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Lord Emsworth

Much like all masters perched on the literary high table, P G Wodehouse also used Nature as a colluding partner in his narratives. When all is well with the world, roses are in bloom, bees and birds go about doing what they are ordained to do, and the sun goes about spreading cheer with due benevolence. But when giant egos clash or a disaster looms large, Nature stops in its tracks, birds stop chirping noisily, breeze ceases to blow and even flowers stand still.

In other words, Nature is depicted as having a sensitive soul, cheered up when the proceedings are going as per plans, but looking askance when the reverse happens. In the hands of proficient wordsmiths, it assumes a character of its own and provides mute support to the goings on in the narrative.

By way of an example, consider the story ‘Lord Emsworth and the Girl Friend.’

Angus McAllister, the head gardener at Blandings Castle, has an anti-moss spirit. Lord Emsworth often wonders why Providence had not taken note of his sterling qualities and made him a first class mule. He recalls the time when, after having sacked him, McAllister, he, Lord Emsworth, had to plead with him to come back. This alone had resulted in his favorurite pumpkin winning the Agricultural Show.

It was a supreme sacrifice at the altar of an employer’s ego, paving the way for a subsequent loss of the iron hand to have an effective control over his own property, comprising not only the castle and its grounds but also the exquisite flora and fauna hosted therein. Lord Emsworth had thus ended up becoming the ground under the number twelve heel of the Glaswegian head-gardener.

He believed that he had thus evolved into a spineless and unspeakably unworthy descendant of his ancestors who had perfected the art of handling employees, even if it involved dividing an obdurate employee into four employees by using a battle-axe without any eyebrows getting raised.

Till the time Gladys popped up in the scheme of things, McAllister’s control over ‘flarze’ in the Blandings Castle gardens was absolute. Anyone desirous of acquiring some of these had to wait till the time he was in an amiable state of mind, steer the conversation around to the subject of interior decoration, and then took a pot shot at one’s desire.

If one’s Guardian Angels were in a benevolent mood, and if McAllister chose to show you around the gardens with a dash of Scottish pride, one could see the following species in full bloom:

Achillea

 

Bignonia Radicans

 

Campanula

 

Digitalis

 

Euphorbia

 

Funkia

 

Gypsophila

 

Helianthus

 

Iris

 

Liatris

 

Monarda

 

Phlox Drummondi

 

Salvia

 

Thalictrum

 

Vinca

 

Yucca

And when a small girl in a velveteen frock is seen flitting about his sacred gardens and picking his sacred flowers – that too, a girl who had copped him on the shin with a stone just the other day, he rushes out of his den at forty-five miles per hour.

Lord Emsworth’s soul quivers at the spectacle of the man charging down on him with gleaming eyes and bristling whiskers. But with the soft hand of Gladys in his hands, his spine sheds all the cottage cheese it had accumulated over time and gets converted into one made up of chilled steel.

‘This young lady,’ said Lord Emsworth, ‘has my full permission to pick all the flowers she wants, McAllister. If you do not see eye to eye with me in this matter, McAllister, say so and we will discuss what you are going to do about it, McAllister. These gardens, McAllister, belong to me, and if you do not – er – appreciate that fact you will, no doubt, be able to find another employer – ah – more in tune with your views. I value your services highly, McAllister, but I will not be dictated to in my own garden, McAllister. Er – dash it,’ added his lordship, spoiling the whole effect.

The sudden transformation in the character of the main protagonist leaves Nature baffled and astounded. All is still for some time. The Achillea, the Bignonia Radicans, the Ampanula, the Digitalis, the Euphorbia, the Funkia, the Gypsophila, the Helianthus, the Iris, the Liatris, the Monarda, the Phlox Drummondi, the Salvia, the Thalictrum, the Vinca and the Yucca – all are still.

Angus McAllister is perplexed. He decides it is better to cease to be a Napoleon than to be a Napoleon in exile. ‘Mphm,’ he says.

Nature resumes its breathing. The breeze begins to blow again. And all over the gardens the birds resume their musical notes. And the Achillea, the Bignonia Radicans, the Ampanula, the Digitalis, the Euphorbia, the Funkia, the Gypsophila, the Helianthus, the Iris, the Liatris, the Monarda, the Phlox Drummondi, the Salvia, the Thalictrum, the Vinca and the Yucca, much relieved, start swaying in the gentle wind yet again.

The repertoire of such literary giants as Shakespeare, William Wordsworth, Charles Dickens, Thomas Hardy and Kalidasa are littered with natural allusions. Same is true of P G Wodehouse.

(Illustration courtesy Suvarna Sanyal, a retired banker who has an eye and an ear for all there is to see, listen to and laugh at in this world.

Representations of flowers courtesy Wikipedia. Given the non-floricultural background of yours truly, errors and omissions in these may kindly be excused.)

(Related Posts:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2019/05/09/lord-emsworth-and-the-girlfriend-a-viewpoint

https://honoriaplum.wordpress.com/2014/01/16/great-wodehouse-romances-lord-emsworth-and-the-girl-friend-by-ken-clevenger)

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Lord Emsworth

The narratives dished out by Plum not only amuse but also educate the lay reader. Critics may label these as escapist fares, but that does not take away the kind of social and spiritual lessons which are embedded therein.

When a girl whom you have come to respect seeks your protection, you try to rise to her expectations. Suddenly, the spine which was made of cottage cheese gets transformed into one of chilled steel. You stand up to bullies and tell them where they get off. You look them in the eye and make them wilt, making them beat a hasty retreat from their time-tested positions. Like Angus McAllister, they suddenly find more merit in ‘ceasing to be a Napoleon than to become a Napoleon in exile.’

The Parva School Treat Transformation

When the story begins, we find that Lord Emsworth’s soul is weighed down with woe. The sun is going about its task with great aplomb, but he is unable to potter around in his own gardens. For, this is the day of the August Bank Holiday, ‘when a tidal wave of the peasantry and its squealing young engulfed those haunts of immemorial peace.’ In place of an old coat, he is forced to wear a stiff collar and a top hat and be genial. As if this were not enough, he is expected to make a speech in the evening.

However, by the time the story reaches its climax, he has become a transformed man. He has become a man amongst men. He can stand up to Angus McAllister, his gardener, and boldly reject his proposal to lay a gravel path through the moss-covered yew alley. He has even found the courage to give a piece of his mind to Constance, his dominating sister.

His foremost concern is to bring some sunshine into the life of Gladys, his girlfriend. If she has not had any nourishment, she must be provided a sumptuous fare not only for her but also for her younger brother, Ern. If she asks for flowers from the Blandings gardens, she must have them. He would rather walk back with her to the cottage she is staying at, rather than face the prospect of making a speech.

Doing the ancestors proud

Lord Emsworth detests the fact that he is no longer the captain of his soul. But he ends up acquiring the courage to stand up to the bullies in his life. From being a spineless and unspeakably unworthy descendant of ancestors who had certainly known how to handle employees, he can now boast of being a tough egg. Even though his soul quivers, the simple act of Gladys seeking his protection from a menacing Angus McAllister by slipping her small, hot hand into his, he secures a mute vote of confidence. It is something that he wishes to be worthy of.

Learning from kids of a metropolitan origin

Street smart kids of metropolitan origin have perfected his survival and self-preservation skills. They acquire a ‘breezy insouciance’ which their country cousins lack. Shyness is not one of the virtues they can boast of. They have no difficulty in translating their thoughts into speech. Their dog-management skills are something to write home about.

If they need to pick flowers, they stoop to conquer. They have no reservations about throwing stones at those who endeavour to thwart their floral ambitions. Those attempting to do so even run the risk of getting copped on the shin. And if someone were to deliver a sharp reprimand, they are not averse to biting them in the leg.

These are the kind of personality traits which appeal to someone like Lord Emsworth who believes that he is not a captain of his own soul. Kids with a kindred spirit end up earning his unalloyed reverence.

One of the kids who earns the awe and admiration of Lord Emsworth is Gladys. She is described as a ‘small girl, of uncertain age – possibly twelve or thirteen, though a combination of London fogs and early cares had given her face a sort of wizened motherliness which in some odd way caused his lordship from the first to look on her as belonging to his own generation. She was the type of girl you see in back streets carrying a baby nearly as large as herself and still retaining sufficient energy to lead one little brother by the hand and shout recrimination at another in the distance.’ Ern, her younger brother, also falls in the same category.

Pristine love that uplifts

A streak of independence, disobedience and childlike vehemence invariably appeals to someone who is not himself in the firing line. When it affects the parties who happen to be the tormentors, the sense of awe and admiration experienced by the tormentee grows manifold. Lord Emsworth is no exception to this general rule.

Love results into a spiritual upliftment of sorts. One is no longer concerned only about one’s own discomforts, whether material or spiritual. One starts looking at the broader picture. The vision is no longer myopic. The scales fall from one’s eyes. One works towards bringing some sunshine into the lives of those who are somewhat disadvantaged. Social and economic barriers fade away. Empathy and compassion kick in. So does the milk of human kindness. One focuses only on providing adequate succour to the object of one’s affections.

(Illustration courtesy Suvarna Sanyal, a retired banker who has an eye and an ear for all there is to see, listen to and laugh at in this world.)

(Related Posts: 

https://honoriaplum.wordpress.com/2014/01/16/great-wodehouse-romances-lord-emsworth-and-the-girl-friend-by-ken-clevenger

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

 

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ashokbhatia

Some residents of Plumsville may like to join me in recalling our pre-adolescence days. Our first ever encounter withVeryGoodJeeves Cupid’s arrows. The time when innocence slowly started giving way to half-baked romances of a transient nature. The neighborhood crush and the chance encounters. The classroom and the furtive glances. The one-sided affections. The attempts at showcasing gallantry and modesty. The unfulfilled desire to share tips on demystifying Romeo and Juliet. The relentless yearning for companionship. The possibility of a picnic where the presence of a certain person made our hearts go all of a twitter.

A more sinister restlessness crept in when we got infatuated with someone within the dark confines of a cinema hall. Posters of an upcoming movie featuring the adored person invariably got more attention than any text-book at hand. Sneaking off to a matinée, while giving a skip to the homework assigned, was also attempted…

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ashokbhatia

04

The dark blue color of your skin matches the deep hue of the late evening sky,
You are the light in the cosmos, you are the force which makes heavenly bodies fly;

You are the atom, you the nucleus, you the particle which goes around,
You are the invisible force which keeps the entire universe bound;

You reside in the sweet fragrance of the flowers, in the sap of plants,
You flow in the rapids, leap up in flames, you are in insects and in ants;

You hide in the melody of music, in the ether, in the tiny grains of sand,
You are behind all joys and sorrows of nature, in the rainbow, in the fertile land;

O supreme Bliss, who and where are you, we wish to know,
Words can’t describe you, thoughts can’t fathom your flute and bow;

We bow down to you but are fed up…

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As you prepare yourself for a married life,

Full of love, happiness, joy and domestic bliss;

Here is an utterly butterly Plummy wish

Which you would do well not to miss.

 

Unlike Pauline Stoker, may you never ask your Bingo Little

To swim a mile before breakfast;  

And then playing five sets of tennis post-lunch,

Leaving the hapless guy shaken and aghast.

 

Like Honoria Glossop, may you never be prone to

Slapping the backs of guests with all your might;

Nudging the sterner sex to perform goofy deeds

With no consideration of their own plight.

 

May you never be like Florence Craye,

Trying to mould him into an intellectual cove;

Instead, groom him in washing dishes and changing nappies,

Shaping up a rebel lion into a docile dove.

 

Unlike Stiffy Byng, may you never prompt him

To pinch the helmet of a constable;

Landing him in a chokey,

Missing Bartholomew’s company at the dining table.

 

May you have occasional traces of Madeline,

Capable of gazing moodily at stars in the sky;

While the Bingo Little in your life

Serves some bacon and egg fry.

  

May you be an ideal mate,

Endowed with a generous helping of grey cells;

Feeding enough fish to Jeeves who can protect you both

When life rings its sinister bells.

 

A soulmate dishing out a seven course Anatole meal

With a magic wand;

Ensuring a liberal supply of tissue restoratives,

With pick-me-ups always at hand.

 

Keeping the house clear of invading cousins,

Ex-fiancees, cats, dogs and aunts;

Life free of silver cow creamers, speeches to school kids

and Pa Bassett’s taunts.

 

Fussing over him like Angela,

A spiritual view on life you would possess;

Despite sharks and occasional tiffs,

Helping his pals in distress.

 

If ever you decide to be an auhtor like Rosie M Banks,

May he always support you in thought and deed;

Ensuring that you get your afternoon cup of tea,

Convinced that chums like Laura Pyke you do not need.

 

In matters of attire and appearance,

You would keep Jeeve’s admonitions at bay;

Deploying an empathic stiff upper lip

When his financial misdemeanours lead him astray.  

 

An occasional sojourn of his to the Drones

You would surely not mind;

Keeping the milk of human kindness sloshing about,

Love softening the harsh blows of the daily grind.

 

Warm and cosy evenings may see him

Acting like the perfect preux chevalier;

Cuddling small ones the prattle of whose feet

Would make the home livelier.

 

Much like Sally, may you always inspire him,

Keeping his entrepreneurial ambitions alive and kicking;

Or follow the example of Joan Valentine,

Be an equal when executing a fruity scheme like scarab picking.

 

 Jeeves’ feudal spirit you would skillfully utilize

To ensure domestic harmony and bliss;

Delegating to him the mundane affairs,

A professional career of your own you do not miss.

 

Much like Roberta Wickham,

May you sashay up to the altar with much aplomb;

We pray that each moment spent with you,

May never be for him like a ticking bomb.

 

 May you both be like Joe-Julia and Piggy-Maudie,

Your fondness for each other growing over time;

When concerns about the lining of the stomach rule,

May grand kids enjoy your belting out a nursery rhyme.

 

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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. Principles 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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first-birthday-cake

The Earth has turned for 365 days,

My kid brother has meanwhile grown in many ways;

He has experienced all the seasons,

To smile together we have many reasons!

 

His lungs are full of fresh Arctic air,

Yet to walk, he crawls with a flair;

Single words he only speaks now,

To take care of him, I am always in tow!

 

His eyes sparkle like a pair of twin stars,

His laughter is infectious, it never jars;

Playing tabla with a flourish he is learning fast,

The range of biscuits he eats is really vast!

 

In his life, the moon and the stars shall forever shine,

We shall travel together long, I and this brother of mine!

(Composed on behalf of a girl of seven years)

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