Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Bertie Wooster’

(Continued)

Indian Ocean and Typhoons

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

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

Of Fakirs and Mystic Powers

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

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

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

Floating Around Like a Gas

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

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

Curling Up on Spikes

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

Contemplating the Infinite

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

Indian Love Calls

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

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

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

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

(Continued)

Notes:

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

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

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

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

Related Posts:

Read Full Post »

ashokbhatia

A tide in the affairs of men

Amongst the not-so-delicately-nurtured characters in the Wodehouse canon, there are at least three brainy coves we all admire – Jeeves, Lord Ickenham and Psmith. As to the last one, here is how one of his theories of Life gets bolstered by The Bard.

‘It was one of Psmith’s theories of Life, which he was accustomed to propound to Mike in the small hours of the morning with his feet on the mantelpiece, that the secret of success lay in taking advantage of one’s occasional slices of luck, in seizing, as it were, the happy moment. When Mike, who had had the passage to write out ten times at Wrykyn on one occasion as an imposition, reminded him that Shakespeare had once said something about there being a tide in the affairs of men, which, taken at the flood, &c., Psmith had acknowledged with…

View original post 1,342 more words

Read Full Post »

ashokbhatia

To be or not to be a die-hard fan of a particular literary figure is perhaps decided by our Guardian Angels. Mines have been benevolent and ensured that I suffer from acute Wodehousitis.

But when it comes to William Shakespeare, much revered by all and sundry, my GAs have ensured that I never qualify to be even a mild case of Shakespearitis. One of the several challenges I have faced in my life is that of understanding the literary fare dished out by William Shakespeare. Given the high level of what Bertie Wooster might label as my Pumpkin Quotient, repeated attempts on my part to comprehend the ingenious outpourings of The Bard have failed miserably.

But an absence of Shakespearitis does not necessarily guarantee peace of mind. On the contrary, it makes life even more of a challenge. The brow is invariably furrowed. The heart is leaden with woe. This…

View original post 1,390 more words

Read Full Post »

ashokbhatia

There come some truly humbling moments in one’s life when, while imagining that one’s Guardian Angels are surely in a benevolent mood, one suddenly wakes up to a reality which appears to be quite to be contrary. Scales fall from one’s eyes. One realizes with sudden horror that one had perhaps been promoted to the post of an honorary Vice President of the Global Association of Morons, exuding negative vibes to all the hapless souls around. Or, as P G Wodehouse would have put it, one looks ‘like the hero of a Russian novel debating the advisability of murdering a few near relations before hanging himself in the barn.’ 

Yours truly was recently in a suburb of a city known as Trondheim in Norway. Nudged by my hosts, I had decided to take a walk on a relatively lonely road overlooking the fjord. Seagulls were having a gala time…

View original post 1,016 more words

Read Full Post »

ashokbhatia

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

‘Good morning, Jeeves’, I said.

‘Good morning, sir’, said Jeeves.

‘What’s the weather like, outside?’

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

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

‘Under usual circumstances, most definitely, sir.’

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

‘Is anything the matter, Jeeves? Is the park being drilled for oil? Is the Serpentine being converted into some sort of dam to generate electricity…

View original post 1,188 more words

Read Full Post »

Branding is a term which originates in the realm of marketing management but is generally applicable to any product, service, entity or person which stands out amongst the crowd and calls out for any Unique Selling Proposition of its. It could be applied to countries, movie directors and even to some fictional characters from literature!

Here are some examples which demonstrate this point better.

Countries

 

 

After the Trump era (2016-20), studies have popped up claiming that the USA has slid down significantly on its soft power in the world. Same is said to be the case with many other countries where brutal suppression of dissent has become a way of life and where human rights have been trampled upon.

China keeps expanding its soft power by promoting movies out of Hollywood exposing the world to its culture. India offers spirituality and its own culture to the world.

The movie Eat, Pray, Love (2010) illustrates the point rather well. A heart-broken heroine travels through different countries. She discovers the true pleasures of the table in Italy, the soothing power of payer in India and the inner peace and balance of love in Indonesia!

Movie Directors 

Apart from other celebrities, those who wield the megaphone in the movie industry often exude soft power.

I confess I am a movie buff. Quite early in life, I discovered that a movie should be selected for viewing not based on its cast but based on its director. Each director has a distinctive perspective on life, and the manner in which he/she presents a theme is as unique as, say, one´s finger prints. Admittedly, the core brilliance of a movie is determined by the producer-director duo. But the unmistakable stamp on the narrative is that of the director. The script, the screenplay, the music, the camera work, the background score, the sets, the costumes, the editing, all these transport us to a different realm for a limited time.

To put it simply, if you sit down to watch a movie by either Steven Spielberg or Gulzar saheb, you know what to expect. Seeing a movie which is directed by, say, David Lean, is as much enriching an experience as seeing one directed by either Hrishikesh Mukherji or Basu Chatterji.

Over a period of time, a movie director builds up a brand equity for himself. It comes from the uniqueness of his style, the choice of his scripts, consistency in quality of his directorial ventures and sheer attention to detail in all the departments of movie making. This earns a well-deserved respect from the discerning viewers, crowned by some degree of commercial success.

The CEO of a Dream Merchandise Factory

A director’s role in shaping a movie would perhaps be comparable to that of either the CEO of a company or the conductor of an orchestra. A CEO’s mindset determines the business strategy of a company. His style of functioning and his value system permeates across all levels of the company. Likewise, the conductor of an orchestra blends the notes of stringed, percussion and other instruments, creating a symphony which is unique. Like a CEO guiding a company or a conductor presenting a symphony, the director also balances the strengths and weaknesses of his team members and comes up with a movie which is entertaining – and possibly educative – in the social context.

A director surely knows how to touch our heart-strings in a meaningful way. In the process, he delivers deep messages, whether social, political, economical or the spiritual kind.

Some Literary Brands

Those of us who have admired the exploits of Sherlock Holmes and Reginald Jeeves are occasionally overawed by the kind of popularity these literary figures enjoy. Both may be fictional, but the influence they exert on our consciousness is exemplary. One would not be wrong in perceiving both of them to be brands in their own right.

Sherlock Holmes: An Honorary Citizen of Meiringen

Ever heard of the charming Alpine town of Meiringen in Switzerland? It is a municipality in the Interlaken-Oberhasli administrative district in the canton of Bern in Switzerland. Ringed in by snow-covered peaks, it is located on one of the most important trade routes through the Alps for centuries.

One of Meiringen’s attractions is the Sherlock Holmes Museum which recreates the detective’s abode at 221A, Baker Street in London, besides Victorian era memorabilia. The nearby Reichenbach Falls are where, in The Final Problem, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle made his hero suffer a premature death at the hands of his adversary Dr Moriarty, only to resurrect him later in The Adventure of the Empty House on persistent demands from the detective’s fans. Well, quite some time back, it had granted an honorary citizenship to Sherlock Holmes.

It stands to reason that the town had granted an honorary citizenship to Sherlock Holmes. A certificate to this effect is displayed in the museum. Also, at the base of the falls, there is a rock inscription to this effect!

When one picks up a Sherlock Holmes story, one is assured of good value for one`s time and effort. Backed by hard-nosed judgment, insightful observations and above-par analytical skills, he delivers. Go to him with a mystery and he demystifies it. His methods and skills have provided clues to investigators in many countries. He is utterly reliable. He delivers. These are the very attributes which go on to build up a brand.

Gentlemen’s Personal Gentleman

Likewise, Jeeves, created by P G Wodehouse, stands for impeccable service and a capacity to deliver results beyond the expectations of the bosses. The manner in which he helps his boss Bertie Wooster retain his bachelor status is a sterling example of his feudal spirit as also an inner cunning. His methods are often rough, but there is no doubt as to his capacity to deliver satisfactory results. He believes that bosses are like wild horses; they need to be managed with tact and resource.

In the United Kingdom, one is apt to run into laundry and other services which bear his brand name.

Many examples can be quoted from literature, fine arts and other creative fields of human endeavour.

In an earlier post, we had considered the perks of building and sustaining a shimmering brand in the market place. The focus there was on companies and individuals. Examples cited above go on to reveal to us the kind of hard work, consistency of effort and persistence which enable a softer brand to emerge. The essential principles underlying the creation and sustenance of a brand remain the same.

 

 

(Related Posts: 

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2021/03/15/the-perks-of-a-shimmering-brand-equity

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2017/12/13/a-brand-called-jeeves

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2014/05/28/sherlock-holmes-the-honorary-citizen-of-meiringen-switzerland

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2012/08/11/hats-off-to-these-movie-directors)

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

 

Allow us to welcome you belatedly to this wonderful world on a special day,

When you turn one and fans in different continents are celebrating Plum;

For this is the day he decided to hand in his dinner pail,

Leaving a rich legacy of joy, should we ever become glum.

 

Unbeknown to you, you have brought happiness in many lives,

Not only to that of your parents and immediate family members;

But also to the lives of fans suffering from Corona-induced blues,

You brought hope to a sick planet and kept aglow joyful embers.

 

You dispelled our manner of death-where-is-thy-sting-fullness,

Keeping us safe indoors, devouring the works of the Master;

Reveling in the antics of those who lived almost a century back,

Keeping our sanity intact, building immunity, recovering faster.

 

In Plumsville, Death is surely not a dreaded phenomenon,

On the contrary, it confers wealth, castles and titles upon heirs;

Hiring Jeeves or Anatole, buying white jackets with brass buttons,

But not behaving like an American millionaire, putting on airs.

 

Your first year on this planet was a tough year indeed,

When many of us lost our clear vision of 20:20;

Plum’s works kept us afloat, giving us hope of a brighter future,

We have survived to the day and can read these lines aplenty.

 

A stern look from you and the virus would have gone into hiding,

Like a rhino retreating upon seeing a White hunter with a shotgun;

Enthused, we also took it head on, savouring our enforced isolation,

Relishing opportunities for introspection and having fun.

 

Like Bertie Wooster, you may approve of our chin up attitude,

Deploying nerves of chilled steel, surviving a sudden lockdown;

Oh, how we craved renting a cottage in the countryside,

Free of the fear of an Edwin the Scout who may burn it down.

 

Lest we may contract the dreaded virus,

We had to let go of Anatole, God’s gift to our gastric juices;

A Laura Pyke type diet regime we had to follow,

Partaking immunity boosting foods, sans any dietary excuses.

 

Many unopened books adorning our shelves we could go through,

Improving our intellect with tomes dished out by brainy coves;

Curled up in a corner with a tissue restorative by our side,

While affianced couples connected over internet, cooing like turtle doves.

 

Never in our lives did we imagine watching so many flicks,

Many inane, some average and few so very well made;

Homemakers turned creative and tried myriad recipes,

Prompting many of us to don a figurative skirt and chip in with due aid.

 

The pleasures of offline shopping sprees had to be given up,

Instead, online shopping alone saved the day for many of us;

With the giant wheels of commerce temporarily shut down,

A revival of the environment turned out to be a big plus.

 

Some rarely seen birds trooped in, giant butterflies fluttering,

The bees were active, flora and fauna flourished, sky was azure;

Flowers bloomed with gaiety, greener trees swayed gently,

Nature was bountiful; the air one breathed was pure.

 

Those in metros were severely hit, spinsters all alone and forlorn,

Musicals like ‘Hamilton’ and ‘Pretty Woman’ were sorely missing;

Engagements and nuptials had to be postponed, wedding plans trimmed,

Couples had a tougher time, unsure of even an act like kissing.

 

You have brought great joy into the lives of your parents,

As you grow, you shall surely return their nurturing ways;

They are bringing you up with lots of love and care,

Your innocent smiles and hugs brightening their days.

 

May your intellect be always one up on that of Jeeves,

Your investigative skills as sharp as those of Baxter the efficient;

In culinary skills, may you surpass Anatole, in smartness, Psmith,

A heart that bleeds for its pals may also be sufficient.

 

 

When it comes to heartily gorging on your daily nourishment,

The Empress could already learn a few things from you;

As to keeping the enthusiasm of a big sister under check,

Clarence could imbibe you, proving worthy in his ancestors’ view.

 

Your crawling skills would soon evolve into brisk walking ones,

If ever you get besotted with a Hollywood diva in your pre-teen days,

Like Thos, you may walk six miles to fetch the Sporting Times for Bertie,

Aspiring to win the Good Conduct competition, winning Greta Garbo’s praise.

 

You shall grow to be like a Hercules with nerves of chilled steel,

With abundant milk of human kindness coursing through your veins;

Following the Code of the Woosters with alacrity and aplomb,

Handling overbearing aunts, using Esmond Haddock’s tact and brains.

 

You chose to be born on a very special day,

Resurrecting the spirit of Plum, of whom your grandmother is a fan;

May your own life be full of light, sweetness and joy,

As long as a benevolent and humorous sun keeps cheering up man.

 

 

(Master John Jasper happens to be the grandson of Lucy Smink, a fan of P G Wodehouse Down Under. This impromptu composition is addressed to him. Permission of the family to publish it here is gratefully acknowledged.)

(Related Posts: 

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2019/06/08/lord-emsworth-and-the-girl-friend-a-visual-version

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2016/10/23/my-dear-clarence

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2015/07/05/the-gallery-of-rogue-kids-in-plumsville

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2015/04/01/when-masters-thos-bonzo-and-moon-rise-in-love)

Read Full Post »

ashokbhatia

Quite a few of the managers I run into are frustrated because they could never make it to the top slot. The corner office with plush seating and an exclusive wash room has somehow always managed to elude them. I admit that the power and pelf a Number One slot bestows upon a manager is alluring as well as intoxicating. But I believe that being a Number Two is also not too bad a proposition; in fact, it could be more rewarding, instructive and exciting!PROMOTIONS

Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not advocating a drive against perfection or excellence in whatever you do. I am only trying to say that there is divine contentment in being a Number Two as well – relish it!

The Perils of Being a Number One

Being a Number One is rewarding as well as challenging. Take it from someone like me who has…

View original post 1,009 more words

Read Full Post »

“So, Mr Bhatia, what do you think?” asked the tough looking beak-in-chief. I had just been ushered into this mandarin’s plush office. A cup of tea had been duly arranged, with few snacks in tow.

Across the road, the sea was going about performing its normal task, its mighty waves relentlessly pounding the rocks, roaring and frothing. The night sky was clear and a mild breeze was blowing. The moon was enjoying its usual saunter, its soothing light creating dancing ripples on the surface of the sea. It was a scene which was designed to soothe any soul in aguish.

But my soul was in torment. The heart was aflutter. The brow was furrowed. The pride of the Bhatias was wounded. You see, life had so far never prepared me for being treated as a criminal of sorts. Having been a law-abiding citizen all along, I was not used to being interrogated and that too so very late in the day. Having been held in captivity throughout the day, and asked to pen down my responses to a long list of obnoxious and repetitive questions, the nerves were all of a twitter. All this had happened under the stern watch of some of the junior beaks who looked much like a bunch of dreadful villains straight out of a Bollywood movie.

I eyed him narrowly. Obviously, the beak-in-chief’s looks were not much to be written home about. He reminded me of Sir Watkyn Bassett, the magistrate from the canon of P G Wodehouse. Nature, when planning this unique specimen, had endowed him with bushy eyebrows, a pencil moustache and a prominent jaw which would have prompted even someone like Adolf Hitler sit up and take notice. His eyes were a bit too keen and piercing for one who was not an Empire builder but a mere revenue official of a senior cadre tasked with milking businesses which, in his opinion, had many skeletons made of unalloyed gold stored in their cupboards. Revenue officials all over the world happen to be a class apart; particularly, those in India are well known for their deep distrust of businesses. Guilty till proven innocent is their credo. Shakespeare, I suspect, would have etched out Shylock’s character based on an earnest and conscientious taxman hounding him for concealing his royalty earnings.

I summoned all the Bhatia courage, resilience and tact and gave him an artificially sheepish look.

“To be frank, I feel like crossing over the road and drowning myself in the sea,” I bleated weakly.

All gibberish, of course, designed to deflect, deceive, distract and bring in a temporary rapport between me and the party of the other part. His relief on hearing these words, containing as they did no reference to the facts of the case, was great. He smirked. A sarcastic smile adorned his visage.

The dialogue with this officer of the law continued far into the night but I would spare my audience all the boring details which, if mentioned here, might promptly put them to sleep.

As P G Wodehouse would have put it, one of the several difficulties which authors face when telling a story is as to where to begin it. If they take too much time building the atmosphere and etching out the characters, the audience may simply decide to junk the narrative and start checking their social media updates instead.

On the other hand, if the author were to permit his narrative to take off like a rocket to the Mars, the public simply starts twiddling its thumbs trying to figure out what is happening. They simply walk out on the hapless soul, leaving it a wee bit clueless, much like an Olympic athlete who dazzles with his performance in a stadium which happens to be empty and utterly devoid of humanity, thanks to a raging pandemic.

Allow me therefore to go back a little bit in time. Assigned a senior management position in a small company operating out of a small town located on the shores of the Bay of Bengal, I had somehow been sucked into the eye of a storm since past several months. Thanks to a two-timing junior employee and an array of operational goofies, the revenue authorities had been persuaded to suspect something fishy going on in the operations. A detailed investigation was underway for some time. The authorities, as is their wont, were keen to quickly size up their pound of flesh and make my employers cough up a sizable sum without delay. My feudal sense prevailed. A close friend from my college days who had risen to a senior position in the same department of the government elsewhere kept advising me informally throughout the sordid process.

As the episode unfolded, however, it transpired that I was suffering from a misplaced sense of loyalty to the company. My brand equity was at its lowest ebb. The credibility of the technical department which was the real defaulter in the matter was somehow much higher. In me, the company found a ready villain who could take the rap for the unfortunate incident.

Once the case had assumed a shape, I was given the marching orders and left to fend for myself. If I myself had been in the position of the owners then, I would have reacted similarly but perhaps in a gentler and more humane manner. In fact, had the company followed the principles of natural justice and an equidistant approach to all functions, the probability of a corporate embarrassment of this kind could have easily been nipped in the bud.

Subsequently, I had learnt that the matter had dragged on for quite some time and had got finally resolved on mutually agreed terms.

The stress suffered over a period of 18 months of the investigation eventually led to a cardiac issue popping up, duly followed by a long period of rest and recuperation. The family moved in to provide unstinted support and I was soon up and about, living as normal a life as one could wish for.

A great thing about the harsh slings and arrows of life is that even when we feel that there are dark clouds on the horizon and not even a single ray of hope visible anywhere, our Guardian Angels wake up and decide to offer us an olive branch. For the past several years, I had not ventured to seek greener pastures in the town my wife and I made our home. The impression was that for a person like me having a senior position in a company, backed by a package which was otherwise fine though not something to write home about, it was well nigh impossible for me to secure another assignment with a matching, if not higher, paycheck, especially in a town which did not boast of many industries.

A Good Samaritan amongst the broad circle of friends I had came up with an olive branch in the form of a suitable position in the large organization of which he was a key decision maker. An offer got made and was duly accepted. Some nine months after I had lost a great degree of my self confidence, personally as well professionally, I now had an opportunity to turn a new leaf and rebuild it.

This change was just a way for life to show me the importance of observing values and ethics in whatever I did. I realized that one’s brand equity is built over a long period of time. Once built, it becomes like the fragrance of an exotic flower. It travels much ahead of one, often opening up new vistas, offering a wider canvas for one to perform and excel at whatever one undertakes to do. The observant ones amongst those around us are surely able to size us up much quicker than we can manage to do ourselves.

I would urge my audience to take my suicidal intentions – conveyed to the stern beak-in-chief – with a bowl full of salt. Close friends who have noticed the Bertie Wooster streak of resilience within me have held that amongst their circle of pals, I shall be the last one to ever consider a deliberate attempt to kick the bucket.

My idea of mentioning this nasty episode in my life is not to play the victim card and seek sympathy from my audience. I just thought I could share with others what I learnt in the process. My mistake was to not to keep a tab on the ground realities myself. Instead, I practiced partial abdication, mistaking it to be delegation. Trusting some colleagues who had an axe to grind with the company was another. Like the incident mentioned above, there are many others which can also be captured here.

Life, as you all know, is not a bed of roses. It is not a social media platform where narcissism alone rules. It also makes all of us undergo major setbacks. This is indeed its unique way of chiseling us out of hard rock and giving us a better shape.

But with each harsh chiseling, one had somehow managed to wriggle out of the throes of a deep V-shaped depression. One had risen from the remains of one’s dead self. Mighty forces of positivity had prevailed. The chin had yet again become high. The stiff upper lip had come back and the sky had once again turned a cheerful blue. A leap in the professional affairs had eventually come about.

(Related Posts:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2016/04/01/about-me

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2019/04/03/planning-a-career-with-an-owner-driven-outfit-consider-some-of-the-values-followed-by-such-businesses

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2018/07/22/of-a-mom-bassett-and-the-allure-of-policemens-helmets

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2011/10/05/divine-grace-works-all-the-time)

 

 

Read Full Post »

 

Fans of P G Wodehouse (Plum) often wonder why their favourite author of sublime humour is often found missing on the high table of English literature.

Comparisons are odious, but let us take the case of The Bard, considered one of the literary geniuses of our times. If he has dished out narratives rooted in such human emotions as greed, revenge, jealousy and love, so has Plum. Many of their characters are as quirky as they come. Both have contributed in so small measure to the enrichment of English. To the current generation, both sound a trifle outdated and, by and large, incomprehensible.  Nothing against the sterling fellow, though.

The Incomprehensibility Quotient

Perhaps, the reason I find The Bard’s works relatively unfit for human consumption can be traced back to their high level of Incomprehensibility Quotient.

Is there really any fun in picking up a book where, after each sentence, one has to consult a dictionary? The whole experience becomes very stiff-upper-lip-ish, if you know what I mean. Serious tomes which need super-intelligent persons to pop up in public spaces like libraries where they may enjoy their solitude, dig deeper into the contents and try and fathom the depths of the language are best avoided, I would say. Leaves the nerves a bit overburdened, don’t you think?

On the other hand, gliding through the works of Plum is sheer delight. The contrast is that reading Plum’s books in buses, trains and parks is fraught with risks. These are best devoured in private spaces, so those around, seeing one guffawing and shaking with uncontrollable mirth , do not start searching for the contact details of a loony doctor in the same class as Sir Roderick Glossop.

But what all this comes to is a deeper reality. The tendency of Homo sapiens to value seriousness and tragedy over humour and laughter. Anything humorous is treated by us as being frivolous and fit to be scoffed at. At management seminars and conclaves, serious talks get appreciated, but a speaker conveying the same message quoted in humour is blamed 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 is greeted by scorn.

A premium on intellect and seriousness

Martin Amis, in his new novel Inside Story, blames our tendency to put serious tomes and tragedies on “the intellectual glamour of gloom… the idea that sullen pessimism is a mark of high seriousness”.

Brainy coves are invariably in awe of intellectual gravitas, even if the narratives are pale, dark and authoritative. What appeals to them better is a stiff upper lip approach. This segment of the population is apt to cast a supercilious glance at lesser mortals who thrive on reading fluffy stuff which makes them keep falling off beds and sofas, making their insurers uneasy.

Award winning works are an output of as much as intelligence as is essential to dishing out juicier works which mask equally serious messages about handling life’s harsh slings and arrows.

If the spectrum of human emotions were to be examined in some detail, seriousness may form one of its ends and humour the other one. This might give an impression that the two are opposites of each other. Not necessarily. My own knowledge of literature is very shallow, but I am sure there are authors out there who strike a balance between the two. Perhaps, therein lies the origin of satire.

In one of her scintillating posts, Honoria Glossop of Plumtopia fame speaks of the book ‘Bestsellers’ by Clive Bloom. To quote her:

‘Bloom tracks the development of ‘the bestseller’ alongside increasing literacy levels in Britain, showing how new literature classifications emerged (high-brow and low-brow) to keep class distinctions alive in literature, once the lower classes were no longer illiterate. He exposes ‘literary fiction’ as little more than snobbery, suggesting that serious literature is made purposefully unfathomable and dire to ensure it remains the province of an expensively-educated elite.’

Plum’s messages couched in delectable humour

When it comes to Plum, a master wordsmith in his own right, we often miss the underlying messages of a spiritual, economic and managerial kind. Simply because these are hidden beneath layers of what sound like inane and repetitive narratives.

Whosoever deals with goofy kids like Thos, Seabury, Edwin the Scout and others experiences a spiritual enlightenment of sorts. When Bertie Wooster tries to solve a problem single handedly, he messes things up and starts practicing detachment. He lets go of his favourite piece of apparel. He abandons his ego and decides to give up his initial resistance to a proposal made by Jeeves to go off on a cruise, thereby escaping the wrath of Aunt Agatha. Many other characters elsewhere tackle their defeats with a healthy attitude of surrender, much like Roderick Spode when confronted with the Eulalie affair.

Take the example of ‘Something Fresh.’  It covers a wide span of issues – health and fitness, perils of ageing, gender parity, economic disparities, class distinctions, the spirit of enterprise, the subtle art of delegation, importance of comforter friends in one’s life, to name just a few.

Consider the character of Reginald Jeeves. Notice the way he manages to keep his career prospects intact by using tact and resource. He maintains that bosses are like horses. They need to be managed. His methods may be rough at times, but the neat results obtained do provide satisfaction to all concerned. He believes that one needs to break a few eggs to make an omelette. He registers dissent in a diplomatic manner. He is a respectful and dignified listener, speaking only when necessary. He leads others while appearing to be a devout follower.

Dishing out comical stuff

Above all, one is left awestruck with the kind of complicated plots Plum comes up with. He handles tiffs between many couples at the same time, while bringing in obdurate aunts, sulking uncles, temperamental chefs, American millionaires and their sisters and daughters, moody creatures of a canine and feline kind, and even horses and pigs. Painting a narrative on such a wide canvas obviously needs hard work – a fertile imagination, lateral thinking, a thorough knowledge of such diverse subjects as scarabs, scriptures, literature, psychology, French resorts, movie making, et al, besides and what not. Characters often get swept in a swirl of madness and mayhem, forcing a lay reader to at least chuckle and suppress a smile. When it comes to either pulling off a gag or unleashing a comical situation, the author is always a step ahead of the reader.

In other words, humour, even though appearing to be farcical and classified as escapist, is serious business indeed!

We would do well to consciously cultivate our capacity to take a lighter view of things and learn to laugh at ourselves. Many more awards along the lines of Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize deserve to be instituted.

 

(Related post:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2014/10/24/wodehouse-misremembered

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2017/06/26/the-perils-of-not-suffering-from-shakespearitis)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »