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Posts Tagged ‘Ashe Marson’

ashokbhatia

While taking a leisurely stroll through the sunlit streets of Plumsville, lined on both sides with trees offering low-hanging ripe mangoes of unalloyed mirth, we come across quite a few authors, editors and publishers.

We get to meet Florence Craye, the famous author of ‘Spindrift’. We run into Oliver Randolph ‘Sippy’ Sipperley, the aspiring author. Gwendolen Moon, the poetess, crosses the street in front of us. George Webster ‘Boko’ Fittleworth bumps into us at the next corner. Smooth Lizzie, a poetess in whom critics might be disappointed, flashes past us in her two-seater. Even Bertie Wooster, our favourite hero, can be seen rushing to the offices of Milady’s Boudoir, possibly to submit his piece on ‘What the Well-Dressed Man is Wearing’.

Daphne Dolores Morehead can be seen headed somewhere in a hurry. Rosie M. Banks can be seen rushing to her humble abode, just to check if Bingo Junior’s bank…

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Whether in literature or in fine arts, we relate to characters when we find an inner connection. There could either be a similarity in personality traits, or in the challenges faced. When this happens, we laugh with the person. We cry with the person. We willingly suspend our own beliefs and virtually start living the life of the character.

As a member of the tribe of the so-called sterner sex, I confess I have shades of quite a few characters etched out by P G Wodehouse. These could be males, or even females.

Amongst males, when it comes to notions of chivalry and a chin up attitude towards the harsh slings and arrows of Fate, Bertie Wooster becomes my role model. When the summons arrive from someone higher up in the hierarchy, and the prospects of a severe dressing down cloud the horizon, I meekly surrender and follow the messenger, trooping down to face the firing squad. Even if one is being led to the gallows, the chin should invariably be up. Also, when a pal in need has to be bailed out, no effort can be spared to bring solace to the tormented soul.

Jeeves is obviously a role model when it comes to advising others on solving the intricate problems of their own lives. The pleasure I get thus is readily explained. One, I am not obliged to follow the advice myself, so there is a comfort and a sense of objectivity to the whole act of dishing out advice. Two, it proves to be a short-term interaction. Pretty soon, the party of the other part realizes that my grey cells are but a fraction of those of Jeeves. They then do a vanishing trick the speed of which would embarrass an Indian fakir of yore doing a rope trick. They start avoiding me like the plague. Whenever they run into me next, they start checking if my head indeed bulges at the back, or if my eyes shine with the legendary keenness of his intelligence.

Rupert Psmith is another role model. Unlike him, I confess I could not woo females by lying without batting my eyelids while spending time with them on a boat adrift in a lake. But I could surely thwart an attempt by gang lords to skin a close pal alive. I could also persuade a young lass wanting to commit suicide to give up her homicidal thoughts and instead walk out of my office with a song on her lips, eyes sparkling with renewed hope. Her reasons could be as whacky as her boy friend having not ‘liked’ her social media post about the sharks she encountered while splashing about in the waters near Cannes. A dash of the occasional gift of the gab, you see.

When it comes to uplifting the intellectual level of some dim wits whom I happen to know, I take after the likes of Florence Craye and Vanessa Cook. I advise them either to read a Peter Drucker tome or devour some scholarly articles in reputed management journals which get unleashed on hapless managers at regular intervals. If they desist, I recommend to them one of my own books, so they might become sharper at managing their careers.

In matters of physical fitness, Ashe Marson and Honoria Glossop happen to secure my adulation.

When churning out a dreamy whodunit, Madeline Bassett and Rosie M Banks don the mantle of being my muse.

I cannot afford to have an Empress of Blandings on my humble premises. But as to forgetfulness, you could be forgiven to believe that I happen to be a cousin of Lord Emsworth.

At home, I have always tried to maintain matrimonial harmony by simply walking in the footsteps of Bingo Little. Before my bitter half decided to hand in her dinner pail, I tried to ensure that she never missed a steaming hot cup of tea first thing in the morning. When there was a spiritual event she wanted to attend, I normally rallied around by ferrying her to the same. Whenever a friend like Laura Pyke passed by, I retained my sangfroid and tolerated all the dietary restrictions imposed on me. To deliver satisfaction to her had invariably been my motto.

The mood of my Guardian Angels has seen some swings of late. Quite a few bouquets have come my way. Some brickbats – deserved as well as undeserved – have also got hurled at me. Fate has been busy targeting me with some harsh slings and arrows. But by doing so, it has ensured a spiritual awakening of sorts. Quite a few scales have fallen from my eyes.

Be that as it may, the chin remains up. The brow is not furrowed. The upper lip is not stiffened. The protective shield provided by the Wodehouse canon does not fail me.

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It is fashionable these days to speak of our beloved city metamorphosing into what is euphemistically referred to as a Smart City. Here is a contrary view which may find resonance with some of its residents.

These nameless denizens may instead like to lead a leisurely life in a city where:

  1. The need to jump out-of-the-way of a speeding vehicle gets minimized – in other words, hapless pedestrians and bicycle riders have the right of way; the use of horns and loudspeakers attract a hefty fine, leaving the offender crying all the way to his bank.
  2. Warehouses and hotels are not permitted within the boulevard limits, leaving the narrow streets peaceful and resident-friendly. Elderly and ailing residents need no longer complain of being startled at times – either by the incessant growling of commercial vehicles during days or by the sound pollution generated by tourist vehicles during nights.
  3. More parks, where citizens could stretch their limbs and try to fight off such lifestyle diseases as diabetes and hypertension, thereby warding off cardiac blues. Likewise, a denser coverage of main streets by trees with thick foliage, with water dispensing kiosks, toilets and garbage bins dotting the landscape liberally. What Pondicherry needs are more Ashe Marsons (of ‘Something Fresh’ fame) who are fond of brisk walks and Larsen Exercises in open spaces.
  4. All crossings within the boulevard area have convex mirrors at corners, thereby avoiding speeding-bike-enthusiasts routinely crashing into other vehicles, thereby putting life and limb to grave risks.
  5. All crossings across the canal are made obstruction free, avoiding blind spots and congestion on Gingee Salai and Ambour Salai. (As of now, the Vysial Street crossing is the only good example of a blind-spot free crossing across the canal.) Mandatory mini parks could be planned at all these corners. Shops peddling terracotta articles near the Ashram can be relocated to other suitable places, so the road on that stretch becomes clearer for traffic.
  6. The dependence on tourism alone to prop up the local economy is given a lower priority; where the powers that are exercise their grey cells better, hold consultations with business leaders so innovative ways to augment the territory’s revenues get planned and implemented. A concerted drive towards industrialization by using SEZ-earmarked and other parcels of land available could help. So could a hefty increase in registration charges for petroleum-driven vehicles, with substantial rebates for those who go in for greener vehicles.
  7. A multi-modal public transport system gets implemented in a mission mode, with battery operated vehicles alone being permitted within the boulevard area.
  8. Water channels and aquifers get revitalized, with the single aim of making Pondicherry a model in reversing the trend of increasing ground water salinity. A long-term plan to ward off the ill effects of rising sea levels and to tackle incessant rains also needs to be put in place.
  9. Strict ban on plastic bags of all kinds; a scientifically designed garbage collection and disposal system, duly backed by latest technology.
  10. Cooperation and collaboration at the top, leading to a visionary development of Pondicherry.

Call it a ‘smart’ one or a ‘dumb’ one, but the above features, if worked upon by those in charge of making things happen, would surely make the denizens of Pondicherry a healthier and a happier lot in the long term.

These would retain the essential character of the territory. What the planners would do well to avoid would be adopting a soulless materialistic ‘smart’ plan which would leave the residents gasping for clean air, yearning for sparkling water and ardently wishing for a sound of silence which would enable a person standing on Ambour Salai to hear the unmistakable melody of ocean waves on the main beach road.

(Notes:

  1. A version of this article can also be found at https://www.pondylive.com/2018/08/smart-city-pondicherry-why-some-of-us-prefer-a-dumb-city;
  2. Pondicherry montage courtesy www;
  3. Pondicherry street scene illustration by Emanuel Scanziani for Le Club, Pondicherry)

 

(Related posts:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2015/04/13/reinventing-pondicherry

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2015/01/05/the-soul-of-mairie-speaks

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2011/07/26/puducherry-2025-a-traveller%E2%80%99s-memoirs)

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ashokbhatia

Respected Sir,

As a lay citizen of India, allow me to say that you are spearheading a great drive to reform the education system of the country. There may be no big ticket announcements, but one can see some incremental steps which would help our youth to realize their full potential in the years to come.

I write this with all humility at my command, merely to suggest one such incremental reform, which, I am reasonably certain, can help our youth to develop their soft skills faster and better.

I write this to suggest that a special drive be launched to expose Indian students to the works of the eminent humourist, P G Wodehouse. By discovering, delving into and devouring these, our future citizens shall turn out to be cheerful, joyous and happy. India would soon become a country which would be not only chasing her Gross Domestic Product numbers…

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Respected Sir,

As a lay citizen of India, allow me to say that you are spearheading a great drive to reform the education system of the country. There may be no big ticket announcements, but one can see some incremental steps which would help our youth to realize their full potential in the years to come.

I write this with all humility at my command, merely to suggest one such incremental reform, which, I am reasonably certain, can help our youth to develop their soft skills faster and better.

I write this to suggest that a special drive be launched to expose Indian students to the works of the eminent humourist, P G Wodehouse. By discovering, delving into and devouring these, our future citizens shall turn out to be cheerful, joyous and happy. India would soon become a country which would be not only chasing her Gross Domestic Product numbers, but also shoring up her Gross National Happiness index.

A spurt to ingenuity and innovation

At the school level, his stories – depicting hostel life, cricket rivalries and the kind of goofiness which kids normally display – would entertain and motivate our children no end. On the one hand, headmasters and headmistresses would quickly learn how to be shrewd lion-tamers. On the other, children would get into the right spirit of innovation and ingenuity, thereby brightening the prospects of creating many a Silicon Valley in India in the decades to follow.

Children who have already shifted to ball point pens, iPads and other advanced gadgets would no longer be able to put sherbet in ink pots. But they would still learn how to sneak back into their dormitories, ably assisted by their resourceful seniors. They would understand the importance of giggling and staring at guest lecturers, thereby enabling the latter to improve upon their oratorical skills and overcoming their stage fright.

Seeking protection money would come easily to them. When they grow up and take up responsible positions in administration, such skills would make them hotter at their jobs. Planning for such innovative schemes as creating butter slides for defaulting step-fathers-to-be would help them to sharpen their intuitive faculties. Their decision making abilities would improve. They would end up being better managers. Their employability quotient would register a quantum jump.

Many back benchers in our schools would end up being proficient in such vocations as chimney cleaning et al. The skill of using paraffin to douse flames of any kind would help them to gauge and neutralize terror threats of many kinds. When they grow up, our law enforcing agencies would find them ready for many a delicate task.

When besotted with Bollywood divas, they would rise to their higher selves and learn how to help those in distress. Better discipline and good conduct, whether in schools or at home, would result. Tantrums thrown at the change of a Wi-Fi password at home, or at the announcement of a surprise test in mathematics at school, would be a thing of the past. Hapless parents and teachers would breathe easy.

A boost to chivalry and matrimonial bliss

At the college level, our youth would learn invaluable lessons in chivalry, thereby making our country much safer for the delicately nurtured amongst us. Following in the footsteps of Bertie Wooster, they would go to any length to stand by a pal in distress. Eventually, this would help them to imbibe a feeling of brotherhood and secularism.

Such exquisite hobbies as rearing newts would reignite their respect for environment. They shall imbibe the finer characteristics of canine and feline creatures. They would learn to treat members of all species with due respect. Those who decide to pursue the career of a dietitian may seriously consider specializing in developing healthier diets for the Empress and her ilk.

Standing up to aunts who are not gentlemen would come easily to them. Rebutting the unpleasant endeavours of such bullies as Roderick Spode by ferreting out their Eulalie-kind secrets would help them in their lives. They shall develop a deeply spiritual outlook towards the harsh slings and arrow of fate.

Some of them would surely aspire to be like Jeeves, providing satisfaction to all and sundry with their keen intelligence. They would learn to use the psychology of the individual as a potent tool to achieve their goals in life. Overall, their Emotional Quotient ratings would jump manifold.

The art of sliding down pipes to avoid encounters of an unpleasant kind would be a great value-add to their skill sets. Refusing to be job seekers, they would use their romantic skills to assume key positions in premium dog biscuit manufacturing conglomerates, generating a multitude of employment opportunities. Motivated by the adventures of Sally, many others would create successful start-ups.

When they start experiencing the bliss of married life, Bingo Little would become a role model. Sacrificing a highly proficient cook merely to keep peace at home would make them practice the invaluable art of detachment, as espoused in the Bhagavad Gita. Ensuring that the spouse gets the daily ration of her afternoon tea would sustain matrimonial harmony. The art of bringing up kids and touching others for ten quids would get learnt the easy way. Divorce rates shall plummet. Happier and contented kids would eventually evolve into happier citizens of India.

From Ashe Marson, they would learn to do regular Larsen exercises at an early age. Even if they choose to write detective stories when they grow up, they would land lucrative assignments involving restoration of unmindfully pinched scarabs to their rightful owners. By hobnobbing with those who are less fortunate than them in their station in life, they would develop empathy and compassion, thereby becoming more humane in their approach to life and its myriad situations.

Thanks to Rupert Psmith, the art of managing and controlling bosses would come easy to them. They would make effective managers, and shall be in great demand in the employment market.

Making education enjoyable

Sir, you are undoubtedly aware that our students happen to be a worried and depressed lot these days. At a tender age, they are expected to lug around heavy bags slung on their slender shoulders. When at the secondary stage, the poor souls turn and twist in their beds, worrying about future career choices. Much before they acquire a degree of sorts, they start chewing their nails and twiddling their thumbs trying to figure out ways to support their families by making a decent living.

A dash of humour is what they desperately need. Loads of wisdom and practical advice is what they want. Values and a role model is what they seek. A sense of inner joy, peace and happiness is what they inwardly crave for.

All this, and much more, can be found in the Wodehouse canon. By introducing his works for study at all levels of education, India shall be setting a fine example for the rest of the world.

By ensuring ready availability of his works in libraries, book clubs and reading rooms across the entire country, we shall be enabling our youth to rediscover the value of subtle humour in their lives. Our Teacher Training Institutes can be tasked to expose those in the so-called noble profession to the works of P G Wodehouse. Our multilingual scholars can be persuaded to translate his works into other prominent languages used in India. Local fans of the author may be willing to spare some time to read his books to students at all levels.

By learning to appreciate the sunnier side of their lives, students would overcome their depression and be ready to face the future challenges with a chin-up attitude. Many of them would derive a vicarious pleasure in reading about the decadent British aristocracy, thereby forgetting their own deprivations in life.

A unique initiative with juicy spin offs

It is time that we, as a country, adopt what is good for our youth, rather than only blaming Lord Macaulay, who belongs to a distant past.

If you were to initiate this single change, your colleagues in many other ministries of the Government of India shall feel obliged as well as bucked up. The Home Minister would applaud you. The Health and Family Welfare Minister would praise you. The Skill Development and Entrepreneurship Minister would be in awe of you. The Social Justice and Empowerment Minister would look up to you. The Defence Minister would admire you. The Women and Child Development Minister would envy you. The possibilities and the spin offs are mind boggling.

Sir, this unique initiative is all yours to take. I, on behalf of Wodehouse fans the world over, hope you will not disappoint us.

With kind regards and a hearty pip pip!

An Indian suffering from acute Wodehousitis.

(Caricatures courtesy Kevin Cornell)

(Related Posts:

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

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

 

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While taking a leisurely stroll through the sunlit streets of Plumsville, lined on both sides with trees offering low-hanging ripe mangoes of unalloyed mirth, we come across quite a few authors, editors and publishers.

We get to meet Florence Craye, the famous author of ‘Spindrift’. We run into Oliver Randolph ‘Sippy’ Sipperley, the aspiring author. Gwendolen Moon, the poetess, crosses the street in front of us. George Webster ‘Boko’ Fittleworth bumps into us at the next corner. Smooth Lizzie, a poetess in whom critics might be disappointed, flashes past us in her two-seater. Even Bertie Wooster, our favourite hero, can be seen rushing to the offices of Milady’s Boudoir, possibly to submit his piece on ‘What the Well-Dressed Man is Wearing’.

Daphne Dolores Morehead can be seen headed somewhere in a hurry. Rosie M. Banks can be seen rushing to her humble abode, just to check if Bingo Junior’s bank passbook has finally got updated with the tenner handed over to her loving husband some time back. Bingo Little, himself an editor of Wee Tots, can be seen trying to touch Oofy Prosser for a tenner, so the loss may be made up before her loving wife discovers it. Lord Tilbury, the famous publisher, may get noticed rushing off in a disguise, ostensibly to avoid any manuscripts being hurled at him by aspiring authors from the windows of a passing bus.

A transient state of mental menopausewriters' block image

Though we happen to know most of the authors, writers, poets and poetesses mentioned above, we have no clue as to how they keep whipping up juicy as well as not-so-juicy stuff for their public. We empathize with their feelings of despondency and gloom if they pass a single day without writing at least five hundred odd words. But we continue to be clueless if they ever encounter the dreadful condition described by those in the writing trade as a Writer’s Block. Given the challenges they face in their mundane lives, they would surely be facing a transient state of mental menopause, as it were, at some point in time or the other. But they hide such perils of their profession well.

With one exception – that of Ashe Marson, the hero of Something Fresh. In his case, we get a sneak peek into the kind of conditions which can leave a writer’s sensitive soul all of a twitter, facing a condition which stupefies the brain. The flow of ideas gets blocked. The words no longer pour out, much like a public water tap which goes dry without a warning in a city in one of the emerging economies of the world.

Ashe Marson and the Wand of Death

Residents of Plumsville are aware that Ashe keeps the wolves at bay by dishing out the adventures of Gridley Quayle, Investigator, which are so popular with a certain section of the reading public. He is also known to be a regular when it comes to performing Larsen Exercises in public spaces, having become immune to the no-longer-curious glances of the proprietors of Hotels Mathis and Previtali, few cabmen, some chambermaids and even a cat. Physical fitness is his gospel.1915 Something Fresh collage

But one morning, he gets laughed at by a girl on a first floor balcony. Ashe gets beaten. On this particular day, this one scoffer, alone and unaided, is sufficient for his undoing. The depression, which his exercise regimen had begun to dispel, surges back on him. He has no heart to continue. Sadly gathering up his belongings, he returns to his room, and finds even a cold bath tame and uninspiring.

The breakfast, comprising a disheveled fried egg, some charred bacon and a cup of chicory which is euphemistically called coffee, aggravates the grip of misery. And when he forces himself to his writing-table, and begins to try to concoct the latest of the adventures of Gridley Quayle, Investigator, his spirit groans within him. He rumples his hair and gnaws his pen. He looks blankly for half an hour in front of a sheet of paper bearing the words: “The Adventure of the Wand of Death,” and tries to decide what a wand of death might be.

This is how Wodehouse describes the inner thoughts of his hero:

It was with the sullen repulsion of a vegetarian who finds a caterpillar in his salad that he now sat glaring at them.

The title had seemed so promising overnight–so full of strenuous possibilities. It was still speciously attractive; but now that the moment had arrived for writing the story its flaws became manifest.

What was a wand of death? It sounded good; but, coming down to hard facts, what was it? You cannot write a story about a wand of death without knowing what a wand of death is; and, conversely, if you have thought of such a splendid title you cannot jettison it offhand.

An interruption makes him feel all the more disoriented. However, the intruder happens to be the heroine, Joan Valentine. She de-mystifies the Wand of Death for him thus:

“Why, of course; it’s the sacred ebony stick stolen from the Indian temple, which is supposed to bring death to whoever possesses it. The hero gets hold of it, and the priests dog him and send him threatening messages.
What else could it be?”

Ashe gets back on track!

This is how poor Betty suffers one

So widespread is the silent epidemic of Writer’s Block that even such popular series as Archie Comics has been forced to accord recognition to it once in a while.

Take the case of poor Betty. She has unique qualities of head and heart. However, given her unselfish and helpful nature, she ends up hitting a Writer’s Block. The milk of human kindness sloshing about within her proves to be her undoing. In one episode of these popular comics, she runs quite a few errands. By the time she can please everyone else and hit her typewriter to start pouring out her ideas onto some sheets of paper, the brain refuses to fire even on a single cylinder.

Betty 1 01 (43)betty 2 01 (42)Betty 3 01 (41)Betty 4 01 (40)Betty 5 01 (39)

Even the high and mighty suffer

Present day authors and bloggers can derive some solace from the fact that some of the greatest writers in literature — Leo Tolstoy, Virginia Woolf, Katherine Mansfield, Joseph Conrad, Ernest Hemingway — were tormented by momentary lapses in their ability to dish out some juicy text or the other.

The sensitive souls that authors are, they are apt to be influenced and distracted by external occurrences. But come to think of it, it is their jaundiced view of such occurrences alone that provides them the fodder for their literary produce.

Imagine an author like P G Wodehouse sitting lonely in a dense forest, trying to come up with some escapades of Bertie Wooster and Jeeves. With only a couple of birds and monkeys for company, he is likely to return home in the evening with some blank sheets.

He undoubtedly needs his quiet space. But he also gets in the bargain several distractions. Ethel pottering about in the kitchen. Pets who relish the joys of walking the ramp over some typewritten sheets lying on the floor. A maid who will come in just as he is brooding on his next Hollywood script. A surprise visit by a government official. A postman who brings in some fan mail.

Distractions all, yes. Leading to a Writer’s Block once in a while, yes. But each one is perhaps also an opportunity for him to view a mundane occurrence afresh, with a new perspective. Traits of each real-life person providing him the finer details of some fictional characters he is writing about.

Keeping the milk of human kindness from spilling over

Authors need an eco-system which enables them to strike a judicious balance between their off-society times of solitude and their open-for-interaction times. Successful ones perhaps perfect the art of walking this tight-rope. They make sure they do not exercise in public spaces. They get fed well. They do not get interrupted when they are in their quiet corner, dishing out the adventures of an investigator liked by their publishers and readers. Unlike Betty, they keep their milk of human kindness from spilling over to their grey cells. Their passion for writing keeps them more focused on their journey of creative expression.

Suffering from a Writer’s Block these days? Fret not. Some unique insight is bound to pop up in your mind soon enough. Perhaps, a Joan Valentine is about to walk in and talk about the Indian connection of the mysterious Wand of Death, thereby spurring you on to dizzying heights of creativity!

(Notes:

  1. Images of Writer’s Block and Something Fresh courtesy www.
  2. Archie source: Issue No. 221, Episode titled ‘Betty in the Write Mood‘)

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