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ashokbhatia

Here is a juicy excerpt from Blandings Castle which fans of P G Wodehouse and Mahatma Gandhi may relish!

“It has sometimes seemed to me (said Mr Mulliner, thoughtfully sipping his
hot Scotch and lemon) that to the modern craze for dieting may be attributed
all the unhappiness which is afflicting the world to-day. 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 menfolk.

“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

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ashokbhatia

The Guardian Angels who preside over the affairs of yours truly recently enabled a short trip to Netherlands. Other than a wonderful meeting with some fans of P G Wodehouse in Amsterdam, one could also visit Zaanse Schans and Rotterdam.

Of tilting at windmills

Zaanse Schans in Netherlands is best known for its collection of well-preserved historic windmills and houses. Built from 1576 AD onwards, these windmills have been used for multiple purposes. Claude Monet was so impressed that he came up with several paintings depicting these.

From 1961 to 1974 old buildings from all over the Zaanstreek were relocated to the area, so as to preserve this unique architectural heritage and to promote this as a unique open air museum of windmills, old houses and traditional crafts.

While crossing the windswept bridge over the river Zaan, one is captivated by the panoramic view of windmills. One could be excused…

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ashokbhatia

Dear Comrades,

Quite a few of you perhaps wonder as to how a very tall and lanky guy like me managed to win the affections of someone like Eve, who is of a medium height and radiates a sort of golden sunniness around her.

I believe the following to be some of the factors which enabled this courtship to reach a satisfactory outcome.

Dressing Nattily

Contrary to what cynics believe – that one should focus on the inner qualities of head and heart possessed by the party of the other part – the fact remains that external appearances alone assist in the initial stages of any courtship. A cheerful visage, a valiant gaiety, a set of bright eyes and a dash of self confidence are crucial enabling factors. Add to this a habit of dressing nattily and you get a winning formula which is hard to beat.

Whether one desires…

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Not merely the number but the amazing variety and range of comic situations and characters that Plum has created entitle him to more than the appellation of a comic genius. And then there is the beauty of his language, the mot juste, the easy flow and the almost lyrical quality of the descriptions of nature, especially in the Blandings novels. It was not for nothing that Hillaire Bellock once described him as the best living writer of the English language. It is difficult to pick one’s favourites from his uniformly delightful output. One can merely endeavour to capture the broad contours of his canon here.

Take the case of the Blandings Castle stories wherein the humour is derived from such adorable absurdities as the woollen-headed peer, Lord Emsworth, whose sole passion in life is his prize pig, the Empress of Blandings; his eccentric brother, Galahad, who never went to bed till 4 am and has no business to be in the pink of health that he is in, in his fifties ; his son, Freddie, the go-getter salesman of Donadson’s Dog-joy biscuits; his secretary, the ever-suspicious Rupert Baxter; his gardener Agnes McAllister who detests any attempts by kids to pick up flaar’z from his fiefdom; the array of his formidable sisters and last, but not the least, the dignified and portly butler, Beach, whose walk reminds one of an elephant having a saunter in an Indian jungle, and one for whom it is difficult to stop once the subject of the lining of his stomach comes up. 

The Jeeves-Wooster stories depend on a plethora of odd-ball characters such as the hero, Bertie Wooster, himself; his incomparable gentleman’s personal gentleman, Jeeves, who is also Bertie’s friend, philosopher and guide and rescues him from many a sticky situation, being endowed with a master brain, probably the result of his predominantly piscine diet; Bertie’s favourite aunt, Dahlia, whose telephone conversations can be heard in the next county; Sir Watkyn Basset, the ex-magistrate, who, according to Bertie, has grown rich by pocketing a five pound fine here and a five pound there, imposed on miscreants; his daughter, Madeline, who thinks stars are God’s daisy chain; his niece Stiffy Byng, a girl to be carefully avoided by all sensible gentlemen because she is always hell-bent on sending them on crazy errands; Bingo Little, who beats the record of falling in and out of love with many members of the tribe of the delicately nurtured till he walks down the aisle with Rosie M Banks, and, of course, Roderick Spode, ‘the eight foot tall’ tinpot dictator, who is once reduced from being a menace to a mouse by Bertie telling him that he knows all about Eulalie!

Not to forget one of his friends, Augustus Fink-Nottle, the bespectacled newt-fancier, whose uninhibited speech at the Market Sondsbury Grammar School, made when he was duly oiled, plastered, sozzled, whiffled, and blotto (as Roget would have it), would need another piece altogether.

Can one really blame many of Plum’s fans who bemoan the fact that Rupert Psmith, the suave Etonian, appears in very few of his works? The way in which he manages his bosses in Psmith in the City, goes about wooing Eve Halliday in Leave it to Psmith, and even tackles underworld dons in Psmith the Journalist, leaves one yearning for more.

Mr. Mulliner’s juicy tales, narrated to a devoted audience of his at The Angler’s Rest, recounting the escapades of a vide array of his nephews and nieces, are so very delightful. Whether it is Eustace who, while working at the British Embassy in Berne, earns the right to yodel in the presence of the Vice-President, or Adrian who uses his crooked smile to enrich himself with a sum of hundred thousand pounds and even win over the love of his life, the sheer range of these characters would regale as well as baffle the mind of any lesser mortal.

And then we have the inimitable Ukridge, whose amoral and dreamy schemes to earn money simply tell us how not to conceive and run a business venture. After the failure of each of his ventures, he does not take much time to rebound. A chicken farm going for a toss merely leads him to start thinking of setting up a duck farm. A great lesson in tenacity and resilience, one would say.

Besides, we have many stand-alone novels which are simply superb. If The Damsel in Distress tells us about the lives of authors and music composers and ends on a strong anti-obesity note, The Girl in Blue covers the perils of shoplifting, renovating old crumbling properties, and teaching the rozzers a lesson or two by pushing them into the refreshing waters of a brook. Of course, there are many others, but I wish to let my audience have merely a bird’s eye view, so to say.    

These days, having just picked up ‘The Old Reliable’, I realize that though it is not as riotously funny as many of the above groups of stories, it is also a very nice read because of picturesque characterization and delightfully witty dialogue.

Plum had the unique skill of making the weirdest and oddest situations seem entirely laughable. His works make even a nonagenarian like me get up each morning, overcome the kind of subdued pessimism which engulfs one at a ripe age, and cheerfully look forward to the day, basking in his blissful humour while devouring one of my favourite tissue restoratives, there being no necessity to put any of Jeeves’s famous pick-me-ups down the hatch.

About the Author:

Mr. S. Subbaraman retired from the Archaeological Survey Of India (A.S.I.)  in 1987 as Superintending Archaeological Chemist, having been the Head of the Southern Region of the Chemistry Branch of A.S.I. at Hyderabad, and having worked on such famous monuments as Ajanta, Lepakshi and Brihdeeshwara (Thanjavur) temples etc on the conservation and restoration of our mural painting heritage and in Belur, Halebid etc in Karnataka on stone conservation. He has led many teams to exotic monuments abroad, rendering specialized services and advice for conservation of many structures.  

After retirement from A.S.I., he served as Director of the INTACH Chitrakalaparshath Art Conservation Centre, Bangalore, from 1993 to 2006. He was then responsible for the conservation and restoration of many art objects of various kinds for institutions as well as for individual owners.

He took voluntary retirement in June 2006 and settled down in Mysore to lead a life of retirement, consisting of such activities as reading. P G Wodehouse is one of his favourite authors.

Note:

I confess to having taken some liberties with the original text posted by the author on the Fans of P G Wodehouse page on Facebook recently; his permission to blog it here is gratefully acknowledged.

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ashokbhatia

Where have all the Berties gone? 
The lilies that toil not, nor do they spin,
They’ve all arisen with the dawn,
To get their three miles running in.

Then holed up all day, in offices or banks,
Won’t join you in a leisurely brunch, 
No afternoon tennis or games or pranks,
Coping with month’s end accounting crunch.

Even dinner is a rushed affair, 
No time for idle chat or chit,
March through the rose garden’s scented air,
To meet the quota of the Fitbit.

One sighs for the Berties of yester-year,
Mentally negligible, but always at hand.
One found their naïveté rather dear,
And could have molded them into something grand!

(The above mentioned composition has been whipped up by Lisa Dianne Brouwer who describes herself thus:

“Lisa cut her milk teeth on P.G. Wodehouse. Literally, in fact, as many of her father, Professor W. Brouwer’s orange and white Penguins…

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ashokbhatia

Day 1

It is widely believed that Jeeves was fed a lot of fish in his childhood, thereby making him a brainy cove, with his head bulging at the back. However, all bloggers may not have had the same fortune. Their grey cells often register a protest, refusing to budge, much like Balaam’s Ass.

But there are indeed times when the creative juices are in full flow and an idea pops up!

Day 2

The idea simmers within. Many sub-ideas spring up and fall into the creative cauldron. The blogger often behaves like Angus McAllister, nurturing the Achilleas, the Bignonia Radicans and the Yucca in the Blandings garden, eventually creating a bouquet of exotic ideas, cleverly brought together.

The outcome is a juicy idea which often gives a sleepless night to the blogger who twiddles her thumbs to figure out words and phrases so the key idea gets draped appropriately.

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ashokbhatia

(Disclaimer- I make no claims to being an expert literary critic. I am just a lay reader who has been reading books in English for over seventy years. This is my take on why PG Wodehouse will never become dated and will always retain his appeal)
Reading- both fiction and non-fiction, is my principal hobby. I read for pleasure, rarely for profit. I have enjoyed the works of many over the years : Edgar Wallace, Sapper, HG Wells, Somerset Maugham, Lawrence Durrell, Steinbeck, Hemingway, Daphne Du Maurier, John Le Carre’, Harold Robbins, Kingsley Amis, Ian Fleming, Salman Rushdie, Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, Bronte sisters, George Eliot, Thomas Hardy, PG Wodehouse, Dean Swift, Oscar Wilde, Leon Uris, James Clavell, Aldous Huxley and Pearl Buck- to name some.
I have been blessed with the rare opportunity of traveling physically to many of the locales which figured in their books- London, rural England…

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Stiff-upper-lip police authorities world over surely take a jaundiced view of the kind of narratives dished out by P. G. Wodehouse, holding these to be posing a grave danger to the law and order situation in their respective areas of contol. After all, these espouse the merits of pinching not only policemen’s helmets but also umbrellas, silver cow creamers and such other objects which are dear to their owners. Suave gentlemen, in a hurry to impress a young lass waiting for the rain to stop, think nothing of stealing someone’s umbrella and offering it to the party of the other part. Woolly-headed Lords do not shy away from pocketing a scarab from the collection of American millionaires. Aunts who are not gentlemen keep enticing their nephews to steal cats so as to win an upcoming race. Even members of the porcine species get kidnapped. Cooks get charmed into moving to greener pastures so the lining of the stomach of their prospective employers may continue to be in the pink of health. Gutsy young ladies who are bent upon making insurance companies more spiritual by the latter having to cough up large amounts of claims resort to persuading profesional thieves to steal vintage stamp collections owned by their heart throbs.

Given this singular absence of morals and ethics amongst the characters etched out by Plum, it should come as no surprise that his books are not permitted to be stocked in the libraries of our prisons. This is the only way the prisoners can be reformed and the foundations of our civilization can be stopped from quivering uncontrollably.

Here is a rib-tickling post covering an incident which occurred in one of the jails of India earlier this year, wherein a hapless prisoner was summarily denied a book by the Master.

Suresh's Corner

Stone walls do not a prison make, / Nor iron bars a cage / Minds innocent and quiet take / That for an hermitage. 17th-century English poet Richard Lovelace from his poem To Althea, from Prison.

My heart goes out to the well-known human rights activist, Gautam Navlakha. I shan’t go into the whys and wherefores or the rights and wrongs pertaining to the justification or otherwise of his confinement in a prison in Mumbai, where he is holed up in a high security cell. Let the lawyers and the judges break their heads over matters that go over my head. That is not part of the mandate I have set for myself in setting out to pen this piece. Reports tell us that he is allowed a 30-minute constitutional ‘in the open space’ and must clean his own cell. So far so bad, but it gets worse and this…

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Can the works of P. G. Wodehouse impart some lessons to CEOs and managers in managing their affairs better? His fans are always eager to relive the moments of mirth and bliss experienced by them while going through his books and stories. However, those of you who are from the realm of management and are dimly aware of the existence of a British humourist known as P. G. Wodehouse would by now be shaking your heads in disbelief wondering how something dished out by way of making one chuckle, guffaw and laugh could have anything to do with the stiff-upper-lip discipline of management.

To the latter, one would say that humour is serious business indeed. It is bound to make us feel lighter but cannot be taken lightly. In the past, we have examined in some detail the question if humour is serious business and have found an answer in the affirmative. In an earlier post, we also touched upon the way management theories and practices have evolved over the past century and checked if there are any common points between such theories and what Plum dishes out by means of his scintillating works.

The Intellectual Halo Around Seriousness

The deeper reality is that we value seriousness and tragedy over humour and laughter. Our minds boss over our hearts. Seriousness somehow makes us sound more intellectual. Most of the times, anything humorous is treated by us as being frivolous and perhaps fit to be scoffed at on the intellectual plane. On campuses of high-brow seats of learning, it is easy for us to visualize absent-minded professors going about with a heavy tome or two clutched in their hands, with a morose look on their faces, as if they were just being led by an invisible hand to the gallows. At management seminars and conclaves, serious talks get applauded while a speaker conveying a plain vanilla message coated in delectable humour gets ridiculed for playing to the gallery. In companies, at board meetings, detailed power point presentations of a serious kind get appreciated, whereas anything said in a lighter vein runs the risk of being greeted with healthy scorn.

One admires such management thinkers as C. Northcote Parkinson, Sharu Rangnekar and Laurence J. Peter who have broken this glass ceiling and given us rich management lessons in a humorous manner.

In their book Humour, Seriously, Naomi Bagdonas and Jennifer Aaker debunk the myth that humour has no place at the work place. In an interview, Jennifer Aaker opines that leaders with a sense of humour are seen as 27% more motivating; their teams are more than likely twice as likely to solve a creativity challenge. When leaders use humour in their interactions with their team members, they signal humility and humanity, thereby reducing the status barrier between themselves and their audience. The goal of humour at the work place is not merely to make others laugh; it is to put people at ease, thereby enabling them to be more open and candid in sharing their opinions.  

Humour in Brand Management  

Consider the innovative way humour gets deployed by a few brands of repute to keep their images shining bright.

Since 1946, the Air India Maharajah has been representing India with charm and dignity, making the company more visible to its customers all over the world. Created by Bobby Kooka along with Umesh Rao of J. Walter Thompson, the advertising agency, it has kept pace with the times – as a lover boy in Paris, a sumo wrestler in Tokyo, a Romeo in Rome and even a guru of transcendental meditation in Rishikesh.

Likewise, we have the case of the Amul girl. The mascot was created as a response to Amul’s rival brand Polson’s butter-girl. The idea was conceived in 1967 once ASP (Advertising, Sales and Promotion) clinched the brand portfolio from the previous agency FCB Ulka. It was executed by Mr. Sylvester Da Cunha, the owner of the agency and his art director Eustace Fernandes on hoardings, painted bus panels and posters in Mumbai. The mascot, since then, has been mobilized to comment on many events of national and political importance.

Not to forget some of our politicos who have risen from the ranks after having been successful comedians, managing countries and motivating their denizens to stand up to bullying by oversized neighbours waging wars so as to widen their sphere of influence.  

If a lay manager were to pick up such books by P. G. Wodehouse as Psmith in the City, Blandings Castle and Elsewhere and Something Fresh and put them under a managerial lens, she is surely apt to discover a treasure trove of precious lessons in such diverse fields as marketing, entrepreneurship, operations, systems and procedures and human resources.

When it comes to the art and science of managing bosses, Rupert Psmith, Reginald Jeeves and Ashe Marson have created a few templates for a manager to follow.

The higher the level of entropy of our business environment, the higher would be the need for humour in business. As we march into the future, a Wodehousean approach to Management could help CEOs and managers in more ways than one.

(Illustration courtesy R. K. Laxman)

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Suresh's Corner

 “I go in for what is known in the trade as ‘light writing’ and those who do that – humourists they are sometimes called – are looked down upon by the intelligentsia and sneered at.” P.G. Wodehouse.

As a diehard fan of the complete works of P.G. Wodehouse, I was idly surfing the net to see what kind of material one might encounter on the Master, apart from the standard Wikipedia synopsis. I was pleasantly surprised to come across a website specially created for followers of arguably the greatest humourist the world of English literature has produced. There are those who would scoff at describing the works of the ‘Master of Farce’ as literature, but I will treat them with the scorn they so richly deserve. Rather than attempting to describe the contents of the website to the lay reader, I felt it might be better to send an email…

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