Posts Tagged ‘Death Anniversary’

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

Dear Plum Sir,

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

Serving Life Imprisonment at a Plummy Sing Sing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Of Literary Merit

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

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

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

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

You are a Man of all Seasons

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

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

You are Omnipresent

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

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

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

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

Of Movies and their impact

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What ho!”, I said.

“What ho!”, said Motty.

“What ho! What ho!”

“What ho! What ho! What ho!”

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

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

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

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

The Psychology of the Individual and “pi”

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

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

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

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

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

Lord Emsworth

The Appropriateness of Valentine’s Day

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

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

Being an Inmate at the Psing Psing Correctional Facility

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

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

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

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

A hearty pip pip!

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

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

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

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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;

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A note from Shiva Kumar

I had written this poem in 2015 as a tribute to the master humourist, P.G.Wodehouse, who died on Valentine’s Day in 1975. Ace caricaturist Suvarna Sanyal paid me the highest compliment with his superb sketch showing The Master himself appreciating my poem. Thank you, SS!




Holiday morning, lovely day
To the bookshop, I’m on my way
The bookman called and said “come, quick,
Come a-running and take your pick.
A bunch of ol’ books have arrove,
A big crateload, a treasure trove.”


I wade in, my wish list in hand
Books all over, I can’t see land.
Dark grim tales to the left of me,
Sob stories to the right of me;
Pah! Bah! And Tchah! Far away be,
I want books which guffaw make me.


Melodrama, romance, forsooth!
Stuff, no sense in the bitter truth.
Yes, ribbing prose, tickling poetry,
But no science nor geometry.


Clarence, Freddie, Threepwood clan
Sir Galahad, the Pelican
Empress, Baxter, the angry swan;
Plum makes you chortle, that’s his plan.


Psmith the name with the silent P,
Sometimes dotty, always natty!
Ukridge the get-rich-quick schemer,
Out, looking for his redeemer.


Anatole, chef extraordinaire,
He cooks up a superb French fare;
But when he expresses his ire,
His English is simply hilare!


Come and meet Mr. Mulliner,
Angler’s Rest’s own story teller.
Or, the golf club’s Oldest Member,
Who many tales does remember!


Roderick Spode, Sam the Sudden,
Uncle Fred, Pongo Twistleton!
Sally, Gussie, Bingo, Catsmeat,
On my bookshelf you all I’ll greet!


Ah! There I spy a Bertie tale
With his antics he does regale.
By himself he’ll be in a bind
Thankfully, Jeeves isn’t far behind.


Wodehouse Omnibus, just you wait
Till I pick you up from that crate!
Plum’s the word for the humour stuff
Reading once is just not enuff!


A holiday morning well spent
Time flew, so fast, it came and went!
Now to curl up in the arm chair
Read away, come up only for air!


(Shiva Kumar is an electrical engineer by education. Having served in several industries, he and his Alma Mater are both relieved that he has never been called upon to prove his subject knowledge. He is otherwise adept at delivering uplifting shocks to those who follow him with his occasional blog posts, dishing out stuff that would make a reader laugh. His creative outpourings can be accessed at either https://sudden-elevenses.blogspot.com or https://thewiklyupdet.blogspot.com.He also loves to indulge in photography and listening to music. He likes nature and his favourite places to visit are the hills. 


Suvarna Sanyal has had a satisfying career pouring over bulky ledgers of a bank. He has an eye for the humorous and the unusual. He never fails to amuse with the sparkling illustrations he keeps coming up with. An Ace Caricaturist he surely is!


Permission to post this composition here is gratefully acknowledged.)

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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.)

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