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Posts Tagged ‘Psmith’

 

‘Is Mr. Little in trouble, sir?’

‘Well, you might call it that. He’s in love. For about the fifty-third time. I ask you, Jeeves, as man to man, did you ever see such a chap?’

‘Mr. Little is certainly warm-hearted, sir.’

‘Warm-hearted! I should think he has to wear asbestos vests.’ 

(The Inimitable Jeeves)

 

If one happens to be an ardent fan of P G Wodehouse pottering about Amsterdam, and gets an opportunity to meet up local members of the P G Wodehouse Society there, one would be wise to wear an asbestos vest before popping up at the gig. One does not necessarily allude to romantic possibilities here, but only to the kind of warmth, sweetness and courtesy which welcomes one at such events.

When yours truly, in the garb of Bingo Little, passed by Amsterdam recently, Psmith, the journalist and cricket historian, lost no time in organizing a small get together. Galahad, the charming President of the Society, took some time off from his linguistic and scholarly pursuits and decided to join in. Pop Glossop, yet another linguist and a communication expert, trooped in, duly braced for the loony festivities.

A lay person could be excused for believing that not much gets discussed at such gigs. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Besides the characters and narratives dished out by Plum, the events which led one to come under the spell of the Wodehouse canon get recounted. Different lenses with which his works can be viewed – social, economic, political, psychological, and the like – get discussed. The relevance of the same in our tension-ridden contemporary times is subjected to a pitiless analysis. The need for new books which try and imitate the Master comes up for a mention. Personal experiences which remind one of some Plummy instances get shared. The work being done by various Wodehouse societies the world over to spread Wodehousitis gets appreciated.

Bingo Little, fresh from his international travels over the past two years, had an intensive discussion with Galahad. Copious notes made by the latter may soon result in an article which could get unleashed on the unsuspecting members of the Society in the June 2019 edition of its journal, Nothing Serious. He also received a treasure trove of books – Dutch translations of some of the Master’s works and a compendium of the wit and wisdom of Wodehouse by Tony Ring – from Galahad and Psmith. Bingo obviously felt honoured and chuffed, especially because after the gig got over, Pop Glossop ensured that Bingo’s return to his temporary abode in the city was comfortable.

Earlier, during a leisurely stroll around the Amstel, Psmith was quick to point out to Bingo Little the various attractions of the city. One of these was a statue of Spinoza, ‘the Prince of Philosophers’, in front of the Amsterdam City Hall by the Zwanenburgwal. As we know, Spinoza is held in high esteem by none other than Jeeves himself.

The duo also passed by the house where Rembrandt had lived for some time. It is common knowledge that there are many reasons for the centuries-old popularity of the renowned artist – the tremendous volume of his output, the range and the quality of his work, and the kind of unique life he lived. But beneath all this is the undercurrent of human psychology that his work represents. Look at any of his subjects, and you can somehow surmise the kind of slings and arrows that Fate might be bestowing upon them at the time of facing the artist’s easel.

Rembrandt

The narratives dished out by Plum are not different. The psychology of the individual reigns supreme. Whether one comes across mentally negligible bachelors, intelligent valets, goofy females, maiden aunts, helmet-pinching curates, eccentric bishops, or even senile aristocrats and their nagging sisters, it is their psychology which determines the flow of the goings on. Even those from the animal kingdom get presented to a reader with unique insights into their behavioural patterns.

It stands to reason that Netherlands, which produced creative geniuses of the stature of Spinoza, Rembrandt and Vincent van Gogh and many others, has one of the few societies which spread sweetness and light globally by keeping the Wodehouse canon alive and kicking.

It does not really matter that the backdrop of his oeuvre is the vanished world of Edwardian England. What matters is that his work continues to educate, engage and entertain all those who decide to take a saunter down the streets of Plumsville, soaking in its brilliant sunshine and savouring low-hanging fruits of pristine humour on the trees lined up on both their sides.

(This article was reproduced in the May 2019 issue of Nothing Serious, the newsletter of the P G Wodehouse Society of Netherlands.)

(Related Posts:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2017/05/03/a-drones-club-meeting-in-amsterdam

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2018/03/13/p-g-wodehouse-fans-some-meetings-during -2017)

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In the last post, we considered the political leanings of Sir Roderick Spode and Harold Winship, aka Ginger. Here are two more characters of a political nature we come across in Plumsville.

The challenge of handling hecklers

Let us look at some of the challenges faced by Mr. John Bickersdyke, manager of the London branch of the New Asiatic Bank, who is a keen aspirant for a Parliamentary slot. He has the singular misfortune of having the immaculate and loquacious Psmith working under his supervision.  (Psmith in the City)

He might have been defeated in an earlier attempt by a couple of thousand votes. He might have now switched overPsmith from being a Liberal to a Unionist. All this does not deter him from making a speech at the local Town Hall.

However, Kenningford, S. E., happens to be a tough place. The electorate is more inclined towards a…

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There are indeed times when the harsh slings and arrows of Life weigh one’s soul down with woe. The intensity of each succeeding sling shot becomes more acute. The frequency also registers an uptick. Life seems to be overtaken with a Thos-like propensity – to test the depth of one’s reserves of patience and fortitude. It appears as if each arrow is doused in paraffin and is being shot by an Edwin the Scout to douse an already raging fire in one’s cottage. One’s Guardian Angels appear to have gone off on a long vacation. The air is congested with a series of W-shaped depressions which keep hitting one at regular intervals. Even before one has had a chance to pull oneself out of the preceding episode, the next one follows, leaving one all of a twitter. The soul remains in a phase of perennial torment.

When faced with a situation of this nature, one has two options. One can either wallow in self-pity, question one’s Guardian Angels as to what one has done to deserve a harsh treatment of the kind being dished out, and generally keep looking for shoulders which would not look askance at the prospect of getting wet with one’s tears. Or, one can start exploring the possibility of clawing one’s way back up the cesspool of darkness one finds oneself in.

In case the latter option suits one’s temperament, there could be no better way to beat the blues than to immerse oneself in one’s work with a renewed vigour and enthusiasm.

Besides, the following actions, if taken, might make one realize that one should never repine, never despair, and never allow the upper lip to unstiffen, come what may.

  1. Remaining in touch with the loved ones, who care and share.
  2. Being surrounded by those who bring some sunshine into one’s life. Warm hugs and embraces perk one up no end.
  3. Having advisors like Jeeves around whose keen intelligence and resourcefulness may enrich one’s life.
  4. Calling upon the services of pals like Bertie Wooster who would never let one down.
  5. Treating oneself with a daily dose of some Larsen Exercises, making an acquaintance like Ashe Marson proud.
  6. Trying to break the mould and doing something one has never done before; visiting far off places, meeting new people, and indulging in such heavenly pursuits which had so far remained pious intentions. These could even include such acts as pinching umbrellas and policemen’s helmets.
  7. Avoiding the company of aunts who feast on glass bottles and happen to be lionesses in the garb of sheep. Instead, getting oneself invited to lairs which boast of an Anatole on the premises.
  8. Standing up to a bully like Roderick Spode and giving him a piece of one’s mind; provided, of course, one has access to a Eulalie-like secret.
  9. If one belongs to the tribe of the delicately nurtured, one may like the company of someone configured along the lines of Rupert Psmith.
  10. If one is instead from the tribe of the so-called sterner sex, one may like the company of an Emerald Stoker, a soothing and sympathetic girl one can take one’s troubles to, thereby being confident of having one’s hand held and one’s head patted. However, it may help to avoid the company of persons built along the lines of Florence Craye, Honoria Glossop, Roberta Wickham or Stiffy Byng.
  11. Curling up in bed with one’s favourite whodunit, preferably with a tissue restorative by one’s side, and with soothing music softly playing in the background.
  12. Remembering that this phase too shall pass, as the wise men have said!

Overall, one may like to brood upon the singular advantage one’s Guardian Angels have conferred on one – that of facing harsher slings and arrows of Life. The perks of such a fate are many. One develops a spiritual outlook towards life, that too at a faster pace, much like the clergymen who come in contact with Master Thos. Nerves of chilled steel get developed. One’s inner resilience improves, leaving one less prone to distress of any kind in future. One develops a tendency to focus on the sunnier side of life. The inner will to live life to the hilt gets back on its throne. The brow is no longer furrowed. Rather than believing oneself to be a victim of circumstances, one learns to go with the flow of life, adapting to change. One learns to respond to life gracefully, with ease.

One may then look north, south, east and west and discover not a single cloud on the horizon. One realizes that no matter how dark the skies may be, the sun would be shining somewhere and will eventually come smiling through; just like Bertie Wooster says somewhere in his memoirs!

(Caricature courtesy Kevin Cornell)

(Related Post: https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2016/12/10/shopping-therapy-and-some-plummy-techniques-to-treat-depression)

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A tide in the affairs of men

Amongst the not-so-delicately-nurtured characters in the Wodehouse canon, there are at least three brainy coves we all admire – Jeeves, Lord Ickenham and Psmith. As to the last one, here is how one of his theories of Life gets bolstered by The Bard.

‘It was one of Psmith’s theories of Life, which he was accustomed to propound to Mike in the small hours of the morning with his feet on the mantelpiece, that the secret of success lay in taking advantage of one’s occasional slices of luck, in seizing, as it were, the happy moment. When Mike, who had had the passage to write out ten times at Wrykyn on one occasion as an imposition, reminded him that Shakespeare had once said something about there being a tide in the affairs of men, which, taken at the flood, &c., Psmith had acknowledged with an easy grace that possibly Shakespeare had got on to it first, and that it was but one more proof of how often great minds thought alike.’

[Psmith in the City (1910)]

A dash of patriotic zeal

When it comes to loving their countries, both Wodehouse and Shakespeare do not disappoint.

‘He spoke of England’s future, which, he pointed out, must rest on these babies and others like them, adding that he scarcely need remind them that the England to which he alluded had been described by the poet Shakespeare as this royal throne of kings, this sceptred isle, this earth of majesty, this seat of Mars, this other Eden, demi-Paradise, this fortress built by nature for herself against infection and the hand of war. Than which, he thought they would all agree with him, nothing could be fairer.’

[Leave it to Algy – A Few Quick Ones (1959)]

Of soldiers with a growth of fungus

“Oh, there you are,” I said.
“Yes, here we are,” replied the relative with a touch of asperity. “What’s kept you all this time?”
“I would have made it snappier, but I was somewhat impeded in my movements by pards.”
“By what?”
“Bearded pards. Shakespeare. Right, Jeeves ?”
“Perfectly correct, sir. Shakespeare, speaks of the soldier as bearded like the pard.”

[Jeeves Makes an Omelette – A Few Quick Ones (1959)]

Of hard-working citizens guaranteeing the country’s future

‘In an age so notoriously avid of pleasure as the one in which we live it is rare to find a young man of such sterling character that he voluntarily absents himself from a village concert in order to sit at home and work: and, contemplating John, one feels quite a glow. It was not as if he had been unaware of what he was missing. The vicar, he knew, was to open the proceedings with a short address: the choir would sing old English glees: the Misses Vivien and Alice Pond-Pond were down on the programme for refined coon songs: and, in addition to other items too numerous and fascinating to mention, Hugo Carmody and his friend Mr Fish would positively appear in person and render that noble example of Shakespeare’s genius, the Quarrel Scene from Julius Caesar.

Yet John Carroll sat in his room, working. England’s future cannot be so dubious as the pessimists would have us believe while her younger generation is made of stuff like this.’

[Money for Nothing (1928)]

When decorum has to be maintained at the Drones

Members of this exalted club need to be persuaded to allow a kid to be allowed on the premises.

‘”Yes,” said a Bean. “He can try as much as he likes to cloud the issue by calling him ‘Algernon Aubrey’, as if he were a brother or cousin or something, but the stark fact remains that the above is his baby. We don’t want infants mewling and puking about the Drones.”
“Keep it clean,” urged a Pieface.
“Shakespeare,” explained the Bean.
“Oh, Shakespeare? Sorry. No,” said the Pieface, “we don’t want any bally babies here.”
A grave look came into the Crumpet’s face.
“You want this one,” he said. “You can’t afford to do without him. Recent events have convinced Bingo that this offspring of his is a Grade A mascot, and he feels that the club should have the benefit of his services. Having heard his story, I agree with him. This half-portion’s knack of doing the right thing at the right time is uncanny. I believe the child is almost human.”
His eloquence was not without its effect.’

Little, Algernon Aubrey [A Few Quick Ones (1959)]

When the nerves are all of a twitter

Very often, Plum’s characters are all of a twitter. Confusion reigns supreme. Here are some snippets where The Bard comes to Plum’s aid.

When Oofy faces a financial dilemma

‘To say that Oofy was all in a dither is really to give too feeble a picture of his emotions. They were such that only a top-notcher like Shakespeare could have slapped them down on paper, and he would have had to go all out.’

[Oofy, Freddie and the Beef Trust, A Few Quick Ones (1959)]

A challenging assignment leaves Bertie shaken and stirred

When Aunt Dahlia tells Bertie to pinch the silver cow creamer, he is all of a twitter. ‘The cat chap’ gets quoted.

‘That is the problem which is torturing me, Jeeves. I can’t make up my mind. You remember that fellow you’ve mentioned to me once or twice, who let something wait upon something? You know who I mean — the cat chap.’
‘Macbeth, sir, a character in a play of that name by the late William Shakespeare. He was described as letting ‘I dare not’ wait upon ‘I would’, like the poor cat i’ th’ adage.’
‘Well, that’s how it is with me. I wobble, and I vacillate — if that’s the word?’
‘Perfectly correct, sir.’

[The Code of the Woosters (1938)]

Ringing for The Bard

In Ring for Jeeves (1953), we find Jeeves offering his services to William “Bill” Rowcester, the impoverished 9th Earl of Rowcester, whose stately home, Rowcester Abbey, is an encumbrance for which the Earl is seeking a buyer. He becomes embroiled in a complicated affair involving ‘fake’ bookies, stolen gems, a wealthy American widow and a big game hunter. Much excitement comes about before he succeeds in resolving matters to the satisfaction of all parties.

In praise of scoundrels

“Popped off like a jack rabbit, with me after him.”
“I don’t wonder you’re upset. Scoundrels like that ought not to be at large. It makes one’s blood boil to think of this . . . this . . . what would Shakespeare have called him, Jeeves?”
“This arrant, rascally, beggarly, lousy knave, m’lord.”
“Ah, yes. Shakespeare put these things well.”
“A whoreson, beetle-headed, flap-eared knave: a knave, a rascal, an eater of broken meats; a beggarly, filthy, worsted- stocking.”

The slings and arrows of Fate

When questioned by Jill as to why she had not been informed by Bill about his knowing Mrs Spottsworth, he is convinced that his Guardian Angels are surely upset.

‘It seemed to Bill that for a pretty good sort of chap who meant no harm to anybody and strove always to do the square thing by one and all, he was being handled rather roughly by Fate tins summer day. The fellow—Shakespeare, he rather thought, though he would have to check with Jeeves —who had spoken of the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, had known what he was talking about. Slings and arrows described it to a nicety.’

When enterprises of great importance are afoot

The Bard comes in handy when Captain Biggar, Bill and Jeeves discuss prospects at the races.

‘Captain Biggar lowered his voice again, this time so far that his words sounded like gas escaping from a pipe.
“There’s something cooking. As Shakespeare says, we have an enterprise of great importance.”

Jeeves winced.

” ‘Enterprises of great pith and moment’ is the exact quotation, sir.”’

When one is a fiancée short

When Bill rues the loss of a beloved, some consolation is in order.

“Precisely. You want to take the big, broad, spacious view. Bill. You are a fiancée short, let’s face it, and your immediate reaction is, no doubt, a disposition to rend the garments and scatter ashes on the head. But you’ve got to look at these things from every angle. Bill, old man. Remember what Shakespeare said: ‘A woman is only a woman, but a good cigar is a smoke.'”

Jeeves winced.

“Kipling, Sir Roderick.”

A magnificent idea, ascribed wrongly to Shakespeare

In The Code of the Woosters (1938), Jeeves advises Bertie to drop the policeman’s helmet out of the window.

‘Yes, sir. But since then I have been giving the matter some thought, and am now in a position to say ‘Eureka!’’
‘Say what?’
‘Eureka, sir. Like Archimedes.’
‘Did he say Eureka? I thought it was Shakespeare.’
‘No, sir. Archimedes.

(To be continued)

(Related Posts:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2017/06/26/the-perils-of-not-suffering-from-shakespearitis

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2017/07/01/presenting-a-plummy-shakespeare-part-1-of-3)

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Residents of Plumsville admire Psmith for more reasons than one. Eve Halliday is another character which deserves better attention than it normally gets.

What happens when the two run into each other? How does their romance progress?

Here is a delightful post which celebrates the gradual evolution of their relationship. Cupid, were he to come across it, would surely approve.

Plumtopia

32-23This February’s Great Wodehouse romances series continues with another guest author, K.V.K. Murthy, known to Facebook friends as James Joyce.  His piece takes us on a walk through romantic literary history with Psmith and Eve Halliday (Leave it to Psmith).

A note on the Psmith-Halliday romance

by K.V.K. Murthy

The question of favourites is mostly subjective, and Wodehouse’s vast canvas of miniature romances doubtless provides for each taste. The Gussie-Bassett, Tuppy-Angela, Bingo-Banks and others too numerous to mention are all miniatures :a concatenation (to use Jeeves’ word) of comical situation, Edwardian silly-assness and a bit of fat-headedness thrown in for seasoning. They are the staple of drawing-room one-act plays of a certain generation, given occasional revivals in schools to round off the Annual Day shindig. Barring minor changes in detail, they are all more or less cast from the same block. Wodehouse’s success with that block – or formula –…

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The quiet evening saw the silver rays of moonshine descending upon Blandings Castle. The soft and silvery glow dimly lit up its ivied walls, its rolling parks, its gardens and its outhouses. The frenzied revelries of Christmas were another month away. Peace prevailed. Tranquillity ruled.

Blandings castle-enIn the cozy smoking room of Blandings Castle, two persons could be sighted. In the big chair nearest to the door, one could see the Earl of Emsworth, His Excellency the President of the Republic of Plumsville. He had a cigar in his mouth and a weak highball at his side. His fuzzy brain was softly whispering in his ears that life could not get any better. His son, Hon. Freddie, was happily busy in America, executing his marketing plans for Donaldson’s Dog-Joy Biscuits. Lady Constance Keeble was off to some South American countries on a charity drive for a few more weeks. He was…

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Psmith put the newspaper 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 ingateway-of-india 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 been posted to the Mumbai branch of the New Asiatic Bank. It had taken them some time to get used to the hustle bustle of the noisy metropolis, often reeking of stale fish.

They had a centrally air-conditioned apartment all to themselves at Worli in one of the high-rise buildings overlooking the Arabian Sea. Being a Sunday, both were in a relaxed state of mind.

“How could people be so very excited about being taxed differently?”

“Who is excited? What are you referring to?”

“You would know that India is soon set to hop on to the Goods and Services Tax (GST) bandwagon. What the poor guys do not realize is that life is not going to be a bed of roses, as it is being made out to be.”

Mike continued to concentrate on the designer tea-pot in front of him, a complete picture of the model gown-wearing bank officer on his weekly off day.

“It is good to notice the concern you display for the citizenry which managed to slip out of British control some seventy years back. Perhaps, you are upset that it took them so long to realize that their entire country needed to be a unified market?”

“No. What I object to is the fundamental flaw in the GST. It is un-Indian. It is just too simple.”

Mike looked up in surprise. “What do you mean?”

“Comrade Jackson, no Indian tax system could be that simple. A universal tax percentage applied to everything so you know how to calculate it is just not right. It is handing over the power of understanding a tax to the people. Does this not take away the basic right of Indian taxation: confusion, opacity and obfuscation?’”

“But, surely, that should be good news?”

“Not for the few bespectacled gentlemen who try to figure things out, buried under the weight of those heavy tax books in some library of a government department. They would be rendered simply rudderless. They would resent this sudden deprivation of their tremendous power – of being the select few who could interpret and explain away the laws, the bye-laws, the rules, the notifications, the rulings by various tribunals and councils from time to time, and what not. I sense a revolt of sorts brewing up soon enough.”

“Oh, you mean to say that the bureaucrats would not be too pleased with the new taxation system?”

“Elementary, my dear Jackson. They would surely not relish the prospect of losing their power over the people. Also, the only way they can earn the extra money required to keep their families grinning from ear to ear.”

“Hmm…you do have a point there.”

“Not only this. Should a simple taxation law come into play, imagine the number of taxation experts India Parliament Housewho would be rendered jobless. Their care-worn clients would no longer be spending hours in their plush offices, trying to figure out the nuances of filing quarterly returns. They would instead be sitting in a fine dine restaurant, treating their lissome secretaries to a sumptuous dinner, while having told the spouse of a pressing need to attend a crucial meeting at the office.”

“But you would agree that the GST idea is indeed noble, simple, global and logical.”

“Which is why I suspect there is so much resistance to it. The government has been trying to sit people down and explain to them why the current system of taxation is the work of some mad people who happen to grace the opposition chairs now. Of late, it even decided to reach out to the latter and ensure that they were no longer sulking at the party presently in power walking off with all the credit for having brought in this landmark change. And note that the party in power now had itself obstructed the same change when it happened to be in the opposition.”

“But what do you think is so very exciting about the present system? I think it is known as Value Added Tax. They have several other taxes as well.”

“Well, for one, that should be known instead as Value Reduced Tax, simply because you have less value once you have paid it. Then they have excise, individual state taxes, octroi tax, entry tax, professional tax, luxury tax, entertainment tax, sleeping peacefully at night tax, Bengali sweets tax, South Indian dosa and idli tax, North Indian chhole bhatoore tax, West Indian poha and shri khand tax, did-not-tell-your-wife-and-came-to-Pondicherry tax, Clean India tax, farmers’ mental happiness tax, road accident tax, child-not-doing-too-well-at-school tax, mother-in-law irritant tax, enduring the politicians tax, having-to-watch-inane-movies tax, waiting for delivery of public services tax, and many more in the same genre.”

“Ah, life could be surely simpler!”

“But the good point here is that the common citizen can never afford to be lazy or complacent. The Indian tax system has always been designed to keep the common citizen on his toes. Agile. Confused. Uncertain. Feeling illiterate. There has always been an element of surprise. He opens a letter and finds that he has a tax due. And he starts asking himself, ‘What tax is this? I was not aware a tax like this existed. Do I need to pay it? Is there no way to avoid paying it?’ And off he goes to seek some solace from his tax consultant who is happy to demystify the affair and get another excuse to raise a bill on the hapless wannabe tax-evader.”

“You appear to be quite impressed with the Indian taxation system!”

“Yes, Comrade! They have an excellent system which matches their age-old spiritual values. Anythingemblem_of_india-svg that makes you feel small, negligible and illiterate is bound to flatten your ego in no time. You could even be a director of our bank. But when you get a tax notice which you do not understand, you feel all of a twitter. You take a more benevolent view of humanity in general. Even your driver and your lift operator seem like angels in distress, facing similar challenges in life. You realize that there is no escaping the taxation system. It is as immortal as a soul is said to be.”

“But what makes you think the GST is likely to be simpler, when it comes to the fine print? I was told that it would need even the humble barber to file as many as forty odd returns to the government every quarter?”

Psmith slid out of his chair with a disgruntled sigh, and dusted his dressing gown. “Perhaps there is something in what you say. I propose that we call the new system as the Great Spiritual Tax instead. It would make all businesses across all the states and territories of India equally worried. They might even turn to spirituality and seek divine intervention to set their house in order. It would not be wrong to surmise that a commercial crisis has indeed arisen. A period of great anxiety has begun, especially so for small businesses.”

Mike looked up with some surprise.

“Let me explain,” said Psmith, raising his hands. “Once the new system takes over, all businesses would be required to register. Whether for manufacturers, distributors or retailers, it would be virtually impossible to escape the tax net. The luxury of doing business based on fake bills would no longer be theirs. In fact, past transactions could also come in for greater scrutiny. Besides, the Income Tax sleuths would be easily able to figure out the real income levels of businessmen of all hues, sizes and shapes. The entire business eco-system would totter.”

“Are you trying to say that the size of the Indian parallel economy would shrink?”

“Quite possible, Comrade Jackson. Your keen intelligence reaffirms my faith in your unique abilities. However, I doubt if this could be good news for the country.”

“How do you say this?”

“If you would delve deep into your memory cells, you would recall the 2008 financial crisis which engulfed the world. Do you think the Indian economy suffered as much as our so-called advanced economies then?”

“I do not think so. The Indian economy showed greater resilience then.”

“If so, allow me to point out that one of the major factors discovered and held to have helped India then was the existence of an underground economy.”

“Indeed?!”

“I do believe so, though I confess I am not an expert at such matters. Take the informal economy awayRashtrapati Bahavan and what do you get? A rigid and formal economy which has a much higher dependence on formal debt markets. The risk of overstating debts grows manifold. Next time round, when another Lehman Brothers show up on the horizon, the Indian economy could be found in deeper waters. Having a thriving parallel economy helps.”

“You surely surprise me. You sound like an ardent advocate of the parallel economy!”

“On the contrary, I do not. My point is very simple. Why should we allow only our businesses to suffer when the political parties themselves continue to enjoy the fruits of an underground nature? Why not clean up the Indian political act as well and provide a level playing field to all her citizens? Why should the Indian politicos be spared of a taste of their own medicine that they prescribe for the toiling masses?”

“Whatever, the Indian GST is now already on a roll. The bill has received the assent of the President of India. The only hope you can entertain is that of the implementation getting goofed up and the process getting delayed somehow. My understanding is that if the steps of setting up a GST Council, an agreement on a basic tax rate and the detailed procedures take longer than a year, the implementation deadline might as well get shifted to April 2018. If that happens, the government itself may keep it on the back burner for some time.”

“Oh, you allude to the risk of embracing unpredictable consequences of adopting a new taxation system in the run-up to the 2019 parliamentary elections!”

“Yes. In fact, yet another challenge before them might be that of the absence of internet connectivity all over the country. Even if the GST Network gets perfected, how would they ensure that a dealer in, say, Sikkim, can secure a registration in Kerala? It is good to hear of a seamless market, but a smooth roll-out would need a strong internet backbone all across.”

“Well, sure enough, their best men would be working out the finer details and smoothening the road to implementation. The stakes are high indeed. The reputation of the present government rides on how it handles a challenge of this nature. But what you are missing on, Comrade Jackson, is the key factor of human ingenuity. When it comes to paying any taxes, it knows no bounds.”

“But I am not quite sure if there could be an easy escape route for any business, as you yourself had rightly pointed out just now.”

“But we underestimate the propensity of human beings to go to any lengths to avoid paying any taxes. Innovation is the name of the game in this case. Sure enough, the Indian tax experts would now bemap-of-india burning the proverbial mid-night oil, getting ready to advise their anxious clients about some new creative practices they could adopt under the new tax regime. Given the level of primal hate harboured by all businesses towards the act of paying any kind of taxes, advisors in the business of tax avoidance would be twiddling their thumbs, endeavouring to figure out ingenious methods of beating the new system at its own game.”

Mike smiled.

“As always, you have hit the nail on its head. But this is a universal fact which governments all over the world have to cope with. Is there any other thing you are not too comfortable about?”

“Yes, though I do not know how your intuitive faculties are so very advanced as to guess this. I do not quite see eye to eye on the strategy of dumping more and more indirect taxes on the hapless citizenry, while not working aggressively to expand the direct taxes base.”

“I really do admire your depth of thinking on the subject. Do you refer to recent reports that merely one percent of the people pay income tax in India?”

“Indeed. What an irony!”

“Perhaps, you imply that politicians of all hues lack the courage to take some unpopular steps. Rather than chasing more people to pay income tax, they prefer to use the indirect taxes route which is relatively invisible?”

“Yes. Perhaps they follow the advice of their sage Chanakya who famously said that taxes should be collected by inflicting the least possible pain on the citizens, much like a bee would collect nectar from a flower in bloom!”

“And what do you think our own bank would have to undergo?,” Mike asked.

“Serious matter. Under the new dispensation, we shall need to register in all the states and unionpsmith-1909 territories. Perhaps, even in districts, where we have branches. This is going to be a compliance nightmare. I hear some talk of all the banks lobbying for a facility to register with a centralized agency which would pool, reconcile, analyze and audit our transactions. If so, this agency could distribute the revenue earned through us to different states where the transaction has occurred.”

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.

“These are deep waters, indeed. I wonder why we are discussing such matters on a lazy Sunday morning? I rather think I’ll nip down to Haji Ali 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 the gruelling discussion of the last half-hour has wasted away. It is a fearful strain, this taxation toil. Let us trickle towards the place mentioned by you. Comrade Jackson, lead me to this picturesque dargah of yours of which I have heard so much.”

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