the topsy-turvy romances of couples who are invariably in the impressionable phases of their lives. But in a few of his narratives, such as Indian Summer of an Uncle, Extricating Young Gussie, and Ring for Jeeves, even a seasoned romance gets celebrated. Gone are the impulsive breakoffs linked to sharks, moustaches, and an abysmal record at the golf links. Nor are we treated here to an impetuous affair kick-started by the heroine’s cat being saved by a chivalrous and dashing hero. Instead, we are allowed to bask in the soft glow and warmth of a long drawn out romance the embers of which get rekindled after several years.

Such couples often find a common cause in family affairs, shared ailments, and, of course, areas of common interest. Piggy and Maudie, Joe and Julia, and Mrs Spottsowrth and Captain Biggar fit into this category. So do Sir Roderick Glossop and Lady Chuffnell and James Duff and Beatrice Chavender.

Bright Red: The Turtle Dove State

Marriage is not a process for prolonging the life of love, sir. It merely mummifies its corpse.

(The Small Bachelor)

However, the good news is that as long as the embers of romance are aglow, a bright red shade of love prevails.  

Consider the state of matrimonial bliss Bingo Little attains after he has realized that Rosie M Banks is indeed The One as far as he is concerned. Much like a sub-atomic particle which altogether skips an orbit and jumps from one to another, he transcends from being a butterfly to a turtle dove state.  

We know Bingo Little to be a diehard romantic, perennially in love with some dashing female or the other. Even when at school, he is reported to have had the finest collection of actresses’ photographs; at Oxford, his romantic nature was a byword. He is inclined to fall in love at first sight on a regular basis and become highly emotional about his affections.

Residents of Plumsville are aware that objects of his affection have included a waitress named Mabel; Honoria Glossop, the formidable daughter of Pop Glossop; Daphne Braythwayt, a friend of Honoria; Charlotte Corday Rowbotham, a revolutionary; Lady Cynthia Wickhammersley, a family friend of Bertie’s; and Mary Burgess, niece of the Rev. Francis Heppenstall. After each failed affair, Bingo does not necessarily sulk. The scales fall from his eyes, and he suddenly realizes that the next girl alone is his true soul mate.

After many failed affairs, Bingo ends up marrying the romance novelist Rosie M. Banks, an author whose outlook on life happens to match well with that of his.

Within ten days of having met his future wife, Bingo announces to Bertie Wooster that he has been successful in his latest endeavour.

‘Good Lord! That is quick work. You haven’t known her for two weeks.’

‘Not in this life, no,’ said young Bingo. ‘But she has a sort of idea that we must have met in some previous existence. She thinks I must have been a king in Babylon when she was a Christian slave. I can’t say I remember it myself, but there may be something in it.’

(The Inimitable Jeeves)

In the post-matrimony phase, we find a Bingo Little who is completely transformed. He is singularly devoted to his wife. Maintaining matrimonial peace and harmony is the sole purpose of his life. When it comes to keeping his lady-love happy and contented, there is little that he leaves to chance.

‘Oh, sweetie-lambkin, isn’t that lovely?’


‘Laura Pyke wants to come here.’


‘You must have heard me speak of Laura Pyke. She was my dearest friend at school. I simply worshipped her. She always had such a wonderful mind. She wants us to put her up for a week or two.’

‘Right-ho. Bung her in.’

‘You’re sure you don’t mind?’

‘Of course not. Any pal of yours…’

‘Darling!’ said Mrs Bingo, blowing him a kiss.

‘Angel!’ said Bingo, going on with the sausages.

(Jeeves and the Old School Chum)

Wherever Plum is, love cannot be far behind. He covers its varied hues with much aplomb. If he, the Master Wordsmith of our times, has covered this sentiment so very extensively, I guess it must have some merit to it.

In any case, to all those who claim to be besotted, captivated, charmed, enamoured, enchanted, enraptured, obsessed, smitten, and taken in by a party of the other part, I hereby extend my best wishes. May their tribe flourish, keeping our marketing honchos, authors as well as publishers of mushy romantic books, movie moguls, and many others laughing all the way to their respective banks.      

The Pale Parabola of Love

Staunch believers in the concept of love, as well as purists, may register a protest at missing out on a few other shades of this sentiment in Plum’s universe which thrives on humour, wit, and positivity. A unique feature of this universe is that nothing negative happens here. The worst suffering may involve looking for strawberries around Christmas time and getting fined as well as jugged for trying to steal some. Or, being confronted by someone like Roderick Spode who goes about issuing sinister threats to lover boys who make the party of the other part cry.  The ultimate sacrifice may be going on a strict vegetarian diet and forsaking the pleasure of putting steak and kidney pie down the hatch till the time the relations are restored, and love is back on its shimmering throne.

Even death does not depress. Nor does it make the spirits sag. Instead, it finds mention in a positive vein. It confers wealth, castles and titles upon the best loved heirs and wards, thereby spreading joy and sunshine all around.           

A Pristine Shade of Love

Plum presents a pristine version of love. He takes the reader on a leisurely stroll in his Garden of Eden where apples are of the high hanging kind and such creatures as snakes are singularly missing. A strict code of chivalry is in vogue. Romance blossoms. Devotion is permitted. But physical intimacy is a taboo. Aphrodite has limited access to the goings on. Eroticism is denied entry. Saint Valentine would have heartily approved.  

It is rather fitting that Plum decided to hand in his dinner pail on Valentine’s Day, a day associated with love, romance, and devotion. He bequeathed his works to all his fans, spreading eternal joy and sweetness on this planet.    

(Notes: Butterfly/Chamois quotes are courtesy Ana Jung. Inputs from Suryamouli Datta is gratefully acknowledged.)

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