Posts Tagged ‘Miss Tomlinson’


Psmith put his smart phone away. A sigh escaped him.

“Nothing makes sense”, he muttered.

For the space of about twenty-five seconds, Mike, sitting across a small table on a sunlit balcony in Mumbai, India, sat in silence.

“What is wrong with you?” asked Mike, with a concerned look on his face.

Some time back, Psmith and Mike had returned to the Mumbai branch of the New Asiatic Bank for a short audit spree. It had again taken them some time to get used to the hustle bustle of the metropolis, which they found much noisier than during their last stay, what with elections in India just round the corner.

They were put up in a guest house of the bank located at Worli in one of the high-rise buildings overlooking the Arabian Sea. Being a Sunday, both were in a relaxed state of mind.

“It is a pity to see the hapless denizens of most countries getting bombarded with all kinds of inane propaganda around election time. The level of allegations and counter-allegations leave them totally aghast, wondering if there is any sense of decency left in the world. I am sure they are clueless about being able to separate the wheat from the chaff, especially when it comes to deciding who to vote for”, said Psmith, looking somber and grave.

“Yes. Perhaps, they would end up voting for those who have greater lung power, both in the physical and in the virtual world!” said Mike.

“Elections will come and go. But, frankly, I do not really see any hope for the millions who have put their faith in the concept of democracy without realizing the kind of chaos and confusion it so very often amounts to.”

Mike eyed Psmith with grave concern.

“What gives? I have never seen you so very pessimistic about things.”

“In general, I feel that politicians of all hues have failed the public at large. People should start using the None Of The Above option more aggressively!” said Psmith ruefully.

“Why do you think so?” asked Mike, picking up his cup of tea from the table separating the two.

“One, I do not see any party speaking of issues which really matter. Talk of global warming and the threat people face from rising sea levels is nowhere to be heard. We have come to a stage where we need kids like Greta Thunberg to remind us of our obligations to Mother Earth. World over, use of land is a question which never gets raised, even though instances of urban flooding keep popping up every once in a while. Another crisis which looms large is that of the acute shortage of potable water, but our politicos appear to be behaving like well-fed ostriches on all these counts.

“Two, the basic needs, like providing for affordable healthcare, an education which makes the young employable, and an ecosystem which enables the people to make a decent living, are only touched upon obliquely and never addressed in a meaningful way. We are already well into Industrial Revolution 4.0. Requirement of skill-sets is changing rapidly, creating a new set of haves and have-nots. But I do not see any politician talking about this grave challenge.

”Three, many of the founders of modern democracies had vowed to create a just society. They seem to be nowhere near the goal that their founding fathers had set. Not to talk of either Millennium Development Goals or a gradual shift to Gross National Happiness Index for measuring progress.”

Psmith paused and looked at the seagulls flapping their wings over the Arabian Sea.

“Yes, I understand your anguish”, said Mike. “But this is true for many of our politicians in many countries. They are essentially dream merchants, with an eye on their own seat of power. Lofty promises get made at election time, mostly to be forgotten thereafter. The execution part is left to poor mandarins who sit in their ivory towers and keep swaying like wild grass on a sea coast to the likes and dislikes of different political masters from time to time.

“We live in times of volatile politics and general insecurity. We are just getting used to some stunning and illogical triumphs. Over the past few years, we have seen it in France, Italy, USA, India and elsewhere. A wave of isolationism appears to be washing down upon us. So is a phase of de-globalization.”

“Let us not lose heart, Comrade Jackson. The world follows its own cycles. Pretty soon, the tide could turn again. The omissions and commissions of those who look invincible today may soon return to haunt them. But what amuses me is that rather than focusing on long term key issues, our politicians just keep goading the ordinary person into making a choice between a brand of hyper-nationalism and a secular and liberal outlook. They sound much like our corporate honchos who live from one quarter to the next, dishing out guideline values!”

“We are lucky that elections keep popping up every once in a while. Some work gets done, at least!” quipped Mike, a chuckle adorning his visage. “Also, you ignore the fact that poor politicians have a tough job on hand”, he added.

“Oh, and what makes you say that?” asked Psmith.

“You see, they have to cope with diametrically opposite demands from different sections of the public. They have to persevere. They have to be fleet-footed and switch sides when it suits them. You may recall the case of John Bickersdyke who switched over from being a Liberal to a Unionist!

“Much like the Hon’ble A B Filmer and Roderick Spode, they have to be a model of respectability; their past should bear the strictest investigation. Their misdemeanours – financial, social or entrepreneurial – have to be kept hidden from the public view. Their encounters with angry swans have to be kept under wraps. Hell hounds of media have to be kept off the scent of any Eulalie-type endeavours.

“At all times, when commenting on something, they have to be politically correct. Very frequently, they have to make speeches full of empty rhetoric, a task which could leave many in a befuddled state of mind. Often, they have to listen to addresses of welcome in stuffy halls through the better part of a night. They must kiss babies, even if they happen to be dribbling by the sides of their mouths.

“They even have to undertake arduous journeys to far off villages, sit on the ground and have meals with their sympathizers, and even sleep in cottages with minimal facilities. They have to keep smiling while hugging world leaders who are otherwise sworn enemies of the state. Surely, they are more to be pitied than to be censured, don’t you think?”

“Well, all professions come with their own perks and perils” remarked Psmith philosophically. “And what about political funding, Comrade Jackson, what do you think of it? Would that not be effective in reining in corruption and in keeping the parallel economy in better check?” enquired Psmith.

“Well, some countries have given it a respectable name like lobbying. But the fact remains that a quid pro quo exists between private players and politicos. Surely, private players know how to extract their pound of flesh from whosoever makes it to the seat of power.”

“Hmm. But if political funding is made transparent, the voters would know exactly who stands to eventually benefit from their votes, even if these be such obnoxious businesses as those dealing in arms.”

Mike frowned.

“Yes, but there are so many other subterfuges a government in power can resort to, so as to quietly favour the businesses of their choice!” he added.

“Such as….?” Psmith enquired, raising an eyebrow a fraction of an inch.

“A pliant central bank can come in handy and get treated like a cash cow. In emerging economies, it can simply tinker with the way Non Performing Assets get classified. It can use forward swaps to enable private players to dip into the forex reserves. May be, there are several other ways which lesser mortals like us would be blissfully unaware of!” said Mike.

“Spoken like a true banker, Comrade Jackson! And the tab gets picked up by the common man!!”

“But if the businesses are worried about adverse reprisals when and if the opposite party makes it to the seat of power, and if the politicos do not wish to go to the public in a transparent manner, what do you think can be done?”

“I think power has to be truly secured back by the people!”

“Oh, so you mean riots, civil disobedience and all that stuff? Or, are you saying people should return to a dictatorship model?” Mike said in a surprised tone.

“No, no. I am not a social scientist. I can’t say if the democratic model is at fault here. It fails when those in power do not engage with the dissenters. Dictatorship is not necessarily a solution. God forbid if someone like Roderick Spode ends up controlling the affairs of a nation!”

“On the contrary, he could be very popular with the masses. If he announces plans of giving each citizen at birth a bicycle and an umbrella, a swanky tablet to all students who enter an institution of higher learning, a cooking stove, a pressure cooker and a kitchen cabinet to all those getting married, building world-class infrastructure, and even compulsory, scientific measurement of all male knees, he would romp home with a thumping majority. People just love elections for the kind of freebies these bestow upon an otherwise deprived population.”

“Yes, I have vaguely heard of some politicians from the southern parts of India who have perfected this art”, said Psmith.

“Not to forget the hard cash, occasional meals and a sumptuous supply of tissue restoratives during elections. But we digress. You were mentioning civil disobedience.”

“In fact, days when most Indians were starving and could register their protest by resorting to civil disobedience are long since past. Hunger inevitably leads to a seething anger within, and someone like Mahatma Gandhi who is smart enough to channelize it properly brings home the bacon, so to say. This tactic can now only be used by those at the bottom of the pyramid.

“As to all the others, it might only yield results if the delicately nurtured in their families follow the example of Wilmot Mulliner and go on a crash slimming spree by shifting to a diet based only on the juice of an orange. Pretty soon, their natures would become warped, and they will start spewing off the resultant venom on the men around them. Gradually, the men would undergo a transformation in their characters. From being ewe lambs, they would become crouching tigers, ready to pounce upon anyone who they believe is dishing out injustice to them and their families.

“Or, something more imaginative has to be done in the case of the well-endowed classes.”

“Like what?” asked Mike.

“For one, I think we need professionals from the fine arts side to come up with a sustained campaign to keep the key issues alive and kicking. Not-For-Profit entities can pitch in and so can intellectuals. Above all, we need a band of committed comedians, the stand-up kind or otherwise, who can churn out shows over social media to convey the importance of such issues which are critical to the survival of our race. A silence would willy-nilly imply either a state of resignation and disinterest, or quiet acquiescence. The coming generations would never forgive us otherwise.”

“Interesting” said Mike. “Perhaps you take a leaf out of Ukraine where Vlodymyr Selenskiy, an anti-establishment comedian, has played a role in elections! But who will fund the kind of activities mentioned by you? One would not like this to remain an open-ended challenge,” said Mike.

“Crowd-funding could work. Also, there is no shortage of well meaning people who wish to do something good. But the real challenge is to identify a leader who would be committed to a cause of this nature and magnitude, despite opposition.”

“Opposition will of course be there. I read somewhere recently that eminent lion-tamers like Rev Aubrey Upjohn, Miss Mapleton and Miss Tomlinson have appealed to students the world over to give up their tirade regarding global warming and instead focus on their studies. On the contrary, I thought they would be feeling proud that they have tutored their pupils rather well.”

“Oh. One person who could possibly be consulted on the issue is Jacinda Ardern, the present Prime Minister of New Zealand, who has demonstrated exceptional leadership qualities recently.”

“Perhaps you should then seek an audience with her. But wait, this merely goes on to show that a situation produces a leader. So, if the steps outlined by you are taken and sustained for a long time, one can hope for an enigmatic leader to emerge from such peaceful protests, right?”

“I do believe so.”

Mike rose from his chair and stretched his arms. His gaze drifted off to a couple of fishing boats bouncing up and down on the bluish-green waters of the Arabian Sea. The rays of a setting sun were waltzing over the waves.

“These are deep waters, indeed. I wonder why we are discussing such matters on a lazy Sunday evening! I rather think I’ll nip down to the beach at Santa Cruz and take some fresh air into my lungs,” said he. “You couldn’t come too, I suppose?”

“On the contrary,’ said Psmith, ‘I could, and will. A stroll will just restore those tissues which our intense discussion of the last half-hour has wasted away. It is a fearful strain, this political quagmire. Let us trickle towards the place mentioned by you. Comrade Jackson, lead me to this picturesque beach of yours of which I have heard so much.”

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Santa Inc is an undisputed leader in the Happiness Industry, committed to spreadingSanta Elf_ornament cheer and hearty laughter all over the universe. With its headquarters at Island-222 on Kepler-22b, its top-line boasts of zillions of smiles and cheer all over.

With operations slated to increase at an annual compounded growth rate of 30%, it is on the look out for smart and tech-savvy elves who would be:

  • Able to demonstrate hi-tech toys and gizmos like smart phones, i-Pads, apps of all kinds, notebooks and fablets to the current generation of tiny tots.
  • Would assist Santa Claus in motivating kids to exchange their previous years’ gizmos with more conventional toys like dolls, train sets, racing cars, bikes and board games like Ludo, Snakes and Ladders, etc., thereby reviving their interest in traditional means of entertainment.
  • Elves who charm TV and internet-addicted bleary-eyed kids into playing more of outdoor games and can wean…

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Santa Inc is an undisputed leader in the Happiness Industry, committed to spreadingSanta Elf_ornament cheer and hearty laughter all over the universe. With its headquarters at Island-222 on Kepler-22b, its top-line boasts of zillions of smiles and cheer all over.

With operations slated to increase at an annual compounded growth rate of 30%, it is on the look out for smart and tech-savvy elves who would be:

  • Able to demonstrate hi-tech toys and gizmos like smart phones, i-Pads, apps of all kinds, notebooks and fablets to the current generation of tiny tots.
  • Would assist Santa Claus in motivating kids to exchange their previous years’ gizmos with more conventional toys like dolls, train sets, racing cars, bikes and board games like Ludo, Snakes and Ladders, etc., thereby reviving their interest in traditional means of entertainment.
  • Elves who charm TV and internet-addicted bleary-eyed kids into playing more of outdoor games and can wean them off junk foods can expect faster promotions and better recognition. Those who make it to the top five of this group of elves could enjoy special dinner sessions with the founder Santa Claus himself. 
  • Aspirants should have had value-based education in any discipline from any institute of repute, with a CGPA ranging between 5.01 and 5.99. The company encourages aspirants who score higher on their Emotional and Moral Quotients.
  • Preference will be given to those who have had at least five years’ hands-on experience in any of the following industries: FMCG, Hospitality, IT, Logistics, Packing & Forwarding, Animal Husbandry, Entertainment, Toys and Vehicle/Sleigh Maintenance.
  • Aspirants should be familiar with at least five languages out of the several which are spoken on the planet referred to as Earth. Knowledge of languages spoken on other planets is desirable.
  • Should be willing to travel anywhere in the universe at a short notice. Prior exposure to inter-galactic or inter-planetary travel would help.
  • An ideal elf would be one with a pleasing personality. He/she would be without any family encumbrances, and shall possess the ability to work under high-stress situations.
  • Candidature of those possessing a Good Conduct Certificate from Rev. Aubrey Upjohn, Miss Tomlinson or Miss Mapleton shall be accorded higher priority.
  • Aspirants who have spent time with such Plumsville kids as Thos, Ogden Ford, Seabury, Edwin and Peggy Mainwaring are unlikely to be considered.
  • Prior experience in riding sleighs, sliding down chimneys and taking care of reindeers with care and compassion would be highly desirable.

Those interested in this exciting career opportunity are welcome to log on to hohoho.santaclaus.org and post their brief bios within fifteen Earth-days. Short-listed aspirants would be contacted by our Chief Elf Officer’s staff with further details of our screening process.

To those who are selected and decide to come on board, Santa Inc shall provide a three-month rigorous induction-cum-training program. A personal surety and bond of at least three years will need to be signed by those selected.

Canvassing in any form is strictly discouraged. Those making telephonic inquiries by calling up our Planetary Headquarters on Earth at its North Pole would run the risk of getting disqualified.

Santa Inc is an equal opportunity employer. Its remuneration packages compare favorably with the rest of the Happiness Industry anywhere in the universe.

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In quite a few escapades of Bertie Wooster and his bosom pals, we come across headmistresses and headmasters who remind us of our own days at school. Many of us might not have ever won a prize for Scripture Knowledge, but the mere mention of a brightly authoritative gaze touches the darker realms of our individual scholastic experiences. Invariably, it is not only about the stern look and the stiff upper lip. It is also about our dread of public speaking – and of juicy canes in the soft spots.

The tyranny of these strict disciplinarians does not remain confined to childhood days alone. It often pops up years later when their understudies have grown into adulthood. Even a chance encounter leaves Bertie shaking like an aspen and fearing yet another admonition at the hands of the lion-tamers.

The Female Lion-tamer

Take the case of Miss Mapleton in Jeeves and the Kid Clementina. She lords over the affairs of St VeryGoodJeevesMonica’s, a girls’ school at Bingley-on-Sea. She wears steel-rimmed spectacles which glitter rather nastily. She is short in inches but makes up for it by possessing the quiet air of being unwilling to brook any nonsense. She exudes the air of a female lion-tamer. Unfortunately, she also happens to be a friend of Aunt Agatha.

In Very Good, Jeeves, despite being in town, Bertie attempts to avoid meeting her so as to escape the trauma of being asked to address the school girls. Well, fate and Roberta Wickham will it otherwise and he ends up facing Miss Mapleton. However, thanks to Jeeves, matters get arranged in such a way that Bertie does not earn a reprimand. Instead, he is shown in a favorable light, thereby ensuring Miss Mapleton’s transformation into a rather chummy lion-tamer. The outcome is a highly favorable letter getting posted by her to Aunt Agatha, praising the gallant and courteous conduct of Bertie.

An Outstanding Menace

Then we have the popular ex-headmaster Rev. Aubrey Upjohn who used to terrorise Bertie while in his study at Malvern House, Bramley-on-Sea, the preparatory school. He often used to flex his shoulder muscles by swinging his cane with burning eyes, foam-flecked lips and flame coming out of both nostrils. Bertie used to sneak down to his study at dead of night looking for biscuits he kept there. On one occasion, he found him seated there, relishing the biscuits himself. Next morning, six of the juiciest from his sinister cane on the old spot followed. On another occasion, Bertie faced a trial for having broken the drawing-room window with a cricket ball.

This is how Reginald (‘Kipper’) Herring cheers up Bertie:

‘You know, Bertie, we have much to be thankful for in this life of ours, you and I. However rough the going, there is one sustaining thought to which we can hold. The storm clouds may lower and the horizon grow dark, we may get a nail in our shoe and be caught in the rain without an umbrella, we may come down to breakfast and find that someone else has taken the brown egg, but at least we have the consolation of knowing that we shall never see Aubrey Gawd-help-us Upjohn again. Always remember this in times of despondency.’

Fifteen years later, he is back in circulation, though mellowed down somewhat. The wide, bare upper lipPGW JeevesInTheOffing now sports a moustache, thereby reducing the severity of his appearance. In Jeeves in the Offing, he is aspiring to run as a Conservative candidate in the Market Snodsbury division at the next by-election. To create a good impression, he must deliver a flawless speech to the young scholars of Market Snodsbury Grammar School. To do so, he must get back the neatly typed out speech which, thanks to Jeeves, has come into the possession of Roberta Wickham.

The love of Roberta’s life, Kipper, has made uncharitable remarks about Aubrey Upjohn’s book on preparatory schools in Thursday Review. Thus, a libel suit is getting instituted by the Reverend against the magazine, and Kipper is sure to get a sack. The mantle of striking a bargain – that in return for the manuscript, Aubrey Upjohn would withdraw the libel suit – falls on Bertie. Predictably, his spirit fails him. Roberta promptly takes the lead and clinches the deal.

Aubrey Upjohn also pops up in Bertie’s reminscinces in The Mating Season. While checking the script of a play, he recalls how his English essays used to get blue-pencilled by the outstanding menace. At the end of a series of announcements, he would often conclude with a curt crack directing Wooster to see him in his study after the evening prayers.

No Nonsense

And who can forget Miss Tomlinson? She makes a brief appearance in Bertie Changes his Mind. She isPGW CarryOnJeeves the strong-minded headmistress of a girls’ school near Brighton. According to Jeeves, she is just like Bertie’s Aunt Agatha – with the same penetrating and brightly authoritative gaze. She has the indefinable air of being reluctant to stand any nonsense and has real grip over the young girls in her charge. When Bertie ends up fumbling with his speech to the assembly of girls, she brings the proceedings to a brisk end. When she starts investigating the fact of her students smoking in the shrubbery, enjoying the cigarettes provided by Bertie, the only option left for him is to hide beneath the rear seat carpet of the car and urge Jeeves to drive out of the school premises without further delay.  (Carry on, Jeeves).

Like many other characters from diverse walks of life which keep waltzing in and out of Bertie Wooster’s and Jeeves’ lives, the headmistresses and headmasters leave us with a feeling of dread. Under the inimitable spell of P G Wodehouse, we wilt and we shiver. We just love to hate them. Nevertheless, imagination boggles as to how drab the proceedings would have been otherwise!

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