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Creative persons often respond to crises in their lives with a renewed enthusiasm and vigour for their art and craft. Creative juices help them to not only retain a state of mental equipoise but also pour out some strikingly positive thoughts. The shadow of a deep sorrow within eventually decides to part company and move on to some other soul which happens to be more vulnerable. A pale parabola of joy becomes visible on the horizon, leading the tormented soul from an abyss of darkness to a brighter and cheerier environment. Goddess Saraswati provides a healing touch.

Late Shri Harivansh Rai Bachchan lost his first wife at a young age. One of the poems he penned at the time is a great composition which could enthuse anyone who is grappling with the sudden loss of a loved one.

Translation skills of yours truly are indeed debatable. However, the essence of the poem entitled, say, ‘What has happened has happened‘, is pregnant with some relevant lessons from one’s environment. But before we come to that, let us savour the original first.

जो बीत गई सो बात गई

जीवन में एक सितारा था
माना वह बेहद प्यारा था
वह डूब गया तो डूब गया
अम्बर के आनन को देखो
कितने इसके तारे टूटे
कितने इसके प्यारे छूटे
जो छूट गए फिर कहाँ मिले
पर बोलो टूटे तारों पर
कब अम्बर शोक मनाता है
जो बीत गई सो बात गई

जीवन में वह था एक कुसुम
थे उसपर नित्य निछावर तुम
वह सूख गया तो सूख गया
मधुवन की छाती को देखो
सूखी कितनी इसकी कलियाँ
मुर्झाई कितनी वल्लरियाँ
जो मुर्झाई फिर कहाँ खिली
पर बोलो सूखे फूलों पर
कब मधुवन शोर मचाता है
जो बीत गई सो बात गई

जीवन में मधु का प्याला था
तुमने तन मन दे डाला था
वह टूट गया तो टूट गया
मदिरालय का आँगन देखो
कितने प्याले हिल जाते हैं
गिर मिट्टी में मिल जाते हैं
जो गिरते हैं कब उठतें हैं
पर बोलो टूटे प्यालों पर
कब मदिरालय पछताता है
जो बीत गई सो बात गई

मृदु मिटटी के हैं बने हुए
मधु घट फूटा ही करते हैं
लघु जीवन लेकर आए हैं
प्याले टूटा ही करते हैं
फिर भी मदिरालय के अन्दर
मधु के घट हैं मधु प्याले हैं
जो मादकता के मारे हैं
वे मधु लूटा ही करते हैं
वह कच्चा पीने वाला है
जिसकी ममता घट प्यालों पर
जो सच्चे मधु से जला हुआ
कब रोता है चिल्लाता है

जो बीत गई सो बात गई

(Courtesy: http://kavitakosh.org)

If you had a star in your life which was bright and beautiful, the day it fell from the sky, it just fell. The sky does not grieve over it. When fragrant flowers fall, the forest of honey does not wallow in sorrow. The vessels of mud, containing tissue restoratives, fall and break. But those in a merry making mood move on with their celebration of life. There is not much point in mourning over the loved ones who have parted company for ever.

Life goes on. Look forward to tomorrow with some uplifting thoughts and ideas. Do not grieve over a lost opportunity.

A profound message, indeed.

(PS: If you liked this post, and happen to be a fan of P G Wodehouse, you may like to check this out as well: 

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2018/02/14/the-death-of-death-at-the-hands-of-p-g-wodehouse)

 

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P G Wodehouse handed in his dinner pail on the 14th of February, 1975. While delving into any of his narratives, one is not likely to find a single character which comes under the clutches of one of the much-despised inevitable occurrences in life – Death (the other one being Taxation, which does get commented upon once in a while).

In the narratives dished out by him, Death figures only somewhere in the background. It does not depress. Nor does it make the spirits sag. Instead, it finds mention in a positive vein. It confers wealth, castles and titles upon the unsuspecting heirs and wards, paving their way for a smoother life, thereby spreading joy and sunshine all around.

The closest one gets to morbid thoughts is when a character is fed up with facing the harsh slings and arrows of Fate and contemplates an act of suicide, which, rather understandably, never happens.

When husbands kick the bucket

Former husbands do find honourable mentions in some of his narratives. Hot Water scores on this front. So does Ring for Jeeves, where one runs into rich husbands of Mrs Spottsworth who have already kicked their respective buckets, leaving behind sackfuls of the green stuff.

Born Rosalinda Banks, of the Chilicothe, Ohio, Bankses, with no assets beyond a lovely face, a superb figure and a mild talent for vers libre, she had come to Greenwich Village to seek her fortune and had found it first crack out of the box. At a studio party in Macdougall Alley she had met and fascinated Clifton Bessemer, the Pulp Paper Magnate, and in almost no time at all had become his wife.

Widowed owing to Clifton Bessemer trying to drive his car one night through a truck instead of round it, and two years later meeting in Paris and marrying the millionaire sportsman and big game hunter, A. B. Spottsworth, she was almost immediately widowed again.

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 result being that when he placed his foot on the animal’s neck preparatory to being photographed by Captain Biggar, the White Hunter accompanying the expedition, a rather unpleasant brawl had ensued, and owing to Captain Biggar having to drop the camera and spend several vital moments looking about for his rifle, his bullet, though unerring, had come too late to be of practical assistance. There was nothing to be done but pick up the pieces and transfer the millionaire sportsman’s vast fortune to his widow, adding it to the sixteen million or so which she had inherited from Clifton Bessemer.”

When the cup that cheers causes death

In Summer Lightning, Galahad is seen advising his niece about the dangers of drinking tea (instead of whisky) and recalling the death of poor old Buffy Struggles.

“’You be careful,’ urged the Hon. Galahad, who was fond of his niece and did not like to see her falling into bad habits. ‘You be very careful how you fool about with that stuff. Did I ever tell you about poor Buffy Struggles back in ‘ninety-three? Some misguided person lured poor old Buffy into one of those temperance lectures illustrated with coloured slides, and he called on me the next day ashen, poor old chap – ashen.

“Gally,” he said. “What would you say the procedure was when a fellow wants to buy tea? How would a fellow set about it?”

“Tea?” I said. “What do you want tea for?”

“To drink,” said Buffy. “Pull yourself together, dear boy,” I said.

“You’re talking wildly. You can’t drink tea. Have a brandy-and-soda.”

“No more alcohol for me,” said Buffy. “Look what it does to the common earthworm.”

“But you’re not a common earthworm,” I said, putting my finger on the flaw in his argument right away.

“I dashed soon shall be if I go on drinking alcohol,” said Buffy.

Well, I begged him with tears in my eyes not to do anything rash, but I couldn’t move him. He ordered in ten pounds of the much and was dead inside the year.’

‘Good heavens! Really?’

The Hon. Galahad nodded impressively. ‘Dead as a door-nail. Got run over by a hansom cab, poor dear old chap, as he was crossing Piccadilly. You’ll find the story in my book.’”

Tea lovers would surely get offended by the sentiments expressed herein above. But Plum had a knack of making even Death amusing.

Being mentioned in passing

Elsewhere, one finds Clarence and Gally having a conversation of this nature:
“I wish I could consult Wolff-Lehmann”
“Why can’t you?”
“He’s dead.”

In Adventures of Sally, the main protagonist writes to Ginger:

“If Gerald had died and I had lost him that way, I know quite well I shouldn’t be feeling as I do now. I should have been broken-hearted, but it wouldn’t have been the same. It’s my pride that is hurt.”

In Something Fresh, we find Ashe Marson suffering from a writer’s block. He looks blankly for half an hour in front of a sheet of paper bearing the words: “The Adventure of the Wand of Death,” and tries to decide what a wand of death might be. Joan Valentine walks in and demystifies it thus:

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

When Uncles call it a day

Many of us successfully take off the negative emotions associated  with death by using such clichés as “kicked the bucket,” and “cashed in his chips.” In a common Wodehouse usage, an uncle generally “hands in his dinner pail.”

“I’m taking my spade and bucket and going home” is a pout spoken by a child playing at the seashore who feels he or she is no longer wanted. Instead, like in Fixing it for Freddie, he uses the term “buckets and spades.”

When suicidal tendencies evaporate

In the short story Sea of Troubles, we get to meet Mr Meggs who happens to be a martyr to indigestion. Leading a sedentary life for over twenty years, and given to the pleasures of the table, he has no hope for the future.

After much thought, he has decided to commit suicide. The knife, the pistol and the rope do not charm him. Nor do the options of either drowning or jumping from a height. The idea of consuming poison alone appeals to him.

He has encashed his assets and decided to gift the same to six of his well-deserving pals. He has prepared letters enclosing cheques to all the six. He has even thought of his Miss Pellinger, his secretary, and gifts a sum of five hundred pounds to her by way of a parting gift. After handing over the letters to her, asking her to post the same, he hands over the money. Emotionally moved, he even plants a kiss.

But Miss Pillenger is a wary spinster of austere views, uncertain age, and a deep-rooted suspicion of men. She is always ready to swing her clenched fist on any male who might cross the limits of civil behaviour.

She takes the gesture amiss and runs off from the house, startling and shocking Mr Meggs who just cannot comprehend her act of perceived insult. So much so that he scratches the idea of gifting any of his money to some similarly ungrateful friends of his.

He starts chasing his secretary so as to be able to stop her from posting the six letters he has entrusted to her. The latter, thinking he is following him for some amorous reason, creates a scene on the street. A huffing and puffing Mr Meggs, red in the face with the exertion, explains his conduct to a rozzer who has descended on the scene and retrieves the letters.

Back home, he suddenly realizes that the infernal pain in his stomach has ebbed away. He finds hope in brisk walks and decides to cancel his suicide mission.

The Making of Mac’s is another story which also appears in The Man with Two Left Feet.

Katie is in love with Andy who is ambivalent towards her. She aspires to be a first-rate dancer but damages her ankle at one of the rehearsals. This crushes her ambition. Life turns hopeless.

This is how she expresses herself:

Darling Uncle Bill, 

Don’t be too sorry when you read this. It is nobody’s fault, but I am just tired of everything, and I want to end it all. You have been such a dear to me always that I want you to be good to me now. I should not like Andy to know the truth, so I want you to make it seem as if it had happened naturally.

You will do this for me, won’t you? It will be quite easy. By the time you get this, it will be one, and it will all be over, and you can just come up and open the window and let the gas out and then everyone will think I just died naturally. It will be quite easy. I am leaving the door unlocked so that you can get in. I am in the room just above yours. I took it yesterday, so as to be near you.

Good-bye, Uncle Bill.

You will do it for me, won’t you? I don’t want Andy to know what it really was.”

Uncle Bill butts in at the last minute, consoles her, and rushes off to show the letter to Andy. Moved by the letter, Andy does not lose time and rushes to meet her. The affair ends on a positive note.

Slaying Death with his pen

Fans of P G Wodehouse are well aware that his world has different kind of challenges: Obdurate girl friends whose ambitions to either enforce dietary controls upon the parties of the other part, or uplift and refine their intellect, need to be kept on a tight leash; sartorial choices which unwilling masters bow to after having been saved from an impending disaster by their man servants; management of aunts who, when one’s Guardian Angels are busy elsewhere, are not gentlemen; tackling of stingy uncles who refuse to part with the green stuff for loftier goals in life; pigs which decide to register a protest by deciding to go in for unplanned dietary regimen; the art and science of pinching umbrellas and policemen’s helmets, and the like.

Death is on the other side of the spectrum and finds no place in his narratives, except when rich husbands or uncles decide to kick the bucket and leave a pile of money or real estate for their spouses or heirs. The D word, even if it makes a brief appearance, merely indicates a celebration of life.

A spiritual import

Incidentally, by treating Death as a celebration of life, Plum adds a deeper spiritual layer to his narratives.

In his epic poem Savitri, Sri Aurobindo, the renowned Indian seer, presents the end of a person’s life as a transformative event, a passage or a door through which one passes towards a greater life. Essentially, the poem recounts the saga of human victory over ignorance and conquest of death.

Thus, on the racing tracks of Life, Death is but a pit stop. One gives up one’s creaking old jalopy. In exchange, one gets a shimmering new vehicle. One then zooms off to a newer horizon, the engine firing on all six cylinders. With each pit stop, one evolves further.

All works of Wodehouse carry his trademark bright humour and sparkling wit. But hidden beneath the layers of his uplifting narratives are several gems of wisdom – material as well as spiritual.

He continues to live amongst us through his works. In his hands, even Death meets its own death.

(Inputs from the following fans of P G Wodehouse are gratefully acknowledged:

John Dawson, Lars Walker, Louise Culmer, Lucy Smink, Midge Coates, Murray Harper, Narayan Arvind, Pranava Singhal, Satish Pande, Subrata Sarkar and Sughosh Vardarajan.)

 

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