Posts Tagged ‘Police Force’

P G Wodehouse and the little town of Pondicherry in India could both boast of a French connection.

The former began his stint in France in 1934 at Le Touquet, but was detained and interned by the advancing German army in 1940. When he was released in 1941, he went on to live in Paris from where he left for USA in 1947.

As to Pondicherry, it was in 1674 that the French East India Company set up a trading centre there. This outpost eventually became the chief French settlement in India. With some intermittent breaks, Pondicherry remained one of France’s colonies in India till 1954.


Policemen surely play an important role in many of Plum’s narratives. A majority of them happen to be in the service of the Queen. Some are also of French origin. Thus, to a lesser mortal like yours truly who happens to be a fan of his and is normally found polluting the Pondicherry landscape, a museum showcasing the history of our gallant policemen there does hold some attraction. Add to this the allure of looking up policemen’s helmets of various kinds at closer quarters, and the gig becomes a must-do.

The challenges

The police force in Pondicherry comprises not only the higher rungs of officers in Central or State government services but also the humble constabulary which ensures that the laws in force are rigorously implemented without a flaw on their personal reputation and character.


While tracking down criminals, they spare no effort. It is their upright and proper conduct which upholds the might of the Law. Their career pursuits may not be of much interest to either the Scotland Yard or the DGSE, but they happen to be meticulous in their approach. The force believes in gender parity and has exclusive outposts (wo)manned by the delicately nurtured.

Much like their counterparts elsewhere in the world, often they face the challenge of walking the thin line between performing the duties assigned to them and kowtowing to the wishes of their political masters, much like a cop in Plum’s narratives who has no recourse but to yield to the wishes of his Justice of Peace.

Yet another serious challenge the constabulary in Pondicherry has always faced is that of keeping a strict eye on its multi-ethnic society. In order to be able to understand the psychology of the denizens under their watch, its members need to be fluent in several languages. In a write-up dating back to 1943, Monsieur Le Chef d’escadron Petignot, the then Commandant les Forces Publiques de I’Inde Francaise, speaks of the Indigenous police constabulary being entrusted with ensuring administrative police and judicial police in most parts of the territory where all the castes and almost all races exist, having to make enquiries in as many as eight different languages – French, English, Tamil, Hindustani, Malayalam, Telugu, Bengali and Oriya – indicating the extraordinary situation which this police force was required to function in.

Of French policemen and weapons

Fans of P G Wodehouse fondly recall the pursuits of Pierre Alexandre Boissonade, Commissaire of Police, in French Leave, as also those of Monsieur Punez, one of his underlings. They would be disappointed to learn that the former never made it to the coveted post of a Directeur de la Police at Pondicherry. Had he done so, he would have found himself on familiar ground, what with the place being akin to the fictitious French resort of Roville, duly infested with troubled lovers, impoverished aristocrats, millionaires and servants. To his surprise, he would have also found expatriates of all hues, sizes and shapes, spiritual aspirants, retired French army personnel, the annual July shoppers which descended on the town with sackfuls of the green stuff, the weekend youth who popped up merely to soak in the spirited ambience of the place, heritage enthusiasts, environmental activists, busy physicians, egoistic academicians, robbers, swindlers and argumentative fishermen.

The deftness with which Psmith handles a situation which involves the use of a revolver in Leave it to Psmith does make one wonder as to the kind of weapons which the police force in Pondicherry used to rely upon to keep the ambitions of its criminals under check.

The enticing proposal of a pinching technique

A saunter down the Police Museum at Pondicherry does clarify some such doubts, as the photographs accompanying this write-up amply demonstrate.

Of particular interest to yours truly was the display of various kinds of ‘kepis’ in use by the police force in Pondicherry. One could not pinch any, of course. But a soft glow of inner satisfaction was surely experienced at being allowed to fondle one for a few minutes.

A close examination revealed what could perhaps be a better technique of pinching one of this kind, if ever one’s Guardian Angels offered an opportunity to do so – the backward shove, followed by a vertical anti-gravity push, while using one’s non-twiddling thumbs to hold the desired object from the front side.

Bertie Wooster would surely approve.


(Note: For a history of the Pondicherry police force, please refer to http://police.puducherry.gov.in)

(Related Post: https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2018/07/22/of-a-mom-bassett-and-the-allure-of-policemens-helmets)

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Denizens of Plumsville are well aware of the unique traits of their guardians of peace. While tracking down criminals, they spare no effort. It is their upright and proper conduct which upholds the might of the Law. They are invariably meticulous in their approach. When it comes to enforcing the rule of law, it does not matter to them whether the criminal is a human or a canine being. CodeOfTheWoosters

Generally, what they lack in height is more than compensated by their rotundity. A stern gaze and an authoritative demeanor is their hallmark. Their ‘Ho!’s, ‘Ha!’s and snorts often carry a sinister ring, making an ordinary citizen shuffle his feet and feel diffident. To the bold and the beautiful amongst the citizenry, their shining helmets provide an allure which is often irresistible. Unless they have evidence to the contrary, they show due respect to the delicately nurtured.

The rozzers in the service of the Crown are not expected to resolve the kind of crimes which might make the Scotland Yard sit up and take notice. When pitted against the inimitable Jeeves, the hapless rozzers have a slim chance of cracking a case. Even if they happen to do so, their paths are strewn with Justices of Peace who have ideas of their own.

Despite facing such odds as belligerent Justices of Peace, getting their helmets pinched, getting thrown into ditches by ferocious members of the canine species, and getting coshed by people of superior intellect, they persevere. They continue to regale us with their exploits. Their integrity is indeed praiseworthy. Come rain or sunshine, they perform their duties with utmost dedication. When on duty, ham sandwiches do not distract them. Derby is not of much interest to them. Public display of affection embarrasses them. Unauthorized use of a bicycle provided for by the Crown is construed as an insult to Her Majesty, the Queen.

However, beneath their tough exterior beats a soft heart which PGW MatingSeasonis as romantic as that of any lesser mortal. Their romantic methods may vary. Some, when under the influence of a spiritual transformation, could end up planting burning kisses on the upturned faces of their beloveds in the presence of several others. Others may try to hold out threats of a violent nature to those they believe to be snakes in the grass, anxious to win over the affections of their beloveds. Even though Cupid’s arrows sway them somewhat at times, they try their best to maintain a mechanical impersonality, discharging their obligations with a malleable steely resolve.

Here are some romantic liaisons of the guardians of peace we come across in Plumsville.

*          Public display of affection

In The Mating Season, we get introduced to constable Ernest Dobbs who is a sleepless guardian of the peace at King’s Deverill. His face looks as if it has been carved out of some hard kind of wood by a sculptor who had studied at a correspondence school and had never progressed beyond lesson three. In the discharge of his duties he does not hesitate to arrest dogs like Sam Goldwyn who lose no opportunity of sniping at him and are a menace to society in general.

Just before he can catch Gussie Fink-Nottle who has set Sam free from custody, Jeeves coshes him, making him feel as if he has been struck by a thunderbolt. This somehow changes his spiritual outlook on life. When he comes calling later at Deverill Hall on an unpleasant errand – to arrest Gussie who is impersonating as Bertie – he first asks Rev. Sidney Pirbright if he can start singing in the village choir. In turn this leads to the romantic rift between him and the beautiful parlour maid Queenie getting healed. A kissing scene follows, and the cop is quick to apologize for his naked display of emotion. He then proceeds to decline a sandwich or two, because he believes that when a policeman is on an unpleasant errand, he is expected to lay off the vitamins.JoyInTheMorning

Esmond Haddock, the Justice of Peace, points out the slender evidence he has against the alleged accused. He allows himself to be dismissed without a stain on his character. Once off duty, he promptly proceeds to the kitchen, so as to resume his romantic parley with Queenie.

*          When a change in career plans leads to restoration of romantic ties

Joy in the Morning has Stilton Cheesewright playing the vigilant guardian of the peace. He is not one of our eight-hour slumberers. He is always up and doing, working while others sleep. He believes that Bertie is out to outmaneuver him when it comes to winning the affections of the star male-reformer Florence Craye.

Bertie is accused of pinching his uniform so as to be able to participate in a fancy dress ball. Uncle Percy, the Justice of Peace, needs Bertie’s support in standing up to his formidable spouse (Aunt Agatha, who else!) to provide an alibi for him to have spent a night away from his living quarters at Steeple Bumpleigh. Jeeves lays the blame instead at the doorstep of Master Edwin who has a motive in Bertie taking the rap.

Uncle Percy refuses to sign the warrant against Bertie. In fact, he goes a step further in ticking off the cop. He laments a deplorable spirit creeping into the Force – that of forgetting their sacred obligations and bringing up wild and irresponsible accusations in a selfish desire to secure promotion.

This revolting exhibition of fraud and skullduggery makes Stilton decide to resign from the Force, thereby restoring the romantic relations between him and Florence. As a result, Bertie yet again escapes the prospect of a saunter down the aisle and returns to the metropolis a free bird. Stilton goes on to pursue a career in politics.

*          The perils of dabbling one’s feet in a stream

We get introduced to constable Ernest Simms in The Girl inPGW TheGirlInBlue Blue. His is a 16-stone personality, calculated to strike terror into the hearts of evildoers. He is tasked with maintaining law and peace at Mellingham-in-the-Vale.

Relations between Ernest and Chippendale, who works as a butler to Crispin but in reality is a broker’s man, are not cordial. Latter’s endeavours at Goose and Gander, the local pub, at initiating games of chance are held to be illegal by the former. Moreover, Chippendale imparts riding lessons to Marlene Hibbs, a local lass, on a bicycle which happens to be the property of the Crown. The matter gets promptly reported to Crispin:

‘I went into the post office, leaving my bicycle propped up outside, and despatched my telegram, and when I came out…’

Here Ernest Simms paused and seemed to choke, as if, man of chilled steel  though he was, his feelings had become too much for him.

‘And when I came out,’ he repeated, conquering his momentary malaise, ‘there was that butler giving young Marlene Hibbs a bicycle lesson on my bicycle.’ This time Crispin felt obliged to comment, and it is a matter for regret that his critique should have been so inadequate.    ‘He shouldn’t have done that,’ he said.    ‘You’re right he shouldn’t,’ Ernest Simms agreed, speaking with the asperity of a man whose finest sensibilities have been outraged, ‘and so I told him. I told him that bicycle was Crown property and when he gave girls rides on it, he was deliberately insulting Her Majesty the Queen. I said if I caught him doing such a thing once again, I’d have him locked up so quick it would jar his back teeth.’    ‘That should have impressed him.’    ‘It didn’t. He talked about being fed up with police persecution. And he uttered threats.’    ‘Threats?’    ‘Yes, sir, threats. He said he’d get even with me. He said he’d make me wish I’d never been born.’    ‘I don’t like that.’    ‘Nobody would like it, sir, particularly with that Marlene Hibbs standing by and laughing fit to split.’ ‘Tut.’    ‘You may well say ‘Tut”, sir. Not to mention making allusions to the Gestapo and calling me the fuzz, which is an expression she must have picked up at the cinema.’    ‘Monstrous,’ said Crispin, ‘monstrous.’ But what can I do?’    ‘Dismiss him from your service, sir. He is a disruptive element.’

Chippendale eventually blackmails Crispin into agreeing to push the constable into a brook while he is dabbling his hot feet after the day’s duty. Crispin’s spirit fails and Barney Clayborne, the alleged kleptomaniac, does it for him. Providence has it that she is fashioned on more substantial lines!

Barney, as she returned from the scene of her waterside activities, was filled with the glow which comes from work well done. If, mingled with a pardonable self-satisfaction, there was a pang of womanly pity for the victim of those activities, it was only slight, for a man, she reasoned, who joins the police force must be aware that he is going to get new experiences and that these cannot all be agreeable. And, after all, a wet constable can soon be converted into a dry constable. Time the great healer, she felt, would see to it that Officer Simms would ere long be himself again. It only needed some brisk work with bath towels.

The constable does make a charge against Chippendale but is outmaneuvered by him and Crispin. Crispin’s property blues soon get resolved and Chippendale leaves the scene after being handed a pink slip.

Nothing more is heard of the romance between the constable and the young one. One can only hope that it blossomed in the times to come.

*          The ugly policeman faces an unworthy foe

Edward Plimmer, an ugly, red-faced cop with big feet and aPGW Man with two left feet broken nose, is deputed to keep the King’s peace over few blocks of mansions on Battersea Park Road. Within two weeks of his deputation, he falls in love with Ellen Brown, a cook at one of the mansions. The fact that she is in love with Alf Brooks – the local milkman – converts him into a blue-clad volcano. This is how his agony gets captured:

“The unfairness of Fate was souring him. A man suspects trouble in his affairs of the heart from soldiers and sailors, and to be cut out by even a postman is to fall before a worthy foe; but milkmen – no! Only grocers’ assistants and telegraph boys were intended by Providence to fear milkmen.”

Being in charge of an area where the residents assault nothing but pianos, and steal nothing but ideas, closes all avenues of promotion for a young and ambitious constable. The spell of calmness and intellectualism gets broken on the day the cook is falsely accused of stealing some money and a brooch. The earnest officer of the law aims at a machine-like impersonality and escorts his beloved to the police station. A rendezvous of hers with Alf Brooks comes unstuck and the milkman, noticing that Ellen had been pinched, walks away with unseeing eyes, much like a complete stranger.

The constable offers to let Ellen go free, saying he would explain the matter at the station. Ellen, feeling jilted by the milkman, realizes that the constable is offering something which would not only get him dismissed from the Force but also probably earn him a sentence. Her questioning ends up making the constable to profess his love for her. The offer to her to walk away free gets repeated, but Ellen is made of sterner stuff.

What is thirty days, if, when she comes out, she finds a pal waiting for her to say “Hallo”?! (The Romance of an ugly policeman: The Man with Two Left Feet).

*          The lure of a meeting in the gardens

In the climax scene of Thank You, Jeeves, Sergeant Voules PGW ThankYouJeevesventures to arrest Sir Roderick for trying to break into Bertie’s garage, and it is crucial to obtain the nerve specialist’s testimony that Mr. Stoker’s uncle, from whom he is supposed to inherit some fifty million dollars, is of a sound mind. If he is imprisoned, his testimony shall not carry much weight. That would mean Mr. Stoker not being able to buy Chuffnell Hall, thereby endangering the romance between Lord Chuffnell and Pauline Stoker.

Jeeves suggests that Bertie switch places with Sir Roderick, as he could hardly be charged with breaking into his own garage. Apparently, the sergeant is in love with a parlour maid and can be readily persuaded to leave his place of vigilance for a piping hot breakfast to be brought for him in the bushes at some distance. This would facilitate the switch.

The plan succeeds; Chuffy’s financial problems are resolved when Stoker agrees to buy the Hall from him; he and Pauline are to be wed; and Jeeves, who has a policy of never working in the household of a married gentleman, returns to Bertie’s employ.

The officers of law are tough guardians of peace. But this is not to say that they lack a tender heart beneath their tough exterior. In fact, we find heart-warming evidence that the members of the delicately nurtured tribe do impart a great degree of malleability to their otherwise steely resolve. A public display of emotions comes naturally. A change in career plans gets considered. It hurts to be called a fuzz and a Gestapo by the party of the other part. Offers of letting an alleged criminal hop off get made, even if these involve dismissal and likely imprisonment. When invited to a rendezvous with the beloved, they are apt to lower their guard and facilitate an exchange of prisoners in potting sheds.

Their superiors might look askance at such instances of dereliction of duty. Disciplinary action may get initiated. But when it comes to a performance evaluation at the hands of Saint Valentine, they deserve to be ranked rather high.

(Related Post: https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2014/03/02/the-hapless-rozzers-in-plumsville)

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