Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Nature’

 

Lord Emsworth went to the window and looked out. The sun was shining brightly, the birds were chirping along merrily, the hollyhocks, carnations and Canterbury bells were swaying in a gentle breeze and bees, ants and butterflies were going about their business with vigour and vim. In short, God appeared to be in heaven.

But Lord Emsworth was in one of his melancholic moods. What weighed on his conscience was not the loss of his glasses, which were perched firmly on his nose and he could see all things clearly. Baxter, the world’s most efficient secretary, had just parted company with him owing to a difference of opinion in respect of the former hurling flower pots at the window of the latter. He suspected he will have a tough time finding another secretary as capable as Baxter.

However, this melancholy was short-lived. Psmith had just joined him and had successfully managed to secure for himself the vacancy that had arisen. Even though Psmith had confessed to having no prior experience of being a secretary, what went in his favour was the self-confidence with which he proposed his candidature, the fact that he was a member of the Senior Conservative Club and that he was the son of Smith, the owner of the Corfby Hall, who had won a prize for tulips at the Shrewsbury Flower Show the year Lord Emsworth had won the prize for roses.

Psmith announced that he was about to be married to Ms Eve Halliday, probably the finest library-cataloguist in the United Kingdom.

‘She is a nice girl,’ said Lord Emsworth.

‘I quite agree with you.’

‘Congratulations are in order, my dear fellow, to both of you.’

‘I am extremely obliged,’ said Psmith. ‘But we are planning to go in for a slimmer, trimmer and smarter marriage, unlike one of those bigger and fatter marriages which take place elsewhere, like in Greece or India.’

‘Eh?’ said his lordship. ‘Is there anything which is causing any problem?’

Psmith patted the shoulder of his employer reassuringly. ‘Yes,’ he said. ‘You might have heard of the Corona Virus which is catching up like wild fire across our planet these days.’

‘Cyrus….do you refer to George Cyrill Wellbeloved?’, enquired his lordship, shaking like an aspen. A dark cloud appeared to be casting a shadow on his visage.

‘No. I allude to a deadly virus which kicked off its journey in China and has rapidly spread across very many countries,’ responded Psmith. ‘It causes fever, cough and breathing difficulties. Human contact must be kept to a minimum to avoid its further spread.’

‘Do you think the Empress could contract this as well,’ cried his lordship, starting like a war horse at the sound of the bugle.

‘I would not venture a guess. Perhaps we need to consult a vet immediately.’

‘Let us do this right away,’ responded his lordship, peering sharply through his glasses. ‘The next Shropshire Show is not too far off, and we need to provide her all the protection she deserves.’

‘Absolutely’, said Psmith. ‘But allow me first to update you on the marriage plans without further delay.’

‘Marriage, eh? But who is marrying whom?’, queried his lordship.

‘Eve and I have plans of walking down the aisle pretty soon.’

‘Oh, yes, yes….quite, quite. Capital. Capital.’

‘As I said, we plan this to be a slimmer, trimmer and smarter affair. If you permit me, I wish to share some details with you.’

‘My dear fellow, you may do so quickly and then rush to arrange my meeting with an eminent vet.’

‘Obliged. We are working on a short video invite which would get delivered on the smart phones of our relatives and close friends. The invitation will request them to be available on their phones at the prescribed time. The marriage will take place only in the presence of our parents. The ceremony will be shown live to all invitees on their phones, thereby minimizing the chances of the virus becoming a contagion of sorts.’

Lord Emsworth drew himself up. But beneath the solemn friendliness of Psmith’s gaze hauteur was not easy to sustain. He sagged again, resigning to the situation.

‘So no wedding cake for all those invited?’ he commented dryly.

‘Far from it. To all those who are virtually present, we plan to send them return gifts comprising yoga manuals, some delectable chocolate figurines showing a marked likeness to the bride and the groom striking a Charleston pose and, of course,  hand sanitizer tissues with which they might wipe all the contents before touching the same. If the epidemic is already under control by then, we would send them gift coupons from famous restaurants located in their city of residence. This way, the carbon footprint of our marriage would be minimal and we shall make a modest contribution towards protecting our near and dear ones from the kind of exotic viruses which Nature keeps unleashing upon us at frequent intervals. Nature is calling upon humanity to change its polluting lifestyles and we need to heed the same. When Nature starts healing itself, all of us shall benefit. Roses, hollyhocks and others of their ilk would be happier. Birds would chirp more merrily. Bees and butterflies would go about doing whatever they do with renewed enthusiasm. Blandings Castle would thus be a happier place.’

Lord Emsworth perked up. ‘A novel idea, my dear fellow,’ he said.

‘We do believe so. It would be a win-win situation because all would get a bird’s eye view of the ceremony, avoiding travel, free of security bottlenecks due to VVIP attendees, no fat charges for hiring large venues, minimizing catering and other incidental costs.’

‘But the warmth of personal contact would be missing, don’t you think?’ commented his lordship.

‘Yes. Many of us would be missing the back-slapping, bonhomie and networking which entails at a traditional wedding. But social distancing is the key idea these days. One has to make tough choices in tougher times.’

Eve passed by on the terrace below. Psmith waved at her. She waved back at both of them and continued with her stroll.

Psmith continued with his tirade.

‘There are many other benefits of a smarter marriage of this kind. One, parents are spared the trauma of plastic smiles they have to put on so they may appear to be fair and polite to all those who land up in flesh and blood. Two, one does not need to hire detectives so as to ensure that all valuables remain safe. Three, with lesser number of those who keep firing instructions at the bride and the groom, both breathe easy and enjoy the proceedings better. Four, elaborate arrangements invariably make our income tax sleuths sit up and take notice. Such obnoxious occurrences are best avoided.’

‘Income tax!’ cried Lord Emsworth. Income tax and pigs were the only two subjects which really stirred him. ‘Let me tell you that the more you speak of a marriage of this kind, better sense you appear to make. Do please go ahead with your commendable plans. I hope you have drawn these up in consultation with Ms Halliday!’

‘Yes, indeed. Many of these happen to be her ideas,’ said Psmith graciously.

‘God bless you both.’

‘Permit me also to point out that under such circumstances when close encounters with others are best avoided, you could even exercise the option of cancelling the August Bank Holiday this year.’

‘Oh, that would be nice, indeed. The invaders would then not be able to trample over my flower beds, and I do not have to wear stiff collars and make infernal speeches!’

‘I thought you might like the idea,’ said Psmith.

‘Er, now about that vet…..’

‘Yes. I am just rushing off to enable a meeting of the kind desired by you. Meanwhile, may I suggest that you persuade Ms Monica Simmons to keep a strict watch on the Empress’ diet? Any large deviation therein could indicate her indisposition. If you consider it proper, you may even spread a rumour about her having attracted a contagious disease. This would keep pig-stealers of all hues, sizes and shapes under check for some time.’

‘Splendid. I shall attend to it right away’, said his lordship.

With a slight bow, Psmith withdrew.

(With due apologies to Plum; Inspired by https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2020/03/20/jeeves-deals-with-croronavirus-guest-post-by-eduardo-garcia)

Read Full Post »

One often wonders as to why nature has stopped playing an important role in Bollywood songs. Perhaps, themes have come to represent the urban lot, and are no longer village-centred. Moon no longer gets compared to the face of the beloved as frequently as it did in the past. The gentle rustling of soothing wind has all but vanished from our soundtracks. Shimmering waters of a sea or a lake no longer excite our lyricists. Snow-covered mountains make a rare appearance. The soothing sounds of nature have got replaced by metro screeches, car honkings and trains trudging along.

Not to fret, though. Here is a brilliant post from Dusted Off, which takes us back in time, right into the warm embrace of nature.

Dustedoff

Several years back, poet, friend and fellow Sahir Ludhianvi fan Karthika Nair and I were discussing Sahir’s poetry. After a while, we arrived at the conclusion that, while everybody acknowledges the brilliance of Sahir’s more revolutionary poetry—of the Yeh duniya agar mil bhi jaaye or Chini-o-Arab hamaara—and some of his more angsty and emotional lyrics (Chalo ek baar phir se, anyone?), many people tend to overlook the fact that Sahir was also one of those poets who could describe nature brilliantly.

When I mentioned having studied Pighla hai sona in school (it was in our school textbook), Karthika remarked that, in that song, “nature became an active agent, not a landscape.” That reminded me of a theme I’d been toying with for a long time, for a song post. Songs that celebrate nature, songs that appreciate the beauty of nature. Nature or an aspect…

View original post 1,465 more words

Read Full Post »

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)

Read Full Post »

We continue our exploration of the National Gallery of Norway in Oslo.

In the previous post, we looked at the manner in which different elements of Nature have got captured in some of the paintings on display.

In this post, and in the next one, we admire the life-like depiction of human beings and their interactions with each other. Some are mythical, some are real and some are a product of the artist’s creative genius.

Woman Suckling an Infant (Ferdinand Bol)

 

Mary Magdalene penitent (Artisia Gentileschi)

 

A rustic party (David Teniers)

 

The Three Graces listening to Cupid’s song (Bertel Thorvaldsen)

 

The Farewell (Harriet Backer)

 

The Return of the Bear Hunter (Adolph Tidemand)

 

The Thinker (Auguste Rodin)

 

La Coiffure (Edgar Degas)

 

The Dreamer (Halfdan Egedius)

 

Portrait of Gerda (Richard Bergh)

 

Albertine to See the Police Surgeon (Christian Krohg)

 

Mother and Daughter (Edvard Munch)

 

The Girls on the Bridge (Edvard Munch)

‘Nature is not only all that is visible to the eye… it also includes the inner pictures of the soul.’

This is what Munch had to say. How very insightful!

(Continued…..)

(Related Post: https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2018/04/16/revisiting-the-national-gallery-of-norway-nature)

 

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

An opportunity arose recently for yours truly to be able to revisit the National Gallery of Norway in Oslo. Time spent in its serene ambience, soaking in the artistic brilliance in each of its works on display, was time well spent, indeed.

This post captures some of the paintings which depict the beauty of nature in all its glory.

Oak Tree by the Elbe in Winter (Johan Christian Dahl)

 

The Labro Falls at Kongsberg (Thomas Fearnley)

 

The Grindelwaldgletscher (Thomas Fearnley)

 

Winter at the River Simoa (Frits Thaulow)

 

Storm, Evening (Eugene Jansson)

 

Street in Roros in Winter (Harald Sohlberg)

 

Flower Meadow in the North of Norway (Harald Sohlberg)

 

Summer Night (Kitty Kielland)

 

Moonlight (Edvard Munch)

 

Landscape from Holmsbu (Oluf Wold-Torne)

 

The White Horse in Spring (Nikolai Astrup)

 

In the Garden (Astri Welhaven Heiberg)

 

Each painting is unique, and captures a different mood of Mother Nature in a very effective manner.

(Related Post: https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2014/07/24/the-dance-of-life-at-the-national-gallery-of-norway)

 

 

Read Full Post »

Poseidon_Louvre_CA452Homo Sapiens continue to misbehave with you, Water,

Exploiting you with all their ingenuity and might,

What they do not realize is the power of your mightier force,

Which could easily turn a sunny day into a dark night.

 

To meet our insatiable needs, we keep drawing you from deep down under,

Inviting salinity and making the tables to fall more steeply than ever,

Large corporates do manage to grow and flourish based on your input,

Alas, the poor and the downtrodden are neither that resourceful nor clever.

 

They look for you with parched throats and unseeing eyes,

Victims of circumstances beyond their control, your partiality they do mind,

Those who produce food and grains look up to you for succour,

Facing blizzards, tsunamis, cyclones, droughts, floods and deluges of all kind.  

 

The Water Nymphs whose modesty we continue to outrage,

Get back to humanity, their retribution instructive and a class apart,

Your commodification they protest, your disrespect they do not like,

To live in harmony with nature is the lesson they try to impart.

 

Elements of Mother Nature are here to help us to evolve and grow,

Not to be abused, exploited and confronted with any artificial constraint,

They come to sustain us, free, in a mode of selfless service,

And deserve to be respected, revered and used with adequate restraint.

 

Note: On December 26, 2004, the East Coast of India was struck by a tsunami.

Read Full Post »