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Posts Tagged ‘Bertie Wooster’

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 is so because he is to be found everywhere and apt to spring surprises at all times, not a very pleasing prospect for a faint-hearted person like me. Such are the perils of not suffering from Shakespearitis.

The omnipresent Bard

The simple irony is that my GAs have always managed to make The Bard keep popping up through all stages of my life. His persistence to engage me over the past few decades deserves to be commended. His near-omnipresence in my life merely testifies to his feeble hope that one day he may be able to assist me in improving my intellect in some way, much like the aspirations of Florence Craye with respect to Bertie Wooster (as in ‘Joy in the Morning’). I suspect I might have left him severely disappointed, disgruntled, dismayed, disheartened and dispirited. I offer my sincere regrets for the same.

The taming of a student

His omnipresent nature can be readily appreciated. His works were there at school, shoring up the proverbial Tyrannical Quotient of the Classroom. Besides, many of his works kept finding their way to my bookshelves whenever I excelled at a pursuit of some kind, whether academic or otherwise.

His plays were often staged at the University I went to. With renewed enthusiasm which is so very typical of Homo sapiens at a tender age, I attempted to burrow deep in his works. The intention was merely to impress some of the delicately nurtured around. But the language was beyond the capacity of my limited grey cells. The best I could achieve at one of the performances was the unique distinction of drawing the curtains in and out for a stretch of two and a half hours, merely to make a young lass in the troupe happy.

Much ado about nothing

Then came the whirlwind phase of my life in the corporate sector. At times, there were bosses whose state of indecision would remind me of Macbeth, the one alluded to by Bertie Wooster as ‘the cat chap’. In smaller businesses, there were owners who could have mentored even someone of the deviousness of Shylock. Often, I had morose colleagues who might have inspired Shakespeare to fashion Hamlet. And yes, there were indeed subordinates who could have been scoundrels, perhaps described by the poet as being ‘arrant, rascally, beggarly and lousy knave.’

When the entrepreneurial bug caught up with me, there was never a dearth of ‘enterprises of great pith and moment’ to be undertaken.

In the realm of entertainment, I kept running into movies which were either based on, or inspired by, one of his works. Even when trying to relax and enjoy a vacation, The Bard has been apt to pop up without fail and throw a spanner in the works.

The Merchants of Venice

While visiting Venice recently, I ran into a branded showroom where the manager took no pains to hide his Shylockian leanings. The stone-paved streets were not without their normal quota of small shops peddling their inane stuff at prices which might make even Hollywood celebrities cringe. Even those selling seeds to be fed to a swathe of pigeons at the Piazza San Marco were extorting prices which would have cheered up any farmer in the hinterland and pulled him out from his current state of depression.

The famed couple of Verona

When the family decided to visit the house of Juliet in Verona, all we were hoping for was to spend a few moments of togetherness, something we miss these days owing to the temptations offered by the world-wide-web we have spun around ourselves.

Alas, that was not to be. The courtyard outside her house was swarming with those eager to claim their fifteen seconds of fame when their photo grabbing a part of the anatomy of the famed heroine got uploaded without any delay, courtesy the smart phone carried by a friend/relative. There was a long queue of wide-eyed tourists wanting to clamour up to the famous balcony where the two lovers are supposed to have had their midnight rendezvous.

Immediately upon entering the hallowed premises, we encountered a shapely statue of Juliet. Right opposite was the bust of The Bard, appraising her comely profile with a stiff upper lip and a steely eye. Romeo, had he been around, might not have been amused by the poet’s presence in quarters where he would have appreciated privacy more than any kind of literary upliftment.

As you do not like it

This uncanny habit of The Bard to keep popping up at regular intervals in my life has left me all of a twitter. Several times have I mustered up enough courage to pick up any work from the Shakespeare canon. With renewed enthusiasm and gusto have I tried to wade through a work of his. But the experience has repeatedly left me with a highly enfeebled state of nerves.

My worst nightmares have been those wherein I have been conferred a literary honour of some sort, only to be gifted with a big parcel containing some tomes of his. The mind boggles. The chin goes down. The jaw slackens. The shoulders droop down further.

The English Proficiency Pyramid

Pray do not get me wrong. I have nothing against Shakespeare. Given his everlasting popularity, there is no doubt that he must have captured all facets of human emotions in an impeccable manner. His usage of quite a few phrases appears to have spawned a veritable stream of English literature, and continues to do so today.

He must have also set high standards for Queen’s English. He must have enriched the language in a manner which might be more vast and deep than those who have either preceded or succeeded him. This surely warms the hearts of our linguistic purists. But lesser mortals like me, surely at the bottom of the English Proficiency Pyramid, are apt to feel very dense.

A tide in the affairs of languages

Modern day communication thrives on simplicity. Complex ideas which get conveyed in a language which the masses understand. It appears that most of our great poets and literary figures perfected the art which is just opposite. Simple ideas couched in high-profile and complex language, which only those at the top of the Language Proficiency Pyramid might fathom.

When it comes to this particular trait, Shakspeare has good company. In Urdu poetry, Mirza Ghalib is not always easy to understand. In Hindi, the poetry of Jai Shankar Prasad comes to my mind. In Sanskrit, Kalidasa often keeps a lay reader guessing.

The cause of sustained Shakespearitis is possibly purely literary. Perhaps there is a commercial logic to this web of poetic complexity. Publishers of his works might still be laughing all the way to their respective banks. Besides, those publishing dictionaries would also not be found complaining.

Presenting soon: A Plummy Shakespeare

Somehow, the bulldog spirit in me refuses to give up.

In order to soothen the frayed nerves, I plan to present to you a Plummy Shakespeare very soon. Since the Wodehouse canon is littered with quotes and references to The Bard, I shall soon take the liberty to sharing with you some references in the weeks to follow. This might help many others like me, already suffering from acute Wodehousitis, to also have a brush with yet another dreaded affliction – Shakespearitis.

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Ladies and Gentlemen of the world,

Allow me to lodge a protest.

The derogatory manner in which I am generally referred to by the Homo sapiens is a matter of sincere regret. I wish to ass-everate that I have sterling qualities of head and heart. Even though a vast majority of you copy me ass-iduously in your day-to-day lives, you hold the member of my species in a low esteem. This is patently unfair. Permit me to set the record straight and ass-ert myself.

Members of your species have always given me a raw deal. You wilfully neglect some of my great contributions in diverse fields of life. Prohibition, literature, health, discipline, education, free speech, human values, law and order, science, politics, management, architecture, adventure and logistics are some of the fields where I have enabled your civilization to scale great heights.

Here is a quick recapitulation of some of my contributions to your so-called civilized society.

The fine art of advocating prohibition  

When I use my vocal chords to articulate my feelings, you make fun of me. You hold me to be mentally deficient. You do not realize that those of you who have had an excess dose of tissue restoratives sound much similar in their mindless laughter. When I bray, I merely advocate prohibition. Mahatma Gandhi would have been so very proud of me.

On the literary high table

Frequent references to me in the kind of literature many of you devour and admire goes on to establish my superiority in more ways than one.

In ‘Oliver Twist’, penned by Charles Dickens, law is held to be an ass. You may disagree with the proposition, but you cannot deny the honour conferred on me thus.

In ‘The Mating Season’, dished out by P. G. Wodehouse, even such an illustrious figure as Marcus Aurelius is alluded to as an ass.

“I wonder if I might call your attention to an observation of the Emperor Marcus Aurelius. He said: ‘Does aught befall you? It is good. It is part of the destiny of the Universe ordained for you from the beginning. All that befalls you is part of the great web’.”
I breathed a bit stertorously.
“He said that, did he?”
“Yes, sir.”
“Well, you can tell him from me he’s an ass.”

When I find a place at the literary high table, I do not see any reason for you to refer to me in a condescending manner.

Promoting good health

A part of your anatomy (that you mistakenly hold to be superior to that of me) is known after me. You use it to sit comfortably, thereby warming up the chair endlessly and missing your daily set of exercises.

The smart ones amongst you never remain seated for long and follow a physical fitness regime. They use this very part of their body in quite a few postures and thereby maintain good health.

Discipline and Education

While recollecting his late night encounters with the Rev. Aubrey Upjohn, Bertie Wooster, in his delectable memoirs, often shudders to think of the juicy ones he used to get on the soft spots. He obviously alludes to the very part of your anatomy referred to above. This shows the important role I play in shaping the character of your coming generations.

Hapless students try to ass-imilate the heaps of knowledge that gets dumped on to them by means of listless lectures delivered in dinghy classrooms. Even kids ass-ume the role of beasts of burden while lugging their extra-heavy school bags under the adoring eyes of their indulgent parents.

Free speech

When an ass-emblage of a group of students chagrined with crude attempts of authority figures to curb their right to free speech, they often make me an icon of their peaceful protests. Candlelight vigils do not deliver the kind of strong message that my presence, with a poster shaming the authority looped around my slender neck, does.

Some protestors learn the tricks of the trade from such non-profit groups as the ASS – Advisory Services for Squatters, based in London, UK.

Law and order, human values

Ask any rozzer. When not in the presence of a human rights enthusiast, he is likely to confess the utility of the part of your anatomy named after me to make even a law-abiding citizen admit to a crime he never committed.

I confess that, when provoked, I am wont to deliver strong punches, using my hind legs. Despite the training you receive in martial arts, you can never really copy me on that account. The criminally inclined amongst you keep ass-aulting innocent citizens without any care in the world. My punches are designed to deliver a message of respecting human values and civic sense which many amongst you do not follow.

Science

Those of you who win a Nobel Prize in Chemistry keep ass-aying metals at periodic intervals, never ass-igning any credit to me in their much-applauded research papers.

Chemists can be forgiven to refer to me as AsS, a formula for Arsenic Sulfide. Likewise, I do not mind mathematicians referring to me as an ass-ociated collection of prime numbers of module M, Ass (M).

When a student of geometry conveys the lack of congruence of triangles by using the term ‘Angle-Side-Side’, I do not object. When a genetic expert tries to describe a human gene which encodes the enzyme Arginino-Succinate-Synthetase, I feel flattered.

When it comes to advancements in science or technology, I follow the Jeeves dictum – of never raising a bushy eyebrow even for the smallest fraction of an inch, except when I am sad at being summarily ignored in all such references.

Politics

Unwittingly, whenever there are elections around, I get dragged into political controversies. If there are malpractices in the conduct of academic examinations, the top politician of the region runs the risk of his name being paraded on a member of my species. When a region showcases the wilder ones amongst us in a tourism promotional video, we get dragged into an unseemly political controversy.

Such ass-ociations merely reveal the shallow intellectual abilities of the Homo Sapiens. The hard work put in by me in any endeavour thrust onto me does not get due recognition. The simplicity with which I handle the burdens so very gleefully heaped on to me gets neglected. The soulful eyes with which I view my human masters never get appreciated.

Many politicians who happen to be ass-ociated with dynastically run outfits shamelessly copy me in their subservience to their political masters, but fail to acknowledge my contribution.

The manner in which your elected representatives often behave in your ass-emblies leaves me deeply disappointed in your race. When a favoured legislation has no chance of making it through the normal process, your politicians know how to rush it through as an ordinance and seek the ass-ent of the First Citizen of your country

Management

Excellent traits of followership that I possess could provide invaluable clues to leaders of all hues, sizes and shapes who aspire to achieve loftier goals in their chosen profession. Leading management institutes ought to be doing a detailed study on this aspect of my behaviour. Alas, they keep churning out inane stuff on leadership traits alone.

Unimaginative incentive schemes get launched, killing productivity and proving my superiority over some of your over-zealous but short-sighted production chiefs.

Finance honchos amongst you keep twiddling their thumbs to project the correct ass-ets of their companies in their books of accounts. Whenever a catastrophe strikes a business, insurance surveyors are called in to ass-ess the extent of damage.

When a manager has goofed up on a critical ass-ignment, he is referred to as a Jackass, thereby establishing my supremacy in all matters managerial.

Top bosses cannot function in the absence of their Executive Ass-istants.

In an annual ritual called Appraisals, human resources honchos routinely ass-uage the feelings of those who are left out in the latest round of promotions or increments. They are routinely ass-ured of a brighter future in the days to come, and advised to follow the path espoused by Bhagavad Gita – that of performing their duty without any expectation of rewards.

When a new boss ass-umes charge after a much-delayed promotion, the Yes-Men in his team quickly change their affiliations and try to ass-ert their importance in the scheme of things.

Architecture

Well-designed civil structures cannot come up unless I have carried some of the building materials on my sturdy back. While carrying heavy loads, I am invariably obedient and docile. No member of my species has ever entertained the idea of floating a trade union to ass-ert its labour rights.

Adventure and logistics

When it comes to your adventures in a rough terrain, there is no better provider of logistics services than yours truly. World over, for millennia, my services have been there at the man-not-so-kind’s disposal. Alas, these get taken for granted. I am yet to be nominated for a Nobel Prize in logistics.

Accord me the respect I deserve

I hereby urge upon you to look deep within and start treating me with the respect I deserve.

I might be perceived as being stubborn at times. But I am also companionable. My bite might be worse than my bray, but I am a friendly creature. You may find it difficult to frighten me. But you know that I am a dependable chap.

While almost all of you are still trying to conquer your ego, as advocated by some of your scriptures, I have already achieved that feat millennia ago. You are still trying to eliminate racial and gender discrimination. By following the principle of peaceful co-existence amongst all other species, I have been promoting racial harmony for centuries already. When it comes to chivalry, I am way ahead of many of you. Bertie Wooster would surely approve.

You think the members of the species of Equus africanus asinus possess a poor Intelligence Quotient. I beg to differ. As you can see for yourself, even our Spiritual Quotient is higher than that of the Homo sapiens.

Thank you for your time and attention.

An ass-ertive ass

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For those who are new to the world of P G Wodehouse, here is a post which offers interesting tips on where to start devouring his sunlit works.

To those who already reside in Plumsville, this post offers a new perspective on the order in which his works may be savoured.

Plumtopia

world-of-jeevesThis piece is the second in a series of guides for readers wanting to discover the joys of Jeeves and Wooster, Blandings, and the wider world of Wodehouse ‘hidden gems’. The previous post provided reading suggestions for new Wodehouse readers.

Today’s piece offers a suggested reading order for the Jeeves and Wooster stories, followed by some general notes and guidance for readers.

If you particularly dislike short stories and want to skip straight to the novels, I suggest starting your reading from Right Ho, Jeeves.

Jeeves and Wooster Reading List

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panjab-university-ubs

An academic course in management obviously does not offer lessons in managing the affairs of the heart. But the Class of 1977 broke through the academic shackles, with some of its members walking out of the campus with a clear strategy as to who their future soul mate shall be.

The stiff-upper-lip approach

Management education is all about the stiff-upper-lip approach of the mind. Analytical skills rule supreme, leading to rummy situations where analysis often leads to paralysis. Linear programming models get worked upon. Statistical techniques get dished out by stern looking professors who might have been hotter in their jobs more as police officers or as judges.

Hapless students are made to understand exponential smoothening techniques so as to be able to forecast business parameters in an uncertain business environment. Those with an engineering background struggle to match their debits and credits. The lucky ones who have had a background in commerce twiddle their fingers trying to grasp the complexities of quantitative techniques in decision-making.

The neglected need to boost our EQs

The behavioural sciences do provide a little bit of cheer to the tormented souls undergoing a typical MBA course. But to understand the psychology of an individual is no mean task. Mere case studies and management tips for handling an industrial strife do not improve one’s EQ substantially. Handling a tough boss eventually gets learnt only in the corporate world outside. The real world also teaches us to handle errant subordinates whose emotional blackmail upon reporting for work after a spell of French leave needs deft handling. The harsh realities of business world provide a high quality learning which can surely not be replicated within the stifling confines of a classroom.

The dashers and the rabbits

In fact, for some of those who formed the batch of 1977, the beautifully laid out campus outside provided a far better laboratory to test their hypotheses on the softer matters of the heart. These were the chosen ones who were smitten by the tender arrows of a smart Cupid.

The snag in the business of falling in love is much like that of mixed up career choices. Take an introvert and put him in a marketing assignment and the results could be disastrous. Take an extrovert used to making tall claims and put him in charge of manufacturing. The customers could soon melt away, leaving the company grappling with a credibility gap.

Bertie image

Same is the case in matters of love. As per the Bertie Wooster doctrine:

“….parties of the first part so often get mixed up with the wrong parties of the second part, robbed of their cooler judgment by the parties of the second part’s glamour. Put it like this. The male sex is divided into rabbits and non-rabbits and the female sex into dashers and dormice, and the trouble is that the male rabbit has a way of getting attracted by a female dasher (who would be fine for the male non-rabbit) and realizing too late that he ought to have been concentrating on some mild, gentle dormouse with whom he could settle down peacefully and nibble lettuce.”

The USP of the Class of 1977

The batch of 1977 had as many as five members of the tribe of the delicately nurtured. Since the previous one, the Class of 1976, had none, they were the cynosure of all eyes. They were invariably the prime focus of attention for many of us in the batch of 1976. All we seniors required was an inane excuse to pop up and try to grab the attention of at least one out of the five pairs of eyes we could feast on. The faculty members simply loved them – not necessarily for their academic proficiency, but merely for ensuring some discipline amongst the men folk loitering around.

Some of the members of our tribe of the so-called sterner sex were the shy and silent kind. Some were busy chasing their academic pursuits and kept their hormones under check. Others were benignly interested but limited their interactions to admiring gazes alone. Very few were the dashing types who, their puny chests all puffed up, attempted to indicate a more than passing interest in the parties of the other part.

Managed walks down the aisle

Those were traditional times when the distinction between an ‘arranged marriage’, a ‘love marriage’ and a ‘love marriage which had to be managed’ was pretty clear. Live-in relationships were not heard of.

The majority amongst us believed in the straight and narrow path that life offered then – the comfort of an ‘arranged marriage’ where the parents take the flak for subsequent problems, if any, and where love blossomed, albeit hesitatingly in some cases, much after the walk down the aisle took place. The time on the campus was, therefore, used by the members of this tribe merely to exchange furtive glances, suffer the pangs of transient infatuations and a silent admiration for the physical profile of the party of the other part.

pu-student-center

Then there were the dashing types, the risk takers who could use their time on the campus to firm up their affection for each other and concoct some dreamy plans for their future together. To avoid inquisitive and prying eyes, they would often vanish in thin air, possibly to land in such distant locales as the Sukhna Lake or the Rose Garden.

Management knowledge put to loving use

These were indeed the souls which put most of their management knowledge to actual use. No manual has been published till now, but it is clear that strategic decisions were taken by them with due diligence. Flawless planning and execution followed. Regression Analysis was applied to ensure that respective parents fell in line with the wishes of their wards. Soft-nosed commerce was used to draw up joint P&L Accounts and Balance Sheet, so the planned merger would face little financial turbulence. Principals of Materials Management were applied to ensure that the eventual stock transfer of one party to the abode of the party of the other part was carried out in a smooth and cordial fashion. Inspiration was drawn from a random sample of other couples who had successfully handled their affairs in an exemplary fashion.

Managing the Affairs of the Heart

cupidCupid, when it chooses to strike, is pretty democratic in nature. If one of the Class of 1977 decided to hitch her lot with a classmate of hers, yet another signed and sealed a merger deal with a senior of the Class of 1976. Both lived happily thereafter!

Close to forty years down the road, looking at the success of these mergers and alliances, it is highly regrettable that management academics still continue to adopt the stiff-upper-lip approach which focuses on analytical skills alone.

A day should surely dawn when ‘Managing the Affairs of the Heart’ gets introduced as a compulsory full semester subject across all management institutes; a time when doctoral theses on such subjects shall be encouraged.

After all, there are as many management lessons to be drawn from the works of Shakespeare, Thomas Hardy, P G Wodehouse, O Henry and Jane Austen as can be gleaned from the tomes dished out by such luminaries as Peter F Drucker, McGregor and Philip Kotler.

(Related Posts:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2016/10/01/the-class-of-1976-how-it-managed-to-get-suspended-for-a-week

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2016/12/25/the-class-of-1990-how-ubs-prompted-sandeep-mann-to-learn-management-from-movies)

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PGW HughLaurie-BertieWoosterResidents of Plumsville would surely savour this delectable piece, if piece is indeed the word one wants, discovered somewhat late by yours truly!

Sloopjonb

A little festive jeu d’esprit, written in a spirit of sincere homage to the late Master, P. G. Wodehouse. Enjoy.

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ashokbhatia

The quiet evening saw the silver rays of moonshine descending upon Blandings Castle. The soft and silvery glow dimly lit up its ivied walls, its rolling parks, its gardens and its outhouses. The frenzied revelries of Christmas were another month away. Peace prevailed. Tranquillity ruled.

Blandings castle-enIn the cozy smoking room of Blandings Castle, two persons could be sighted. In the big chair nearest to the door, one could see the Earl of Emsworth, His Excellency the President of the Republic of Plumsville. He had a cigar in his mouth and a weak highball at his side. His fuzzy brain was softly whispering in his ears that life could not get any better. His son, Hon. Freddie, was happily busy in America, executing his marketing plans for Donaldson’s Dog-Joy Biscuits. Lady Constance Keeble was off to some South American countries on a charity drive for a few more weeks. He was…

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You know the kind of disasters which strike you once in a while. JustBertie image when you feel that life is a bed of roses, God is in heaven, and all is well with the world, Fate sneaks up from the back. Your Guardian Angel decides to proceed on a vacation. The blow falls.

Two weeks earlier, Aunt Agatha had set in motion yet another of her mould-the-wastrel-Bertie programs. Having been forced to be affianced to Honoria Glossop for this period had been a trying experience.

With each day came the challenge of having to read at least fifty odd pages of serious literature, often followed by a visit to some frightful art gallery or the other. Being made to attend quite a few classical concerts proved to be a traumatic experience. I was left convinced that blokes like Beethoven, if I get one of the names right, should have been banished from the country.

Mere participation in such pursuits was not considered sufficient. The fact that I was expected to actively participate in serious discussions and prove my intellectual mettle had left me all of a twitter.

Each and every encounter with my spouse-to-be proved to be an experience which tried the soul. Romance was a distant dream. Instead, talks of an intellectual kind dominated the discourse, leaving me in a highly enfeebled condition.

Then, one quiet evening, when Honoria and I were seated in the lobby, sipping tea and relishing some delicious hors d’oeuvres dished out by Spenser, Aunt Agatha’s butler, the blow fell.

‘Bertie,’ she said, ‘I have been thinking about our life after we get married.’

‘Eh? Oh, that sounds great.’

‘I think that valet of yours has too much of a negative influence on you,’ said Honoria.

A cold hand clutched at my heart.

‘You need to get rid of him,’ she said as she looked at me sharply, as if trying to gauge my reaction.

‘Get rid of Jeeves, do you mean?!’ I gasped.

‘Yes. I don’t like him.’

‘But he does a fine job of managing things in my life, don’t you think so?’

pgw-images-2‘Dear, you might be paying him a handsome salary, but he is the one who calls all the shots. Was he not the one who sent you on a futile midnight bicycle trip once, looking for a door key which was already with him? I hear that he keeps dominating you even over such trivial matters as the colour of your ties and the kind of jackets and hats you need to wear.’ said Honoria defiantly.

I gaped at her much as a clueless newt would have gaped at its mother when reprimanded for having not done its school homework.

‘But, dear, he also manages the house so very well. Everything in its place, taking care of guests, planning for lavish luncheons and dinners and what not, if you know what I mean. A most amazing cove, I would say.’

‘What is there in managing a house?’ said Honoria, glancing at me in a challenging manner. ‘I think I have a better solution.’

‘Hmm….and what might that be?’ I said, hope of a reprieve from a calamity gently starting to fade.

‘I would say we should provide you with a valet bot, enabled by state-of-art Artificial Intelligence. Perhaps, we can locate a valet which operates on Artificial Super Intelligence. It would take care of all your needs, and shall never boss you over. Never would it hold the view that you are a person who is, well, mentally negligible,’ said Honoria with that unique glint of enthusiasm in her eyes which girls normally get when they believe they are on to a really hot idea.

I shuddered. I knew that matrimonial alliances do tend to demand a lot of sacrifice on one’s part, but a supreme sacrifice of this magnitude? For the rest of my life, would I now wake up in the mornings with a humanoid approaching me not with a silver tray but with an iPad instead? The mind boggled.

In her zest, Honoria continued with her futuristic vision.

‘Bertie,’ she said, ‘I would go to the extent of suggesting that we re-do your entire flat. Make it a Smart Flat, so to say. What do you think?’

‘Er…I say, eh, what do you mean?’

‘Ooh, Bertie! Can’t you see? You will have the latest gadgets at your

Rembrandt

Rembrandt

place. A giant TV screen which would softly descend from the ceiling, enabling you to read serious and meaningful literature at the flick of a button. It would be backed by the latest multimedia functions. In the dining room, we shall put a giant screen which will keep showing paintings of such stalwarts as Edward Munch, Pablo Picasso, Rembrandt and the like. The study would get converted into a small theatre where, after sumptuous dinners, we shall be able to watch recordings of classical concerts from all over the world. Your intellectual proficiency would improve in no time. Father would be so very pleased.’

I tottered. Before I could lodge a feeble protest, she continued to narrate her frightful plans.

‘Bertie, the flat would have a universal software interface. Wi-Fi. Tea machines, ovens and gadgets which would be remote controlled. Retinal scanners at the entrance door. iPad-controlled door locks. Hidden flat-panel screens in all the rooms, which can be popped down at the flick of a button. Underwater lighting shows in the bath-tubs. Lighting fixtures and window blinds which can be shut at will, even by a remote. The place would be heavenly! Don’t you think so?! Would you not be happier, darling?’

‘But…er…listen, I say, I am happy the way things are, dear!’

‘Oh, Bertie, you are so very unromantic’, protested Honoria.

‘Well, dash it….., don’t you think that we shall need a software expert to manage all the advanced gadgets you indicate?’, I tried to reason, hope rearing its head yet again.

‘That is the beauty of the scheme I propose, dear. The moment such things get installed, Jeeves would find himself out of his depth. For all you know, pretty soon, he will put in his papers. That would bring sunshine and freedom back into your life.’

‘Sunshine? Freedom?’, I said doubtfully.

‘Bertie, would you or would you not fulfil this simple wish of mine?’

‘Hmm, let us think about it’, was the most I could mumble, just as my Guardian Angel decided to back me up, what with Spenser entering and announcing that my car had been brought to the gate. A perfunctory kiss on the cheeks of my spouse-to-be and I was off, temporarily elated at having had the wisdom of avoiding an unpleasant argument with Honoria. But the brow was decidedly furrowed. Dark crowds hovered over the horizon.

Reaching the metropolis, I decided to ward off the feeling of impending doom by stopping over briefly at Drones for a snifter. I can’t say it helped me much. As I headed for the flat, I brooded as much as my poor grey cells would allow me to, but could not come up with a solution to the challenge posed by my affianced. I just could not imagine a life without Jeeves. So very competent in every aspect.

Technology is all very well, if you know what I mean, but what about the human touch? Was there no value attached to the big head bulging at the back? The supreme intelligence which had so far protected me from so many disasters in life? Would a robot be able to whip up a pick-me-up, like Jeeves would, as and when necessary?

Could one count the number of times he had avoided the prospect of his master walking down the aisle with one of the finer specimens of the tribe of the delicately nurtured? What about his unique capacity of being able to judge the psychology of the individual? Could any robot even try to replicate a fraction of it?

As I entered the liar, things were as neatly arranged as ever. If Jeeves were to ever start offering consultation to big corporates in TQM or 5-S PGW HughLaurie-BertieWoosteror some such rot, he would be literally rolling in millions, I thought.

‘I trust your trip was satisfactory, sir?’, he asked deferentially, as he started unpacking the stuff.

‘I wish it had been that way’, Jeeves. ‘Do you think you could fix a w. and s. for me? Make it stiff, if you like’, I said.

In time, he waltzed in with a tissue restorative, a perfect picture of timely service and feudal zeal.

Having shoved down a couple of gulps down the hatch, I spilled the beans.

‘Jeeves, something frightful has happened.’

‘Indeed, sir?’

‘Time to come to the aid of the party, eh, what?’

‘My services are at your disposal, sir.’

‘Thanks to Aunt Agatha, I have got betrothed to Honoria Glossop.’

His left eyebrow went up a quarter of an inch. I am certain that Gandhi could have learnt a lesson in equanimity from Jeeves.

‘I wish you both great happiness together, sir.’

‘Thank you and what not. Though I realize that you would not approve of an alliance of this nature, you know what Aunt Agatha is like. Hitler himself could have taken a kindergarten course under her and failed to come up to her exacting standards.’

‘Perhaps you wish to convey that she comes up with proposals which try the soul, sir?’

‘Absolutely. What do you think, Jeeves?’

‘Sir, if the banns are getting announced, I wonder if I could get relieved of my responsibilities at an appropriate time?’

I was stupefied. Shaken to the core, if you know what I mean.

‘What makes you say that, Jeeves?’

‘You are aware, sir, that it is not my policy to serve in households where the master and his spouse are best left alone in rest and repose.’

‘I understand, Jeeves. In fact, Honoria has also been suggesting some frightful plans of upgrading the flat and make it more…..er, what is the word which has technology in it and ends with heavy or something?’

‘Perhaps you allude to the term tech-savvy, sir?’

‘Indeed. I wonder how you know all these things, Jeeves.’

‘Kind of you to say so, sir. I do believe that the future belongs to   those who are in sync with the Internet of Things.’

‘Internet of what things, Jeeves? Why do you always talk in terms of riddles?’

‘My apologies for having had the audacity of testing your patience, sir. I was referring to the rapid advancements in technology which are changing the way we interact with things, sir.’

‘Oh…like what?’

‘You may already know, sir, that robots and humanoids are increasingly taking over all kinds of routine tasks. Robots, algorithms and chatbots are becoming a part of everyday life. From Artificial Intelligence, people are trying to move on to Artificial General Intelligence and even Artificial Super Intelligence.’

‘Strange, Jeeves. How do you think things are going to shape up?’

‘Quite revolutionary, if I may venture to hazard a guess, sir. For example, the next time you walk into the Marriott Hotel in Belgium, a humanoid robot by the name of Mario could be checking you in. Likewise, the Hilton chain has launched Connie, a robot embedded with IBM’s Watson technology. As the trend picks up, hotel chains could replicate this experiment, thereby making you well known to all their properties across the world.’

wodehouse-characters‘Oh, so someone like Tuppy Glossop would no longer be able to get off with a misdemeanour at one of their swimming pools, looping the last ring or something of that kind?’

‘I fear not, sir. When you go for shopping, you may just need to punch some buttons and the desired object would appear on a screen. If you decide to buy, you punch another set of buttons, make the payment using internet banking, and the item would be offered to you on a designer conveyor belt, duly packed. No human intervention in the entire retailing process.’

‘Oh, so next time Aunt Dahlia asks me to go and sneer at a silver cow creamer at an antique shop, there will be no cove at the sales counter, registering my scorn?’

‘Quite likely, sir. In a similar vein, secretaries like Amy Ingram are now helping overworked office managers with quite a few of their mundane tasks. Thanks to a self-learning algorithm, Amy gets smarter all the time.’

‘Good news, indeed. So, there would no longer be a possibility of Aunt Dahlia wishing me to become the secretary of someone like Mr. A. B. Filmer, the Cabinet Secretary, who got thwarted by the overtures of an angry swan, what?’

‘Not really, sir. But at some future date, there is a possibility that our civilization reaches that state of perfection in its technological endeavours.’

‘But don’t you think we are being rather foolish, creating machines which might turn out to be smarter than us? The mind boggles. Sure enough, the foundations of our civilization are quivering.’

‘There is a lot of merit in what you say, sir. However, to be able to replicate the emotional responses and humane feelings of Homo Sapiens may not be easy. Eventually, both the skill-sets would be required for humanity to grow. As more and more routine tasks get done by robots, human beings can move higher up the cognitive and spiritual ladder.’

‘Do you think many other professions could also get invaded by this machine mania, Jeeves?’

‘I do believe so, sir. Even lawyers and judges could soon lose their jobs to their AI-enabled counterparts.’

‘Ah, what a relief that would be, Jeeves. Poor Aunt Dahlia, when trying to avoid my going in for thirty days without the option, would no longer need to offer the services of Anatole to such unscrupulous characters as Sir Watkyn Bassett, I guess.’

‘The contingency would indeed appear to be a remote one, sir.’

‘And what about the realm of tissue restoratives? That is an area you specialize in, Jeeves!’

‘I do believe, sir, that two young gentlemen from London have already come up with a brew called IntelligentX, which evolves its flavour based on responses from social media.’

‘But, surely, you would not spill the beans when it comes to those pick-me-ups of yours?’

‘That is a prospect which is best avoided, sir. But perhaps Ellie could solve quite a few of our problems.’

‘Oh, never heard of her. What am I missing, Jeeves?’

internet image 2‘Sir, Ellie is a virtual psychotherapy assistant in whom you can readily confide all your problems. I hear that scientists at the University of Southern California have developed her. She can help diagnose signs of depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), sir.’

‘But do you think she can replace such eminent loony doctors as Sir Roderick Glossop? After all, a specialist with his extensive practice can hardly help taking a rather warped view of humanity and might wish to check things first hand.’

‘Indeed, sir. But I believe that the eminent personality you refer to has already a couple of them working for him. This reduces his onerous overload of having to keep a tab on the vast number of patients he treats. In fact, just before you came in, Mrs. Gregson called up to say that one such specimen would be arriving soon enough to have a short diagnostic meeting with you.’

‘Oh, so what do you suggest, Jeeves?’

‘Sir, I would not wish to impose myself in any way. Nor would I like to stand in the way of the happiness of yourself and Miss Honoria.’

‘I respect this feudal approach of yours, Jeeves. That is precisely the reason I am seeking your support in the matter.’

robot-cat‘If so, with your permission, I would suggest using a virtual feline creature which is programmed to make the right noises at the right time, while Sir Roderick Glossop’s assistant is in a discussion with you. I had managed to borrow a specimen from one of the friends who had developed it and wanted it to be tested. Unless, of course, sir, you wish it otherwise….’

‘No, no, far from it, Jeeves,’ I butted in, hope dawning at last. ‘I appreciate this initiative of yours. But you mention only a single specimen. Last time, I thought, you had twenty-three cats!’ One always strived to get the numbers right, you see.

‘Thank you, sir. You are right about the last time. However, this time we are handling merely an assistant. Also, the robot cat I have in my possession now can generate ten different kinds of meows at random, thereby giving the impression that there are so many in the place.’

‘Splendid. So, we are also spared the trouble of encountering a dead fish wanting a written explanation and apology!’

‘Indeed, sir.’

‘By the way, may I know how did you manage to learn all this about the Internet of Things, Jeeves?’

‘Sir, bots powered by superior forms of Artificial Intelligence are soon likely to be the interface, shaping our interactions with the applications and the devices we rely on. Pretty soon, internet-connected cars, elevators and smart cities will pose newer challenges. Internet of Things is the future and I thought I have to be ready to be able to handle it.’

‘Don’t tell me that you are already an expert in handling computers, motherboards, servers, networks and the latest gizmos? You never fail to amaze, Jeeves!’

‘Kind of you to say so, sir. I merely strive to keep my skills upgraded at all times, so I may continue to provide satisfaction. Stephen R Covey has famously held that one should always keep one’s saw sharpened.’

‘Covey….who is this brainy cove?’

‘Sir, he is an expert who is revered in the field of management these days.’

‘But how did you manage to learn this much?’

‘A bit of money which an aunt of mine had bequeathed me came in handy some time back. Also, a little bit of subterfuge, sir, if I may confess. You may recall my having requested some leave last year around this time, sir?’

‘Yes, you said you wanted to hone your skills in shrimp farming, if I remember right.’

‘Your memory does not fail you, sir. In fact, I had used that time to take up an intensive course in the Internet of Things, sir.’

‘Well, well! How did you ever manage that?’

internet image 1‘Sir, the Junior Ganymede Club had earlier succeeded in forging a closer alliance with companies which make hi-tech gear for the aristocracy. Mr. Brigstock, the secretary of the club, had confided in me that talks with outfits like Crestron and Savant had eventually borne fruit. These companies have designed training programs to teach aspirants to my kind of service-oriented career as to how to run and troubleshoot smart-home systems. The club is already running a separate academy which imparts knowledge to wannabe gentlemen of gentlemen in IT networking and programming. This, it is hoped, would ward off the threat to this age old profession from bright engineers and IT-savvy youngsters who wish to improve upon their pecuniary circumstances and earn six-figure emoluments.’

‘You have certainly earned a hefty raise for yourself, Jeeves. Name it and you shall have it.’

‘I am much obliged for your generosity, sir,’ he said, suddenly looking at his iPad which was blinking softly.

‘Sir, one Ellie-99 from the office of Sir Glossop is at the door, seeking an interaction with you.’

‘Oh, already, eh, what? Is the virtual cat in place?’

‘Yes, sir.’

‘In perfect working order, I hope?’

‘Yes, sir.’

‘Bung her in, then. Let us scare her off, so the fixture with Honoria gets scratched without further delay.’

‘Your wish is my command, sir,’ he said as he shimmered out to let Ellie-99 in.

(Illustrations courtesy the world wide web)

 

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