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ashokbhatia

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…

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ashokbhatia

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…

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Elango was not your ordinary sailor. He was fat; too fat for his seniors from Leading Telegraphists (Rank in the navy) to the Captain not to lecture him on getting his weight reduced to a decent level. He was not bothered too much about his resembling a rotund duck that had drunk all the water around it. Indeed, drink, particularly beer – never a single bottle – was the primary reason for Elango’s ever increasing girth.

He would grin sheepishly at anyone speaking on his expanding body. It is not that he did not try to get himself into shape; he ran, sweated it out with thimbles, swam but just could not stop drinking.

One day, five of us friends went to see a matinee show in the Strand Cinema in Colaba: To Sir with Love, a film that would find a place in anybody’s best movies’ list. The sky had been overcast when we went in to the theatre. When we came out after the movie, it was drizzling. We had to stand somewhere under the shade to escape the rain. What better place than Martin’s Restaurant opposite the cinema?

I do not know now but 45 years ago, you were guaranteed a fulfilling evening snack in the place. Elango was particularly fond of the pork vindaloo you got there. We ordered it along with some steamed rice. When it arrived, we pounced upon it with our hands rather than using the spoon and fork the gentleman in the restaurant had put on the table. As it turned out, that was the last time that Elango was going to taste the meat; in fact, any meat.

There was a girl with an old woman sitting two tables away from us. Beautiful was not the word that would have crossed your mind on beholding her; she was not that. There was, however, something about her that made you steal a second glance at her. Elango was sitting on the chair right opposite her. She was eating whatever she was eating with gusto.

We were only about ten minutes into clearing the plate of its contents by gobbling up what there was when the girl got up, paid her bill and went out to join her companion who had already exited and was standing under the sunshade of one of the row of shops in the street. There was no way they could venture out in the rain.

For one thing, the woman was old and frail and looked as if she would catch a cold and follow it up with high temperature if she as much as caught a single raindrop on her head which only had thinning strands of hair. Even a more compelling reason for them not to walk into the rain was the girl’s dress. It was too skin-fitting to get wet all over. She would not dare do that. Not all men are decent. Some can cause more harm with their eyes than with any physical activity.

I am not too sure if Rupert Psmith had ever given Elango some tips on the art and science of courtship. Taking a leaf out of Leave it to Psmith, Elango lost no time to take in the scene, told us to wait, ran out into the falling rain and disappeared. I went out and saw him turning the corner though I did not know where he was headed. The girl could not stop laughing at the fat boy whose limbs were doing dance steps of their own when he ran.

Within a very short time, Elango was running towards us as fast as he could which was not really fast. I saw that he had an umbrella with him. He slowed down as he approached us and without a word, offered the umbrella to the girl. The girl was taken aback and did not know what to do or say.

The old woman obviously believed in making hay while the sun shined; or to put it in context, grabbing an umbrella when it rained. She almost snatched the umbrella from Elango’s hand, stepped out on the road before nudging the girl to follow her even as she was opening the umbrella.

The girl gave Elango a smile and ran a step or two to catch up with the old woman. We noted that they went south towards the Radio Bhuvan. Elango gave them 10 seconds, followed them, stopped at the corner and watched. The two women jostling each other under the umbrella indeed went into the Radio Bhuvan.

Elango stood there in the rain, thought for a while and returned to us. We departed and walked towards Lion Gate. The rain-washed buildings lining the road on either side were not very different from the stately mansions on the streets of London we just saw in the movie. The grey clouds were getting darker in the evening sky and the buildings were glowing, bathed in the light emanating from the lamps all around.

Within a week Elango enrolled himself in the Radio Bhuvan for a telex operator course. Was there any need to do that? Absolutely not. But, why not? Wasn’t Gilda studying at the institute?

In what you can safely call a miracle, Elango shed his weight in a record time. He gave up meat, fish and eggs and shunned everything that could be called alcohol. What the chidings, mockery and his own determination could not achieve, love did. Easily. Such is the power of love. He visibly bloomed into a dashing hero in the mould of someone like Dean Martin, as handsome a man as you could imagine. Rupert Psmith would have heartily approved of his conduct in the matter.

Those of you who run into Geoffrey Raymond of A Damsel in Distress fame – the one who had acquired not only wealth but also a highly obese physical frame and a triple-chin visage – might want to tap him on the shoulder and quote to him the real life example of Elango. For all you know, scales may fall from his eyes and he might eventually end up winning the heart of someone in the mould of Lady Maud Marsh.

The duration of the short course was sufficient for Elango to woo the Eva/Maud of his life. Woo he did and went steady with her. They made a fine young couple.

As of now, those of you who happen to visit Goa might as well find them relaxing in a luxuriously furnished family room, relishing their favourite tissue restorative and enjoying the prattle of the tender feet of their grandchildren around them.

About the author:

Asokan Ponnusamy joined the navy at the tender age of 16. Had it not been for the libraries on board the ships, he would not have read books in the English language which woke up the writer in him. Simultaneously, he was enamored by rock music which he got to hear on the ships. Some fifteen years back, he wrote a book ‘500 Popping Questions, Rocking Answers’ on rock, pop, country and folk music. In 2019, he wrote his second book ‘The Funnyman Who Was Also A Sailor’. Besides unleashing his creative outpourings upon unsuspecting people like us, he also undertakes freelance and ghost writing occasionally.

His permission to blog this piece here is gratefully acknowledged. Yours truly confesses to have taken some liberties with the original text provided by him.

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FictionPur

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Ranveer Singhania, the tall debonair steel-grey eyed heir to Delhi-based Singhania Empire, had thought that her cheerful vibrant personality, her uninhibited laughter and easy going nature would balance out his serious and colorless life. That she would be the best life partner for him. He had felt it in his heart that making this chirpy and full of life girl his wife will be the best decision of his life. She had caught his attention from the day she had stepped into his life like an innocent cute deer, prancing through life without any worries. She was the only one who made him smile with her non-stop chattering, and make him laugh at her antics. Her huge doe shaped eyes were filled with warmth. And her beautiful smile could warm up any one’s heart. She was one of a kind and she was the one for him. Or so he thought.

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ashokbhatia

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…

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ashokbhatia

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…

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Honoria Plum has a unique flair for digging deep and coming up with gems of pristine knowledge and wisdom as to the kind of life P G Wodehouse lived. Residents of Plumsville thus get a sneak peek into some aspects of his life which might have influenced his work.

Here is a blog post from Plumtopia which amuses, entertains and educates.

Plumtopia

For some years now, I’ve been pushing the idea, aided and abetted by a gang of like-minded eggs, that Valentine’s Day should be commemorated as the anniversary of P.G. Wodehouse’s death in 1975. I’m a persistent sort of blighter, so here we are again in 2020.

This year, I was curious to take a look at Wodehouse’s writing on the subject of love and see how it might have developed over the course of his 75-year writing career. I quickly discovered (as ever with Wodehouse) that I’d bitten off more than I could chew. So until some generous bird comes across with the necessary oof for full-time study, it’s a mere snippet.  

It’s unsurprising to find that love doesn’t feature in Wodehouse’s early school stories. The fact that it takes centre stage in his first grown-up novel, Love Among the Chickens (1906) is more curious. Wodehouse’s lifelong love…

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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 their 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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