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Posts Tagged ‘Life’

When it comes to the oeuvre of P G Wodehouse, Stephen Fry says that ‘You don’t analyse such sunlit perfection, you just bask in its warmth and splendour.’

With due respects to him, yours truly would beg to differ. As someone who suffers from the 3rd and final stage of a pleasurable affliction alluded to as Wodehousitis, I cannot but analyse the sunlit perfection of his narratives. In a world full of hatred and conflicts, one survives on the metaphorical juice of the oranges of his whodunits. Unless one analyses, one does not extract the maximum possible juice out of these luscious oranges. My Guardian Angels have conspired thus, and I just cannot help myself.

Allow me, therefore, to capture here some of the life-enriching lessons which dot the vide canvas of one of his works, Something Fresh – tips on well being, riding the socio-economic divide, the spirit of enterprise, the art and craft of delegating tasks, communication, exploring career options, the art of badmouthing seniors, becoming indispensable, suspecting everything, the true meaning of chivalry, being a superman, expressing one’s love, behaving like a millionaire, avoiding nervous breakdowns, being spiritual and the like.

By no means are these exhaustive. Many of you may have a different view of this work of Plum’s. Well, here is my humble take.

Health is Wealth

Following the prescription dished out by Ashe Marson – Larsen Exercises (all twenty nine of these), scientific deep breathing, cold baths and brisk walks –  helps one to remain as fit as a fiddle. Plenty of fresh air and no cigars are highly recommended. Cities may resent exercising in the open. But perseverance pays, and a sense of indifference sets in soon enough. Owners of nearby hotels, if any, regard one without a smile. The hotel employees continue to perform their duties impassively. The children are no longer interested in looking at one. Even the cat keeps rubbing its backbone against the railings unheeding.    

A frugal diet based on nuts and grasses helps. Understandably, this needs nerves of chilled steel, denying the sumptuous feast which would invariably be on offer. Prudence needs to prevail over greed. Pleasures of the table are best forsaken. Of course, it helps to have loving daughters like Aline Peters around who will do likewise and set a fine example for their fathers to behave. They themselves may suffer pangs of hunger at night. Their turning pale and thin may get commented upon by aspiring lovers. But the feudal spirit must prevail.  

Even the chewing habits assume significance. Lord Emsworth is of the view, as shared by him with Adams, the head steward at the Senior Conservative Club, that partaking large mouthfuls of food amounts to one digging one’s own grave with one’s teeth. Food should never be gobbled, he believes; Americans do this when young and ruin their digestion. Each mouthful needs to be chewed at least 33 times before being allowed to slide down the hatch.

Mr Peters shows to us that it is fatal to get angry at meals. His case proves that temper and indigestion are positively correlated with each other; as one goes a notch higher, so does the other. Thinking beautiful thoughts helps. Earlier, he had been advised by a New York specialist to avoid nervous breakdowns by taking up a hobby. That is how he had become an avid collector of scarabs.  

Even Baxter is aware that insufficient sleep made a man pale and sallow, and he had always aimed at the peach-bloom complexion which comes from a sensible eight hours between the sheets.   

Life Below the Stairs  

Something Fresh presents to us a sneak peek into the life below the stairs in a castle.  

It takes a bevy of servants to keep things running in an orderly fashion at Blandings Castle. There is a rigid hierarchy here, backed by customs and rituals which need to be scrupulously observed. Under the auspices of Mr Beach and Mrs Twemlow, things are always done properly at the Castle, with the right solemnity. There are strict rules of precedence among the servants. A public rebuke from the butler is the worst fate that can befall a defaulting member of this tribe.

Kitchen maids and scullery maids eat in the kitchen. Chauffeurs, footmen, under-butlers, pantry boys, hall boy, odd man and steward’s-room footman take their meals in the servants’ hall, waited on by the hall boy. The stillroom maids have breakfast and tea in the stillroom, and dinner and supper in the hall. The housemaids and nursery maids have breakfast and tea in the housemaid’s sitting-room, and dinner and supper in the hall. The head housemaid ranks next to the head stillroom maid. The laundry maids have a place of their own near the laundry, and the head laundry maid ranks above the head housemaid. The chef has his meals in a room of his own near the kitchen.

There is not much of a behavioural difference between our corporate citizens and those who work below the stairs. Both love discussing the idiosyncrasies of those above them.

Beach believes that with all the breach of promise cases being foisted on to the rich men, Anarchy is getting the Upper Hand and the Lower Classes are getting above themselves. Rampant Socialism is to be blamed; so are the cheap newspapers, which tempt the Lower Classes to get Above Themselves.       

Compassion for this class of persons is a desirable quality indeed. Towards the very end of the narrative, when Joan feebly objects to Ashe Marson kissing her in the open on the pretext of a scullery-maid looking out of the kitchen window, he responds thus:

‘Scullery-maids have few pleasures. Theirs is a dull life. Let her see us.’

A Contrast in Upbringing

There is a stark difference between the upbringing of Aline Peters and Joan Valentine. This tells us why their attitudes towards life are so very distinct. The contrast between the haves and the have-nots of the society is brought into sharp focus.

One of the compensations Life offers to those whom it has handled roughly is that they can take a jaundiced view of the petty troubles of the sheltered. Just like beauty, trouble is in the eyes of the beholder. Aline may not be able to endure with fortitude the loss of even a brooch whereas Joan has to cope with situations which often mean the difference between having just enough to eat and starving. For the reward of a thousand pounds, she finds it worth her effort to accompany Aline to Blandings Castle as a lady’s maid.

Free Masonry and the Spirit of Enterprise

The narrative also draws our attention to the Free Masonry amongst those live in large cities and on small earnings. Since both Joan and Ashe contribute to two different publications of the Mammoth Publishing Company, an instant bond gets formed between the two. Ashe feels like one who meets a boyhood’s chum on a desert island.

Joan even acts as a muse and helps Ashe overcome his writer’s block, when he is trying to figure out what a wand of death could be.

‘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 Ashe calls himself a failure, Joan is livid and asks him to start something new. Living in the biggest city in the world, she believes, means chances of adventure are simply shrieking to him on every side. She exhorts him thus:

‘Don’t get into a groove. Be an adventurer. Snatch at the next chance, whatever it is.’

Sane advice for entrepreneurs of all hues, sizes and shapes. The ideal adventurer needs a certain lively inquisitiveness. He is not content to mind his own affairs. Joan’s eloquence has the effect of pulling Ashe out of his laziness. His sense of enterprise gets rekindled, prompting him to assist Mr Peters in recovering his scarab, despite the fact that he is not an easy person to work with.

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Those of you who had gone through my earlier post might recall the fact that the trauma of cardiac surgery was adequately compensated for by my Guardian Angels. On the positive side, other than a career breakthrough, pending family obligations got met successfully; marriages of both my children got fixed up in this period. Moreover, in subsequent life, I became a sort of cardiac expert, dishing out sage advice to my colleagues, friends and relatives.

Incorrect Choices and the Value Spectrum

This change was just a way for life to reinforce within me the importance of observing values and ethics in whatever I did.

The strategic flaw in the scheme of things was that I had willy-nilly landed in an organization the value system of which did not match that of my own. It was my pumpkin headedness which led me to continue with the organization for as long as I did. Like a pilot in a flight hit by an enemy’s missile, I might as well have pressed the cockpit eject button much earlier.

If you are one of those who twiddle their thumbs wondering as to why I tend to place a high premium on sound values to be followed in business can rightfully blame my corporate career for the same. Having worked in organizations which were at two opposite ends of the value spectrum, I have seen at close quarters the perks of being value-driven and also the perils of not being so. That is how, in yours truly, you are apt to find a fierce critic of any kind of compromises on this front. The underlying belief is that business ships which are built on a keel of sound values end up not only having a better brand equity but also yield better returns to their stakeholders. When businesses are broad minded and give back to the society at large, they serve a higher purpose.

Our personal Brand Equity gets built by the kind of choices we makes and the kind of company we seek over a long period of time. The right strategy to follow in any career is to give due weightage to this single factor when choosing organizations we decide to work for. We consider this issue in some detail somewhere else in this compilation.

No Fault in Our Stars! 

When one undergoes a humiliating experience, one feels as if one has been simply used and thrown into a trash bin. One’s stock is down. The market is sluggish. Only bears, having come out of hibernation, rule.

The first response is to blame it on our stars. But it is the choices we make ourselves which lead one to suffer in life. We create our own destiny, so to say.

Shakespeare was bang on when he said that ‘The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves, that we are underlings’ (Julius Caesar: Act 1, Scene 2).

A Chiselling Towards Perfection

One may say with a reasonable degree of accuracy that Life has indeed been wired to act like a Master Sculptor. Life has not learnt the art of sculpting by means of a correspondence course which was not even completed but left midway.

All this chiselling business, you see, comes in pretty handy in life. Each of these highlights at least one glaring deficiency in one’s personality. At the time it happens, it startles one, much like a nymph surprised while splashing about in her Jacuzzi in the comfort of her home and hearth. Shock and disbelief quickly follows. A deep resentment gets felt, in the vein of what-have-I-done-to-deserve-this.

Eventually, once reason starts returning to its throne, a pitiless analysis follows. Root causes get identified. An action plan to address these gets made and then worked upon. A better self emerges. Weaknesses often get converted into strengths. It is as if our Guardian Angels are gently nudging us to mend our ways, develop healthier attitudes, acquire better working habits and enjoy life better.

All of us have villains in our lives. With any change in the family setting or in the organization we work for, the name and the face of a villain alone changes. The element of villainy simply refuses to go away.

Perhaps all these villains keep popping up to show us our place in life. They teach us the value of humility. The day we are feeling on top of the world and patting ourselves on the back on the successful accomplishment of a long cherished goal, fate, donning the mask of a villain, quietly sneaks up from behind and hits us with a nail studded club.

Blessings in Disguise

In a way, these turn out to be blessings in disguise. If these do not happen, we are likely to trudge along on a straight and narrow path. We are apt to keep wallowing in our comfort zones in a protracted state of procrastination, refusing to budge from our prejudices, much like an obstinate Balaam’s Ass!

We cannot change others. But we can look within and be open to change ourselves. That is indeed possible.

While at school, I won many prizes in local as well as in national level essay writing competitions, but never on the subject of scripture knowledge. However, I do believe that if the concept of reincarnation is believed, whatever Life leaves incomplete in us during this life time perhaps takes it up with missionary zeal in our subsequent lives!

In other words, the earlier we shape up, the easier it is. The choice is entirely ours!

(Related Posts:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2020/12/29/a-not-so-plummy-encounter-with-an-arm-of-the-law

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2021/01/17/some-more-encounters-of-a-weird-kind

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2019/08/01/the-karma-operating-system)

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Neglect this vital part of your life only at the personal risk of your well-being – mental as well as physical. Take time off for your kid’s parent–teacher meeting due next Saturday. Cultivate a hobby which helps you retain your sanity while handling the whirlwind operations that you try to manage at the speed of light.

Remember,

E = mc2

Here, E represents your energy and/or enthusiasm, m is mental peace, and c is your capacity – mental and physical.

When you achieve a better work–life balance, you improve your mental peace, as well as your capacity to do things. Your energy levels remain high.

(Excerpt from my book ‘Surviving in the Corporate Jungle’, the English version of which was released recently. Here is a video clip which captures the journey of the book so far:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2017/10/14/surviving-in-the-corporate-jungle-a-video)

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Words of Wisdom

Stressed about stress management? Read this one!

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