Posts Tagged ‘Switzerland’

The spirit of the Italian monk Bernard of Menthon would be delighted to know of the innumerable references by Plum to this sterling species which is famous for its rescue missions in the Alps.

Here are some such references which fans of P G Wodehouse would enjoy.

“You wouldn’t blame a snowbound traveller in the Alps for accepting a drop of brandy at the hands of a St. Bernard dog.”

(The Mating Season)

“One should always carry a flask about in case of emergencies. Saint Bernard dogs do it in the Alps. Fifty million Saint Bernard dogs can’t be wrong.”

(Joy in the Morning)

“We are elderly internees, most of us with corns and swollen joints, not Alpine climbers. If we are supposed to be youths who bear ’mid snow and ice a banner with the strange device ‘Excelsior’, there ought to be Saint Bernard dogs stationed here and there, dispensing free brandy.”

(Performing Flea: “Huy Day by Day”)

“…that brandy came in handy. By the way, you were the dickens of a while bringing it. A St Bernard dog would have been there and back in half the time.”

(The Code of the Woosters)

“I was badly in need of alcoholic refreshment, and just as my tongue was beginning to stick out and blacken at the roots, shiver my timbers if Jeeves didn’t enter left centre with a tray containing all the makings. St Bernard dogs, you probably know, behave in a similar way in the Alps and are well thought of in consequence.”

(Much Obliged, Jeeves)

Bill Shannon to Phipps:

“You really ought to go around with a keg of brandy attached to your neck, like Saint Bernard dogs in the Alps. No delay that way. No time lag.”

(The Old Reliable)

And indeed the years had dealt lightly with the erstwhile Maudie Montrose. A little more matronly, perhaps, than the girl with the hourglass figure who had played the Saint Bernard dog to the thirsty wayfarers at the old Criterion, she still made a distinct impression on the eye…

(Pigs Have Wings)

“She stood behind the counter, waiting, like some St Bernard dog on an Alpine pass, to give aid and comfort to the thirsty.”

(Big Money)

“Another of the same, please, Mr. M,” he said, and Rupert Morrison once more became the human St. Bernard dog.

(Cocktail Time)

“They sent out the St. Bernard dogs, and found him lying in the snow, lifeless and beautiful.”

(Money in the Bank)

He remembered the creamy stuff as particularly palatable, and it seemed to him incredible that Ivor Llewellyn had not jumped at it like a snowbound wayfarer in the Alps reaching for the St. Bernard dog’s keg of brandy.

(Pearls, Girls and Monty Bodkin)

It astounded him to think that he could ever have disliked this St. Bernard dog among butlers.

(Spring Fever)

He directed his steps to the public bar and was glad to find it unoccupied except for the blonde young lady who stood behind the counter and played the role of St. Bernard dog to the thirsty wayfarers of Walsingford Parva.

(Summer Moonshine)

St. Bernard dogs doing the square thing by Alpine travellers could not have bustled about more assiduously.

(Right Ho, Jeeves)

“…I’m to buy a pack of St. Bernards, am I, and train them to go out and drag them in?”

(The Luck of the Bodkins)

It was Adams’ mission in life to flit to and fro, hauling would-be lunchers to their destinations, as a St. Bernard dog hauls travelers out of Alpine snowdrifts.

(Something New)

Related Posts:

Read Full Post »

There are indeed instances in one’s life which leave one shaken and stirred. Scales fall from one’s eyes. Like Bertie Wooster, one feels befuddled, bewildered, fazed, flummoxed, and perplexed. The reality of one of the several facets of life gets revealed, much like a mountain making a reappearance once the fog has vanished and the sun has come out in all its glory.   

While travelling in a local train in Switzerland recently, I had a rather unpleasant experience when a gentleman of Swiss origin ridiculed me for being an Indian.

It happened on the 1st of January 2023. The family had boarded a train to Lucerne to enjoy the fireworks display in the evening hours. Few stops before Lucerne, very many people boarded the train. We are used to overcrowding in trains in India, but this was a new experience for me – to see this happening in one of the advanced countries. I was already sitting on one of the few spring-back chairs available.

A gentleman, surely cast in the mould of Roderick Spode, had just come in along with many others. He looked at me sternly and asked me to get up. I got up and enquired if the gentleman wanted to occupy the seat. The gentleman clarified that he had asked me to stand up so that there is more space for others to squeeze in. So far, so good. But then he went on to give me a supercilious look and added rudely that such things happen only in India.

The basic message from the gentleman was right, but the rude and insulting way he said it hurt all of us. The fact that he insulted my country really hit hard. My daughter-in-law and my son intervened to say that he could have discussed this cordially, rather than being abrasive about it. But he went on arguing about it, claiming that he had spent a good deal of time in India and knew about how things worked there. Other passengers nearby kept telling us to avoid listening to his comments.

To give him a benefit of doubt, perhaps he had had a fight with his wife before leaving home that evening. However, a realization also dawned – that beneath a veneer of polite manners and sweet smiles, quite a few people in other countries may carry some deep-seated prejudices against those of Indian origin.

Jeeves would concur with me if I were to say that our psychology is such that when we love something, we somehow feel entitled to criticize it and make fun of it. But when someone else does it, we take offence! We are left twiddling our thumbs. I confess this is what happened to me on the day. I felt deeply embarrassed and wondered what I had done to deserve a treatment of this kind.

I admit I am a bit fluffy headed and forgetful, but by no stretch of imagination can I match the high standards set by Lord Emsworth in that department. I found it very difficult to forget this incident. On the contrary, it made me recollect many earlier instances when I did not have a satisfactory response to some meaningful and thought-provoking questions asked about India by those living abroad.

  • A cabbie in New York asking me as to why the government in the country was against Muslims and Christians.
  • A tourist from Canada who had just returned from India asking why the cab drivers in most parts of the country tended to either overcharge or harass customers. I wonder if she had ever lapped up the book ‘India and the Indians’, written by Lady Malvern who had spent some time in India.  
  • A young lady in Norway enquiring whether it was safe for her to travel to India alone. She quoted frequently reported rape and murder cases in the country she had read about.
  • Another lady in Sweden checking as to why Indians have a practice of shaming the victim in a rape case rather than putting the spotlight on the perpetrator of the crime.
  • A person of German origin asking if our metro cities did not have enough storm drains to ensure that periodic flooding did not take place.
  • A movie enthusiast of French origin enquiring why, despite the presence of a film certification body, people kept calling for boycotts of some movies. She wondered how Indians have become so intolerant, especially when they pride themselves on being an ancient civilization and have really demonstrated how to be a multi-ethnic society.
  • A teenager from Denmark asking why Indian households do not segregate their domestic waste and why the country lacks enough capacity to handle such waste.
  • A person from Denmark who asked me why India was so noisy.
  • A group of businesspersons from Finland wondering why it was far easier to deal with businesses in the west and the south of India than with those in the north of the country. Some of them said they had been cheated by the latter.

What I quote above happen to be snippets of conversations with lay citizens of different countries, spread over the past few years. Those of us who believe we have already acquired the status of a Vishwa Guru – A Global Teacher – and who are swayed by the nationalistic fervour so very fashionable in India these days, may immediately jump to enquire who gave the rights to people in advanced countries to judge India and Indians. They might even suspect and allege a global conspiracy to defame India.

It is no one’s case that our First World countries happen to be perfect. Of course, these suffer from many ills. Graffiti in public spaces is a common sight. So are cigarette butts in otherwise pristine public gardens.

But the point here is that if we Indians can ape the west in terms of fashion, social relationships and in so many other ways, why can’t we do something about the kind of courtesy we show to tourists and fellow citizens in public spaces? Why do we need a Prime Minister to tell us to improve our levels of hygiene and keep our public spaces spick and span? Why can’t we respect the law, rather than priding ourselves in breaking it? Why do our political parties depend on criminals to win over the voters? Why do justices of our Supreme Court have to get involved in ensuring that road safety standards improve across the entire country? Why are we worried about elections and inane internal issues when an enemy is gleefully usurping our territory on our borders? The mind boggles.     

We live in a multipolar world where interdependence between countries is an essential fact. Yes, as a country, India remains a work-in-progress. But we have tremendous soft power, whether in terms of our ancient scriptures, rich culture, music, dance, movies and the like. The diverse cuisine we have is popular across all countries. When it comes to frugal engineering, we shine on the global stage. The manpower we offer to the world is unique in many ways.

It is surely not wrong to be proud of our heritage. Nor is it improper to demand respect from others. But to remain blissfully unaware of our weaknesses and to do nothing to address the same will simply go on to ensure that chinks in the Brand India armour continue to fester.

A sister of Bertie Wooster’s lives in India. It follows that he would be gravely concerned about this situation. Perhaps, he may seek Jeeves’ advice on the issue. If so, I wonder if Jeeves would recommend a public relation campaign to improve India’s brand image worldwide. He may also suggest a mass communication drive within the country and ways to make a genuine effort to improve our civic infrastructure. Someone like Rupert Psmith may get one of his rich uncles to buy out a premier media house in a western country.

But the nub of the matter is that we, the Indians, need to indulge in a bout of introspection, and work upon improving our own civic habits and our behaviour towards others. The buck stops at us!

(Illustration courtesy R K Laxman)

Related posts:

Read Full Post »

Other than its trademark dish – fondue – which are a few other things that describe the unique landlocked country in Europe known as Switzerland?

The first words which obviously pop up in our minds are cheese, chocolate, banking, cuckoo-clocks, watches, lakes, and snow-topped mountains which often look like giant chocolate-pistachios ice cream cones covered with a drool-worthy vanilla topping.

Many of these attributes of this beautiful country have often figured in the stories and 100-odd books which Wodehouse, fondly referred to as Plum, wrote during his highly creative life.

All inputs were invariably grist to the humour-producing mill of P. G. Wodehouse. He had this unique talent for turning and twisting even the most inconsequential of things into something which would leave his readers chuckling, guffawing, rollicking, laughing, and falling from their couches. All his works are like beehives dripping with honey; these possess the unique property of making one look at the sunnier side of life. His sole aim was always to amuse, entertain, educate, and uplift his readers. Give him an enchanting country like Switzerland and he delivers utmost satisfaction.

Here, we look at some of the ways this beautiful country dotted with lakes, mountains and greenery has been depicted by him in several of his narratives. All these references go on to make a delectable fondue.

His Visits

For someone as knowledgeable as Plum, visiting a country appears to have had no relation to the number of times he refers to that country in his works. By way of example, around a year ago, yours truly endeavoured to compile Wodehouse’s references to India. Surprisingly, several popped up, even though he had never visited India. Of course, since he was born in UK and had then settled in the USA, these two countries get covered the most, closely followed by France.    

Switzerland has also been fortunate to attract his humorous gaze occasionally. Plum is likely to have visited Switzerland several times. Letters exchanged between two friends of his reveal that at least in 1923 and 1936, he had stayed at the Carlton Hotel at St. Moritz.

William Tell Told Again

As early as 1904, he wrote the story of this legendary character from the country. It comprises prose and verse with illustrations. The main prose element was written by Plum, while Philip Dadd supplied the frontispiece and 15 full-page illustrations, all in colour. The 15 illustrations were each accompanied by a verse written by John W. Houghton, who also wrote the prologue and epilogue in verse.

The book was dedicated “to Biddy O’Sullivan for a Christmas present”, who was much later identified as the young daughter of Denis O’Sullivan (1869–1908), an actor and singer who was a friend of Wodehouse in the early 1900s.

The title of the book comes from its prologue, which is told in verse by John W. Houghton:

The Swiss, against their Austrian foes,

Had ne’er a soul to lead ’em,

Till Tell, as you’ve heard tell, arose

And guided them to freedom.

Tell’s tale we tell again—an act

For which pray no one scold us—

This tale of Tell we tell, in fact,

As this Tell tale was told us.

There’s a very nice online scan of William Tell Told Again at the Library of Congress: https://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/ampage?collId=rbc3&fileName=rbc0001_2003juv55413page.db&recNum=0

Swiss Waiters

Switzerland is famous for its hospitality as well as for its grooming of staff in the best traditions of the trade. Swiss waiters get frequently mentioned in Plum’s works. To those of us who have travelled to Switzerland in modern times and have been impressed by the quality of service in Swiss hotels, Wodehouse’s disparaging references to Swiss waiters are difficult to understand, unless Switzerland made a point of exporting their less-competent staff to work in other countries. A more likely explanation could perhaps be the desire of hotels in other countries to use the services of Swiss waiters at the lowest rung of proficiency, thereby saving on costs.

  • Stanley Featherstonehaugh Ukridge is a charismatic opportunist who will do anything to increase his capital—except, of course, work. The stories in which he appears generally involve his get-rich-quick schemes. In Ukridge and the Home from Home, he has been left in charge of his Aunt Julia’s house and comes up with the ingenious idea of renting out rooms to an exclusive clientele of boarders while she was away.

Owners of large private houses find it’s too much of a sweat to keep them up, so they hire a couple of Swiss waiters with colds in their heads and advertise in the papers that here is the ideal home for the City man.

  • In Farewell to Legs, we meet Evangeline Brackett whose betrothal to Angus McTavish is built, in large part, on the way she bites her lip and rolls her eyes when she tops her drive, says the Oldest Member. But when Legs Mortimer takes up residence in the Clubhouse, Evangeline’s mind wanders from her golf, and Angus worries that she is losing her form for the Ladies’ Medal. Legs is a practical joker and life of the party who tries to steal Evangeline away from Angus. But the scales fall from Evangeline’s eyes when Legs does the unthinkable on the links.

In the story, at one point, Evangeline speaks of Legs Mortimer thus:

I met him when I was over in Switzerland last winter and saysthat Legs yodelled to the waiters because they were Swiss.

  • In Doctor Sally, we find yet another mention of Swiss waiters.

On the Front—or Esplanade—of Bingley-on-Sea stands the Hotel Superba; and at twenty minutes past four the thin mist which had been hanging over the resort since lunch time disappeared and there filtered through the windows of suite number seven on the second floor that curious faint gamboge light which passes for sunshine in England. Its mild rays shone deprecatingly on one of those many coloured carpets peculiar to suites at south coast hotels, on the engraving of “The Stag at Bay” over the mantelpiece, on the table set for tea, and on Marie, maid to Mrs. Higginbotham, who had just deposited on the table a plate of sandwiches.

In addition to the sunshine, there entered also the strains of a dance band, presumably from the winter garden below, where Swiss waiters prowled among potted palms and such of the Superba’s guests as wished to do so were encouraged to dance.

  • In The Girl on the Boat (Three Men and a Maid), the maid of the title is a red-haired, dog-loving Wilhelmina “Billie” Bennett, and the three men are Bream Mortimer, a long-time and long-suffering suitor of Billie; Eustace Hignett, a shy poet who is cowed by his domineering mother but secretly engaged to Billie at the opening of the tale, and Sam Marlowe, Eustace’s dashing cousin, who falls in love with Billie “at first sight”.

The four of them find themselves together on a White Star ocean-liner called the Atlantic, sailing for England. Also on board is a capable young woman, Jane Hubbard, who is in love with Eustace. Wodehousean funny stuff ensues, with happy endings for all except Bream Mortimer.

In Chapter 8, Swiss waiters come up for a mention.

The Swiss waiters at the Hotel Magnificent, where Sam was stopping, are in a class of bungling incompetence by themselves, the envy and despair of all the other Swiss waiters at all the other Hotels Magnificent along the coast.

Swiss Cheese

Switzerland produces over 475 varieties of cheese, a milk-based food produced in a large range of flavours, textures, and forms. Cow milk is used in about 99 percent of the cheeses Switzerland produces. The remaining share is made up of sheep milk and goat milk. It stands to reason that Swiss cheese occupies a place of pride in many of narratives dished out by Plum. However, he focuses more on cheese holes, whether he is referring to vicious dog bites or to weak evidence in a legal matter, or even to the inner structure of a gun.  

  • A Very Shy Gentleman (The Mixer) is an autobiography of a member of the canine species. At one point, the protagonist describes itself thus:

I am jet black, with a white chest. I once overheard Fred say that I was a Swiss-cheese-hound, and I have generally found Fred reliable in his statements.

  • In Stiff Upper Lip, Jeeves, Bertie Wooster is a guest at Totleigh Towers, the castle belonging to Sir Watkyn Bassett. When he sees Major Brabazon-Plank, a detractor of his, visiting the place, he is unable to avoid meeting him by escaping from a window since he fears that the dog Bartholomew may take him to be a burglar. After all, he biteth like a serpent and stingeth like an adder.

My first thought was to wait till he (Plank) had got through the front door and then nip out of the window, which was conveniently open. That, I felt, was what Napoleon would have done. And I was just about to get the show on the road, as Stiffy would have said, when I saw the dog Bartholomew coming sauntering along, and I knew that I would be compelled to revise my strategy from the bottom up. You can’t go climbing out of windows under the eyes of an Aberdeen terrier so prone as Bartholomew was always to think the worst. In due season, no doubt, he would learn that what he had taken for a burglar escaping with the swag had been in reality a harmless guest of the house and would be all apologies, but by that time my lower slopes would be as full of holes as a Swiss cheese.

  • In A Pelican at Blandings, Gally hears from Linda Gilpin that her engagement to Halliday is no more, and Halliday himself visits, to explain the incident (a grilling he was obliged to give Linda as a witness in a court case he was defending) which led to their split. He is keen to meet Linda in person, but Gally sends him home, promising to do his best on his behalf.

G. G. Clutterbuck is a chartered accountant for whom John Halliday was appearing in the action of Clutterbuck versus Frisby. And Frisby is the retired meat salesman whose car collided with Clutterbuck’s in the Fulham Road, shaking Clutterbuck up and possibly causing internal injuries. The defence, of course, pleaded that Clutterbuck had run into Frisby, and everything turned on the evidence of a Miss Linda Gilpin, who happened to be passing at the time and was an eyewitness of the collision.

It was my duty to examine her and make it plain to the jury that she was cockeyed and her testimony as full of holes as a Swiss cheese.

  • In Do Butlers Burgle Banks, Horace Appleby, who lives in London suburb Valley Fields, looks and acts like a butler. This makes it easier for him to locate jewels for his burglar gang as a butler. Charlie is an American safe blower who loves carrying a gun on his person, whereas Horace detests guns. Charlie locates Horace and wants to scoop up all the money lying on a table. Horace is a man of peace. His speciality is brainwork, and he is painfully aware that, in the encounter that then threatened to develop, brainwork would not serve him.

The thought that somewhere in the recesses of Charlie’s neat custom-made suit there lay concealed the gun which had started all the unpleasantness would have been enough to disconcert a far braver man, for it was a gun, Horace suspected, as liberally pitted with notches as a Swiss cheese, and one more, he feared, to be added almost immediately.

Migration to learn English 

Out of School (The Main Upstairs) introduces us to James Datchett who happens to be an assistant master at Mr. Blatherwick’s private school, Harrow House, a well-reputed boarding school for the younger generation. He is also a poet. In his Oxford days he had contributed to the Isis; and for some months past now he had been endeavouring to do the same to the papers of the Metropolis, without success, until a day when he opens a letter he had received at breakfast from the editor of a monthly magazine, accepting a short story. Elated, he goes out for some fresh air and the first person he runs into is Violet.

Violet is a housemaid who works at the residence of Mr. Blatherwick.

It is not a part of James’ duties as assistant master at Harrow House to wander about kissing housemaids, even in a brotherly manner. But in a state of joy, he does precisely that.   

James thought the incident was closed. But Violet did not. Retribution came James’ way. The weapon she chose was Adolf, the servant of the house.

He was one of that numerous bands of Swiss and German youths who come to this country (the UK) prepared to give their services ridiculously cheap in exchange for the opportunity of learning the English language.

Adolf starts blackmailing James, earning some money, and even taking English lessons from him. But Fate often has this tendency to contrive to make amends after doing us a bad turn. The story eventually ends on a positive note.

Swiss Navy Admirals

In Heavy Weather, Lady Julia Fish, a handsome middle-aged woman of the large blonde type, and of a personality both breezy and commanding, decides to pay a visit to Lord Tilbury, the founder and proprietor of that vast factory of popular literature known as the Mammoth Publishing Company. She hopes to secure a job for her son Ronnie Fish who is trying to marry a chorus-girl. It seems to her that if Ronnie were safe at Tilbury House, inking his nose and getting bustled about by editors and people, it might take his mind off the tender passion.

Offices of all kinds specialize in keeping unwelcome intruders, wannabe authors and imposters out of their premises. Top honchos build impenetrable walls around themselves. Mammoth Publishing Company is no exception. Tall gentlemen with quasi-military uniforms and forbidding stiff-upper-lips welcome one at its doors. Liveried boys make you fill up all kinds of forms and visitors’ slips.

This is how Lady Julia opens the conversation with Lord Tilbury:    

“So this is where you get out all those jolly little papers of yours, is it? I must say I’m impressed. Quite awe-inspiring, all that ritual on the threshold. Admirals in the Swiss Navy making you fill up forms with your name and business, and small boys in buttons eyeing you as if anything you said might be used in evidence against you.”

Admiral of the Swiss navy is understood to be a US Armed Forces slang for a self-important person.

Merry Swiss Peasants

Narrative of The Prince and Betty takes us to the tiny island of Mervo where millionaire Benjamin Scobell gets the hero to build a casino that will rival Monte Carlo. We are told of the unique way the interiors of the Mervo Casino had been designed, with various cubicles representing different countries.

Although the UK and US versions of the aforesaid narrative have substantially different texts, the quotation below appears in each edition.   

Imposing as was the exterior, it was on the interior that Mr. Scobell more particularly prided himself, and not without reason. Certainly, a man with money to lose could lose it here under the most charming conditions. It had been Mr. Scobell’s object to avoid the cheerless grandeur of the rival institution down the coast. Instead of one large hall sprinkled with tables, each table had a room to itself, separated from its neighbour by sound-proof folding-doors. And as the building progressed, Mr. Scobell’s active mind had soared above the original idea of domestic coziness to far greater heights of ingenuity. Each of the rooms was furnished and arranged in a different style. The note of individuality extended even to the croupiers. Thus, a man with money at his command could wander from the Dutch room, where, in the picturesque surroundings of a Dutch kitchen, croupiers in the costume of Holland ministered to his needs, to the Japanese room, where his coin would be raked in by quite passable imitations of the Samurai. If he had any left at this point, he was free to dispose of it under the auspices of near-Hindoos in the Indian room, of merry Swiss peasants in the Swiss room, or in other appropriately furnished apartments of red-shirted, Bret Harte miners, fur-clad Esquimaux, or languorous Spaniards. He could then, if a man of spirit, who did not know when he was beaten, collect the family jewels, and proceed down the main hall, accompanied by the strains of an excellent band, to the office of a gentlemanly pawnbroker, who spoke seven languages like a native and was prepared to advance money on reasonable security in all of them.

Of Swiss Vice-Presidents

  • In The Rise of Minna Nordstrom (Blandings Castle) we come across Jacob Z. Schnellenhamer, the popular president of the Perfecto-Zizzbaum Corporation. Like all good men, he loves his well-stocked cellar at home and is stunned to find that it is empty. So, there will not be anything to drink at the party he is hosting that very night for a hundred and eleven guests including not only a British Duke but also the Vice-President of Switzerland.
  • Open House introduces us to Eustace Mulliner whose godfather, Lord Knubble of Knopp, tries to persuade him to join the British Embassy in Switzerland. Eustace stoutly refuses to avail himself of the offer. He wants to stay in London. He is the favourite nephew of his wealthy and elderly Aunt Georgiana, Lady Beazley-Beazley, and wants to continue earning her affection to stay in her will. Eustace also wants to continue courting Marcella Tyrrwhit.

However, things turn out differently when he is caught throwing cucumber sandwiches at Francis, a feline creature which is a favourite of his Aunt Georgiana. At the time, two more characters pop up, taking a jaundiced view of the proceedings. One of these is Marcella, who is upset about Eustace having gifted her favourite dog to another lady friend of his.

His obduracy evaporates. He decides that Switzerland is a safer country to be in. He does exceedingly well in his job at the British Embassy in Berne, and is awarded the Order of the Crimson Edelweiss, Third Class, with crossed cuckoo-clocks, carrying with it the right to yodel in the presence of the Vice-President.

Of Wars and Treaties

  • In The Luck of the Bodkins, Albert Peasemarch, the well-intentioned but goofy steward onboard the New York bound ship RMS Atlantic, says:

“What caused the war? That bloke in Switzerland shooting the German Emperor.”

The incident usually considered to have been the immediate cause of the First World War was the assassination of the Archduke Franz-Ferdinand, the heir to the Austrian Emperor, at Sarajevo in Bosnia, by the Serbian nationalist Gavrilo Princip (28 June 1914). Peasemarch surely has his facts delightfully mixed up.

  • The last time the Swiss fought a military battle was 500 years ago, against the French. (The Swiss lost.) Two hundred years ago, Switzerland was acknowledged as a neutral state in the Treaty of Paris. Since 1815, the country has become globally famous for its neutrality.

However, in a comically fictional account titled The Swoop!, Wodehouse treats us to a scenario wherein England has been invaded by as many as nine armies at the same time.

The invaders are the Russians under Grand Duke Vodkakoff, the Germans under Prince Otto of Saxe-Pfennig – the reigning British monarch of the day was Edward VII of the House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha — the Swiss Navy, the Monegasques, a band of Moroccan brigands under Raisuli, the Young Turks, the Mad Mullah from Somaliland, the Chinese under Prince Ping Pong Pang, and the Bollygollans in war canoes.

Simultaneously the Mad Mullah had captured Portsmouth; while the Swiss navy had bombarded Lyme Regis, and landed troops immediately to westward of the bathing-machines.

Raisuli, apologising for delay on the ground that he had been away in the Isle of Dogs cracking a crib, wrote suggesting that the Germans and Moroccans should combine with a view to playing the Confidence Trick on the Swiss general, who seemed a simple sort of chap.

Half-way through the Swiss general missed his diamond solitaire, and cold glances were cast at Raisuli, who sat on his immediate left.

The combined forces of the Germans, Russians, Swiss, and Monacoans were overwhelming, especially as the Chinese had not recovered from their wanderings in Wales and were far too footsore still to think of serious fighting.

The European parties form an alliance and expel the other invaders. The Swiss soon leave, to be home in time for the winter hotel season, and when Prince Otto and Grand Duke Vodkakoff are offered music hall engagements and the leader of the army of Monaco is not, he takes offence and withdraws his troops.

The two remaining armies are overcome thanks to the stratagems of the indomitable Clarence Chugwater, leader of the Boy Scouts. By causing each commander to become jealous of the other’s music hall fees, he succeeds in breaking up the alliance and, in the ensuing chaos, Clarence and his Boy Scouts are able to overcome the invaders.

  • In Ukridge’s Dog College, Ukridge comes up with a scheme to train dogs for the music hall stage. He thinks he will groom performing dogs. He believes there is pots of money in it. He plans to start in a modest way with six Pekingese. When he has taught them a few tricks, he will sell them to a fellow in the profession for a large sum and buy twelve more. He will then train those and then sell them for a large sum, and with that money buy twenty-four more.

However, the scheme fails when an irate landlord of Ukridge’s pinches the dogs in lieu of unpaid rent. The narrator then comes up with the idea of approaching George Tupper who works at the Foreign Office. He is the sort of man who is always starting subscription lists and getting up memorials and presentations.

He listens to the Ukridge story with the serious, official air which these Foreign Office fellows put on when they are deciding whether to declare war on Switzerland or send a firm note to San Marino, and was reaching for his chequebook before I had been speaking two minutes.

  • A Bit of Luck for Mabel has Ukridge again touching George Tupper for a fiver. However, this time around, he is not in a positive frame of mind.

“It’s very bad for you, all this messing about on borrowed money. It’s not that I grudge it to you,” said Tuppy; and I knew, when I heard him talk in that pompous, Foreign Official way, that something had gone wrong that day in the country’s service. Probably the draft treaty with Switzerland had been pinched by a foreign adventuress. That sort of thing is happening all the time in the Foreign Office. Mysterious veiled women blow in on old Tuppy and engage him in conversation, and when he turns round he finds the long blue envelope with the important papers in it gone.

When Insulin Puts One on a Pedestal

Hierarchy rules even amongst those who are indisposed. A Covid patient takes a dim view of someone having a common cold. A cancer patient believes he is superior to someone suffering from a mere bout of gout. Someone dependent on an imported medicine treats another one gobbling up a local medicine with mute contempt. 

Romance at Droitgate Spa (Eggs, Beans and Crumpets) speaks of the high status of those amongst the patients of the spa who have been out in Switzerland taking insulin for their diabetes. Sure enough, in the medical/social rank within the spa, they rank higher. 

Skiing, Glaciers and Golf  

  • In Jeeves in the Offing, we meet an old friend of Bertie Wooster’s – Reginald “Kipper” Herring. While at Brinkley Court, the lair of Aunt Dahlia, they meet Phyllis Mills who is goddaughter of Aunt Dahlia and stepdaughter of Rev. Aubrey Upjohn, who was once Bertie and Kipper’s oppressive headmaster.

At one point in the story, Kipper says to Bertie about Phyllis Mills:

“We met out in Switzerland last Christmas.”

Later, Phyllis tells Bertie:

“We were in the same hotel in Switzerland last Christmas. I taught him to ski.”

  • In The Letter of the Law, this is how the golfing skills of Wadsworth Hemmingway’s get described:

When eventually he began his back swing, it was with a slowness which reminded those who had travelled in Switzerland of moving glaciers.

Later, another character by the name of Legs shins up a tree with an adroitness born, no doubt, of his Swiss mountaineering.

  • In Right Ho, Jeeves, a hapless Bertie Wooster is sent off by Jeeves on a midnight bicycle ride, to fetch a house key which was, in any case, readily available.

While cycling through a jungle without a lamp, Bertie faces many perils. Part of his experience gets recounted thus:

I recalled the statement of a pal of mine that in certain sections of the rural districts goats were accustomed to stray across the road to the extent of their chains, thereby forming about as sound a booby trap as one could well wish.

He mentioned, I remember, the case of a friend of his whose machine got entangled with a goat chain and who was dragged seven miles—like skijoring in Switzerland—so that he was never the same man again. And there was one chap who ran into an elephant, left over from a travelling circus.

But all is well that ends well. Bertie’s absence of a few hours sets many things right. All the other characters unanimously hate Bertie for having rung the fire alarm bell in the middle of the night, and this leads to mutual reconciliation on all the fronts. Angela and Tuppy get reconciled, Gussie and Madeline become engaged again, the French cook Anatole withdraws his resignation, and Uncle Tom writes Aunt Dahlia a cheque for 500 pounds.

  • Hot Water introduces us to American millionaire Patrick “Packy” Franklyn. This is how he gets described when he is at a Festival with a roll in his hand:

He seemed undecided whether to throw it at the leader of the orchestra or at an obese, middle-aged Gaul with a long spade-shaped beard who, though his best friends should have advised him against it, had come to the Festival dressed as a Swiss mountaineer.

  • In Jeeves and the Greasy Bird, while rehearsing for a scene which involves a passionate embrace between himself and a young lady, Bertie describes his experience thus:

She made it good, and I felt like a Swiss mountaineer engulfed by an avalanche smelling of patchouli.

Bellringers and Echoes in the Mountains

  • In Barmy in Wonderland, Cyril “Barmy” Fotheringay-Phipps ends up investing in a play titled Sacrifice. The play opens in the try-out town of Syracuse and proves to be a disaster of sorts. Fanny, the wife of one of the producers and a World-Famous Juggler recommends a troupe of Swiss bellringers to cover a dead spot in a show.
  • Uncle Dynamite touches upon the difficulty one faces in carrying out a conversation with a stiff-upper-lip rozzer.

      “Ho!” he cried, startled.

      “Ho!” said Constable Potter, like an echo in the Swiss    mountains.

  • In Ukridge Starts a Bank Account, we find a dialogue between Aunt Julia and her nephew Ukridge.

“Do you mind if I take two or three books of yours about antique furniture? I’ll return them shortly.”

She sneezed sceptically.

“Or pawn them,” she said. “Since when have you been interested in antique furniture?”

“I’m selling it.”

“You’re selling it?” she exclaimed like an echo in the Swiss mountains.

Likewise, there is a mention of echoes in Swiss mountains in many other narratives of Wodehouse.

Company for Henry

“If it occurred to Clarkson that his overlord was modelling his conversational style a little too closely on that of an echo in the Swiss mountains, he did not say so.”

Jeeves in the Offing

“Make up your mind whether you are my old friend Reginald Herring or an echo in the Swiss mountains. If you’re simply going to repeat every word I say—”

Pearls, Girls and Monty Bodkin

‘Make up your mind, Bodkin, whether you are a man or an echo in the Swiss mountains,’ said Mr Llewellyn with a return of his earlier manner.

Uncle Fred in the Springtime

“Good God, Connie, don’t repeat everything I say, as if you were an echo in the Swiss mountains.”

Full Moon

When Col. Wedge speaks to Lord Emsworth, he feels thus:

The latter’s habit of behaving like a Swiss mountain echo or the member of the crosstalk team who asks the questions might well have irritated a more patient man.

The Girl in Blue

Yes,” said Crispin, justifiably irritated, for no uncle likes to converse with a nephew who models his conversation on that of an echo in the Swiss mountains.

St. Bernard dogs

The spirit of the Italian monk Bernard of Menthon would be delighted to know of the innumerable references by Plum to this sterling species which is famous for its rescue missions in the Alps. Even though their operations extend to Western Alps which straddle not only Switzerland but also Italy, I am tempted to mention some such references. 

The Mating Season

“You wouldn’t blame a snowbound traveller in the Alps for accepting a drop of brandy at the hands of a St. Bernard dog.”

Joy in the Morning

“One should always carry a flask about in case of emergencies. Saint Bernard dogs do it in the Alps. Fifty million Saint Bernard dogs can’t be wrong.”

Performing Flea: “Huy Day by Day”

“We are elderly internees, most of us with corns and swollen joints, not Alpine climbers. If we are supposed to be youths who bear ’mid snow and ice a banner with the strange device ‘Excelsior’, there ought to be Saint Bernard dogs stationed here and there, dispensing free brandy.”

The Code of the Woosters

“…that brandy came in handy. By the way, you were the dickens of a while bringing it. A St Bernard dog would have been there and back in half the time.”

Much Obliged, Jeeves

“I was badly in need of alcoholic refreshment, and just as my tongue was beginning to stick out and blacken at the roots, shiver my timbers if Jeeves didn’t enter left centre with a tray containing all the makings. St Bernard dogs, you probably know, behave in a similar way in the Alps and are well thought of in consequence.”

The Old Reliable

Bill Shannon to Phipps:

“You really ought to go around with a keg of brandy attached to your neck, like Saint Bernard dogs in the Alps. No delay that way. No time lag.”

Pigs Have Wings

And indeed the years had dealt lightly with the erstwhile Maudie Montrose. A little more matronly, perhaps, than the girl with the hourglass figure who had played the Saint Bernard dog to the thirsty wayfarers at the old Criterion, she still made a distinct impression on the eye…

Big Money

“She stood behind the counter, waiting, like some St Bernard dog on an Alpine pass, to give aid and comfort to the thirsty.”

Cocktail Time

“Another of the same, please, Mr. M,” he said, and Rupert Morrison once more became the human St. Bernard dog.

Money in the Bank

“They sent out the St. Bernard dogs, and found him lying in the snow, lifeless and beautiful.”

Pearls, Girls and Monty Bodkin

He remembered the creamy stuff as particularly palatable, and it seemed to him incredible that Ivor Llewellyn had not jumped at it like a snowbound wayfarer in the Alps reaching for the St. Bernard dog’s keg of brandy.

Spring Fever

It astounded him to think that he could ever have disliked this St. Bernard dog among butlers.

Summer Moonshine

He directed his steps to the public bar and was glad to find it unoccupied except for the blonde young lady who stood behind the counter and played the role of St. Bernard dog to the thirsty wayfarers of Walsingford Parva.

Right Ho, Jeeves

St. Bernard dogs doing the square thing by Alpine travellers could not have bustled about more assiduously.

The Luck of the Bodkins

“…I’m to buy a pack of St. Bernards, am I, and train them to go out and drag them in?”

Something New

It was Adams’ mission in life to flit to and fro, hauling would-be lunchers to their destinations, as a St. Bernard dog hauls travelers out of Alpine snowdrifts.

Of Divorce Rates

In an autobiographical account, Over Seventy: Christmas and Divorce, Plum refers to Switzerland divorce rates as being far behind those of the USA.

In one field of sport America still led the world. Her supremacy in the matter of Divorce remained unchallenged. Patriots pointed with pride at the figures, which showed that while thirteen in every thousand American ever-loving couples decided each year to give their chosen mates the old heave-ho, the best, the nearest competitor, Switzerland, could do was three…

About a judge who denied a woman her thirteenth divorce:

It may be that it is this judge who is lacking in team spirit… Has this judge never reflected that it is just this sort of thing that discourages ambition and is going to hand the world’s leadership to the Swiss on a plate with watercress round it?

The Untapped Ingredients in the Fondue

Just in case Wodehouse had also paid attention to a few other unique characteristics of Switzerland, some of his characters might have been etched out differently.

Madeline Bassett, a mushy and dreamy member of the tribe of the delicately nurtured, might have been working as an apprentice at the Sphinx Observatory near Jungfraujoch, trying to ascertain if stars indeed go on to form a part of God’s daisy chain.

American millionaires of the stature of J. Preston Peters (of Something Fresh fame) and Donaldson (the owner of the conglomerate known as Donaldson’s Dog-Joy Biscuits Inc.) would have been found frequenting some of the top banks in Switzerland, surreptitiously operating their numbered accounts and lockers therein.

The likes of Mrs. Spottsworth (of Ring for Jeeves fame, at the mere mention of whose name, the blood-sucking leeches of the Internal Revenue Department raise their filthy hats with a reverent intake of the breath), and Mr. J. Washburn Stoker (in Thank You, Jeeves, he is keen on buying Chuffnell Hall) would have been scouting around for juicier real estate deals in Switzerland.

Anatole, the French cook, and God’s gift to our gastric juices, would have been the Catering Director of one of the premium hotel management schools in Switzerland.  

Lord Emsworth (of the Blandings Castle fame) would have been found ruing the inevitable loss of the Empress of Blandings, his favourite Berkshire sow, at the annual pig race Hotschrennen on New Year’s Day in Klosters.   

Roderick Spode, the leader of the Saviours of Britain, would have been busy engaging researchers in Switzerland, aiming to develop advanced versions of Velcro-reinforced laces which could be used in the new designs of lingerie to be marketed under his brand name Eulalie.

When it comes to innovations and discoveries, Switzerland is amongst the top countries in the world. Consider the number of Nobel Prizes awarded till October, 2019 per 10 million of population. As per Wikipedia, if Luxembourg clocked a score of 33.8, Sweden 33.0, UK 19.4 and USA 11.7, Switzerland stood at 31.6.

It is quite likely that Wilfred Mulliner, the well-known analytical chemist, and the inventor of Buck-U-Uppo, Mulliner’s Raven Gypsy Face Cream, Mulliner’s Snow of the Mountains Lotion and other preparations used by the nobility, would have, by now, won a Nobel nomination or two. Or, he would have turned his attention to launching a new range of mega-chocolates, duly fortified with fat-soluble vitamins, which, when fed to elephants in Indian and African jungles, would make them face fierce lions with a jaunty sang froid.

Reginald Jeeves, the inimitable valet of Bertie Wooster, would have been found doing a brief stint at the Swiss Foundation for Alcohol Research and might have already patented his trademark pick-me-ups.

Not to forget Gussie Fink-Nottle, our amateur herpetologist, who would have been found doing advanced research on the mating patterns of newts as a scholar under the Swiss Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Program.    

Pauline Stoker, who believes in swimming a mile before having her breakfast and then follows it up with at least five sets of tennis matches, would have been running a tennis academy under the guidance of either Roger Federer or Martina Hingis.

Roberta Wickham would have been found developing precision laser-guided hot water puncturing needles under the aegis of an institution like the Paul Scherrer Institute, thereby giving sleepless nights to politicians who keep foisting wars on their neighbouring countries.

Doctor Sally might have been discovered working on advanced medical procedures using sub-atomic particles at CERN.

George Bevan, the famous American composer of successful musical comedies, would have been learning the nuances of harp music at an outfit like Harp Masters.

Using the countless bridges across the many rivulets in the country, Bertie Wooster would have been busy honing his skills at pushing Oswald Glossop into the gushing waters below, thereby increasing the chances of his pal Bingo Little winning over the affections of Honoria Glossop, Oswald’s elder sister.

Freddie Threepwood, the son of Lord Emsworth, would have been making frequent marketing trips to this country, promoting Donaldson’s Dog-Joy biscuits. For a country where as many as 5,440,000 dogs were estimated to be living in 2021, he just could not afford to miss an opportunity of this magnitude. Moreover, since he always likes making frequent trips from Blandings to London, he could even study the systems and procedures followed by SBB to ensure the punctuality of its trains.   

If all this had indeed happened, someone like Reginald Jeeves, who stands as a beacon of light for all those trying to render flawless and impeccable service in any field of human endeavour, might have already been declared an honorary citizen of any pub-infested city in the country, much like Sherlock Holmes happens to be an honorary citizen of the City of Meiringen, which, incidentally, also boasts of a small museum dedicated to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, a friend and cricket-mate of Plum’s.

The possibilities are endless. The mind boggles. However, rather than worrying about what-might-have-been, let us focus on what-we-already-have.  

The Master Wordsmith of Our Times

Some Swiss fans of P G Wodehouse who have a chin-up attitude like that of Bertie Wooster and, also a hearty capacity to laugh at themselves, may have appreciated the kind of Swiss-centric similes Wodehouse listed out above, capturing the behaviour and the utterances of his characters.

Wodehouse used a mixture of Edwardian slang, quotations from and allusions to numerous literary figures, and several other literary techniques to produce a prose style that has been compared to comic poetry and musical comedy.

Other than the Bible and the omnipresent Bard, his works occasionally refer to Agatha Christie, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Browning, Burns, Frost, Keats, Kipling, Omar Khayyam, Spinoza, Tolstoy, Tennyson, Wordsworth and many others.

Few writers have Plum’s mesmerizing command over English. He uses it in an innovative manner, leaving the reader steeped to the gills with an overdose of Vitamin H(umour). It comes as no surprise that English-speaking people the world over simply adore him. I say so even though so many of his works have been translated into several other languages.

Nevertheless, he has left behind for us a delectable fondue to savour, making Switzerland shine through in so many ways through a vast array of his novels and stories.


  1. The author wishes to emphasize his moral rights over the contents of this essay, save and except quotations from the books/stories of P. G. Wodehouse, the rights to which belong exclusively to the Wodehouse Literary Estate, UK. Anyone planning to publish any part of this essay including quotations from Wodehouse’s writing would do well to obtain appropriate consent from the Trustees of the Estate. Some material has been sourced from Wikipedia.
  2. Many of the inputs in this essay are courtesy Neil Midkiff and the website https://www.madameulalie.org/SiteSearch.html)
  3. The author is grateful to Tony Ring, an expert on all Plummy matters, who made several suggestions towards improving the contents of this aricle.
  4. The author is also grateful to Chris Starling, President of the Anglo-Swiss Club of Lucerne, who has taken the trouble of reviewing this article before its publication.     

Related Posts:

Read Full Post »

The Anglo-Swiss Club Lucerne (ASCL) in Switzerland is a social club open to people of all nationalities who wish to meet other people and make new friends using English as the language of communication. Its members comprise people from diverse countries, besides Swiss nationals who have an interest in the English language and culture.

A Juicy Introduction

Yours truly recently had the opportunity of speaking to the members of the club about Plum and his ouvre. Chris Starling, the President of the club, kicked off the proceedings by introducing me to the audience in my own words:

Ashok Kumar Bhatia is a management guy by profession and a romantic at heart. Two maladies he claims to suffer from are – Professor-itis and Wodehous-itis. 

A postgraduate in Physics as also in Management, he spent close to 35 years in the corporate sector, unlearning quite a few management theories. Whenever he left a company, the management was relieved and delighted to have got rid of a deadwood. He has been a promoter director of several companies, all of which you will never hear of.

Once he hung up his corporate boots, he became an active blogger and an occasional author. Two books he has unleashed so far upon the unsuspecting public happen to be ‘Surviving in the Corporate Jungle’ and ‘I Am Something: Developing a New Leader Mindset’ (co-authored with Prof G P Rao). Besides, he keeps coming up with articles and essays on management, P G Wodehouse, movies, and other topics. Unlike Bertie Wooster, he never won a prize in Scripture Knowledge at school, but does write about management lessons from Indian epics and scriptures.

He does not claim to be an expert on Wodehouse. He is merely a fan of the one of the greatest humourists we have had in the recent past.

He is presently associated with two NGOs: SPANDAN (India), which propagates human values in management; Conscious Enterprises Network (UK), which brings together people who believe in working for the realization of Sustainable Development Goals.

He hails from the North of India, though settled in the South at Pondicherry for more than twenty-seven years. Often, he can be found infesting parts of Norway and Switzerland.

As a speaker, he has already been hooted out at several management institutes of repute. Whichever city he speaks in, the local farmers as well as the supermarkets do a roaring business by getting rid of rotten tomatoes and bad eggs in bulk. His audience loves to throw these at him.

You do not see him wearing his protective gear today, for the simple reason that he has full confidence in the innate sense of decency which all of us at ASCL possess. 

A Plummy Presentation

The presentation that followed comprised the following:

1. PGW’s Life in Brief

2. Wodehouse and Switzerland

3. Literary Style and References

4. Major Characters from Novels and Stories

5. Some Quotes

6. Jeeves and Wooster: A Video Clip

Some Useful Links

A list of Wodehouse-related links was handed out to all the participants. It included the names and website addresses of various PGW socities across the world.

Spreading Sweetness and Light

One of the greatest concerns which leaves a Plum fan quivering internally like an aspen leaf while delivering a talk on the God’s gift to our mental juices is that of being struck by interim bouts of uncontrollable mirth, leaving the hapless audience baffled, bewildered, mystified, perplexed and puzzled, and the organizers desparately rushing to call in a loony specialist of the stature of Sir Roderick Glossop. Add to this the sheer irony of someone like me with a constipated look and sounding like the Honorary Vice President of the Global Association of Morons presenting the Master Humourist of our times, and you get a recipe with a rich potential for disaster. However, an eventuality of this kind was avoided, thanks to Chris Starling gracefully pitching in to read out the compilation of a few quotes from Plum’s stories and novels. His skillful and well-modulated reading of the quotes left the audience in splits.

Overall, the audience was delighted to discover the joys of reading Plum’s works. After the formal part of the presentation was over, many of them sat through for an extra fifty minutes, so as to savour the video clip till its end, in full.

Effusive thanks to the speaker followed. It appeared that the speaker, duly aided by Chris Starling, had been able to deliver some satisfaction. He was ostensibly chuffed at having spread some sweetness and light amongst the members of the club. Sure enough, he was grinning from ear to ear, looking like a cat which has had too much of cream.


The Drones Club tie you see me sporting in one of the photos was organized by Thomas Langston Reeves Smith (the absence of a P in Smith may kindly be noted).

PGW’s caricature courtesy Suvarna Sanyal, India.

Photos by Garima Goel.

Read Full Post »

Branding is a term which originates in the realm of marketing management but is generally applicable to any product, service, entity or person which stands out amongst the crowd and calls out for any Unique Selling Proposition of its. It could be applied to countries, movie directors and even to some fictional characters from literature!

Here are some examples which demonstrate this point better.




After the Trump era (2016-20), studies have popped up claiming that the USA has slid down significantly on its soft power in the world. Same is said to be the case with many other countries where brutal suppression of dissent has become a way of life and where human rights have been trampled upon.

China keeps expanding its soft power by promoting movies out of Hollywood exposing the world to its culture. India offers spirituality and its own culture to the world.

The movie Eat, Pray, Love (2010) illustrates the point rather well. A heart-broken heroine travels through different countries. She discovers the true pleasures of the table in Italy, the soothing power of payer in India and the inner peace and balance of love in Indonesia!

Movie Directors 

Apart from other celebrities, those who wield the megaphone in the movie industry often exude soft power.

I confess I am a movie buff. Quite early in life, I discovered that a movie should be selected for viewing not based on its cast but based on its director. Each director has a distinctive perspective on life, and the manner in which he/she presents a theme is as unique as, say, one´s finger prints. Admittedly, the core brilliance of a movie is determined by the producer-director duo. But the unmistakable stamp on the narrative is that of the director. The script, the screenplay, the music, the camera work, the background score, the sets, the costumes, the editing, all these transport us to a different realm for a limited time.

To put it simply, if you sit down to watch a movie by either Steven Spielberg or Gulzar saheb, you know what to expect. Seeing a movie which is directed by, say, David Lean, is as much enriching an experience as seeing one directed by either Hrishikesh Mukherji or Basu Chatterji.

Over a period of time, a movie director builds up a brand equity for himself. It comes from the uniqueness of his style, the choice of his scripts, consistency in quality of his directorial ventures and sheer attention to detail in all the departments of movie making. This earns a well-deserved respect from the discerning viewers, crowned by some degree of commercial success.

The CEO of a Dream Merchandise Factory

A director’s role in shaping a movie would perhaps be comparable to that of either the CEO of a company or the conductor of an orchestra. A CEO’s mindset determines the business strategy of a company. His style of functioning and his value system permeates across all levels of the company. Likewise, the conductor of an orchestra blends the notes of stringed, percussion and other instruments, creating a symphony which is unique. Like a CEO guiding a company or a conductor presenting a symphony, the director also balances the strengths and weaknesses of his team members and comes up with a movie which is entertaining – and possibly educative – in the social context.

A director surely knows how to touch our heart-strings in a meaningful way. In the process, he delivers deep messages, whether social, political, economical or the spiritual kind.

Some Literary Brands

Those of us who have admired the exploits of Sherlock Holmes and Reginald Jeeves are occasionally overawed by the kind of popularity these literary figures enjoy. Both may be fictional, but the influence they exert on our consciousness is exemplary. One would not be wrong in perceiving both of them to be brands in their own right.

Sherlock Holmes: An Honorary Citizen of Meiringen

Ever heard of the charming Alpine town of Meiringen in Switzerland? It is a municipality in the Interlaken-Oberhasli administrative district in the canton of Bern in Switzerland. Ringed in by snow-covered peaks, it is located on one of the most important trade routes through the Alps for centuries.

One of Meiringen’s attractions is the Sherlock Holmes Museum which recreates the detective’s abode at 221A, Baker Street in London, besides Victorian era memorabilia. The nearby Reichenbach Falls are where, in The Final Problem, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle made his hero suffer a premature death at the hands of his adversary Dr Moriarty, only to resurrect him later in The Adventure of the Empty House on persistent demands from the detective’s fans. Well, quite some time back, it had granted an honorary citizenship to Sherlock Holmes.

It stands to reason that the town had granted an honorary citizenship to Sherlock Holmes. A certificate to this effect is displayed in the museum. Also, at the base of the falls, there is a rock inscription to this effect!

When one picks up a Sherlock Holmes story, one is assured of good value for one`s time and effort. Backed by hard-nosed judgment, insightful observations and above-par analytical skills, he delivers. Go to him with a mystery and he demystifies it. His methods and skills have provided clues to investigators in many countries. He is utterly reliable. He delivers. These are the very attributes which go on to build up a brand.

Gentlemen’s Personal Gentleman

Likewise, Jeeves, created by P G Wodehouse, stands for impeccable service and a capacity to deliver results beyond the expectations of the bosses. The manner in which he helps his boss Bertie Wooster retain his bachelor status is a sterling example of his feudal spirit as also an inner cunning. His methods are often rough, but there is no doubt as to his capacity to deliver satisfactory results. He believes that bosses are like wild horses; they need to be managed with tact and resource.

In the United Kingdom, one is apt to run into laundry and other services which bear his brand name.

Many examples can be quoted from literature, fine arts and other creative fields of human endeavour.

In an earlier post, we had considered the perks of building and sustaining a shimmering brand in the market place. The focus there was on companies and individuals. Examples cited above go on to reveal to us the kind of hard work, consistency of effort and persistence which enable a softer brand to emerge. The essential principles underlying the creation and sustenance of a brand remain the same.



(Related Posts: 








Read Full Post »


Those who happen to know me personally are often deceived by my polite manners. They often wonder as to why I never opted for a diplomatic career.

Allow me to set the record straight. P G Wodehouse played some role in indicating that my Guardian Angels had planned my life much unlike that of Eustace Mulliner, who was a part of the British Embassy in Switzerland.

Jeeves’ psychology-of-an-individual factor has also led me to believe that the diplomatic corps on this planet are better off without me.

My limited intuitive faculties also tell me that life as a career diplomat could not be as glamorous and hunky dory as it might appear to be from the outside of an embassy building.

The Eustace Mulliner saga

Wodehouse fans might recall that the splendid idea of Eustace Mulliner joining the British Embassy in Switzerland was dangled before him by his godfather, Lord…

View original post 988 more words

Read Full Post »


Music has great power. It touches the innermost recesses of our being. It invigorates. When we attend a concert and soak in music which is uplifting and rich, there are moments when we can hardly bear the sheer bliss. Mellifluous notes surround us. We float in an ocean of musical waves, enjoying its depth and grandeur. We just wish for the time to stop its relentless onward march. We wish to forever live in that frozen moment of inward happiness. We crave to be left alone in space and time.

We live in exciting times. We have geniuses who enthrall us with music of diverse genres. Scintillating dance performances, mesmerizing concerts and rapturous vocals keep us spellbound. Right from the snow-clad Swiss Alps to the lush green plains of India, one is fortunate to have heard and seen maestros who have perfected the art of touching our souls and made…

View original post 536 more words

Read Full Post »

(Here is the final part of a story whipped up by Shalini, an eight year old who has an abundance of creative juices sloshing about within her. Yours truly was merely assigned the task of putting it to pen and paper, so to say.)

A chance meeting in Switzerland

Suraj was part of the school orchestra. The school orchestra had become popular. It was invited to play at the Lucerne Music Festival.

Rakesh and Kala were worried about the high expense involved. The school music teacher explained to them the importance of taking part in an international festival. Seeing the enthusiasm Suraj had for playing as part of the school orchestra, they decided to send him to Lucerne.

At the Mumbai international airport, whole family came to see off Suraj. Kala had packed some of Suraj’s favourite sweets. She had tears in her eyes but was happy that her son had got this opportunity.

At Lucerne, the orchestra team was taken on a sight- seeing tour of the city. Suraj looked wide eyed at the lake, by the side of which was the Culture and Convention Centre where the team was to perform in a few days.

On the other hand, Leo was practicing hard on the piano. He was one of the students chosen by his school to take part in the orchestra which was coming from India. He had heard about India from his parents. He looked forward to making friends with some Indian students.

Three days before the performance, a practice session was held. When he entered the venue, a teacher stopped Leo from going inside.

‘You had already gone inside’, she said. ‘Where are you again coming from?’, she asked.

‘Maam, but I just came in. My mother just dropped me outside,’ said a surprised Leo.

‘OK, show me your school card.’

Leo showed her his school card. She took him inside and then identified Suraj. She called him over and checked his identity card also.

‘I am sorry. I must have made a mistake. But both of you look so much like each other’, she said and withdrew.

Suraj and Leo shook hands. Both were surprised to see each other. They looked like mirror images of each other.

The practice session began and went off well. When it was over, Leo ran into the arms of his mother who was waiting outside. He told her excitedly what had happened. Leila could not believe her ears. She went into the building, with Leo following her. She first met the teacher who had stopped Leo at the auditorium door. She was directed to where Suraj was standing with his school mates.

One look at Suraj, and Leila was happy and sad at the same time. Happy, because she thought she had met one of her missing children. Sad, because she did not know how to check if Suraj could indeed be her own lost child. She went ahead and shook hands with Suraj.

‘So, you come from India?’, she asked politely. She felt like hugging him.

‘Yes, maam,’ said Suraj respectfully. He somehow felt drawn towards Leila.

‘Where are your parents? Who are they?’

‘Maam, my father’s name is Rakesh. My mother’s name is Kala. We live in Mumbai.’

‘Do you have any brothers and sisters?’

‘Yes. We are four – two brothers and two sisters.’

Leila could not control her tears of joy. She gave Suraj and tight embrace and kissed him on his forehead.

‘My dear…..what is your name?’

‘Suraj, maam.’

‘Are you parents here with you?’

‘Only my father has accompanied. He is waiting outside.’

‘Let us go and meet him, then!’, said an excited Leila.

Outside the hall, Leila and Rakesh met. Rakesh was surprised to see Leo, who looked just like Suraj. After a brief introduction, Leila took Rakesh and Suraj to her home. There, Rakesh met Joseph, Livio, Sara and Anisa.

Joseph explained to Rakesh what happened when they went to India more than ten years back. Rakesh could not believe this could be happening. Late night, after dinner, Joseph dropped Rakesh and Suraj at the hotel where they were staying.

A family reunion 

The concert got over well. The Ambassador from India was the chief guest. Rakesh and Joseph met him together and explained what had happened. The ambassador suggested Joseph and the family visit India soon. A meeting between Leila and Kala would help, he thought.

Rakesh and Suraj returned to India. The day came when Joseph, Leila, Leo, Livio, Sara and Anisa came to Mumbai and met Rakesh, Kala, Madesh, Suraj, Sita and Yashoda. Leila was very happy to meet Kala and her other children.

Rakesh and Joseph went to the orphanage and met an elderly Sister Alicia. They told her about discovering each other by chance. They wondered if the orphanage had any record of how Madesh, Suraj, Sita and Yashoda had reached there. After searching old records, Sister Alicia gave them John’s address in Goa.

All of them travelled together from Mumbai to Goa. They sang songs together and were very happy. Leila was happy that all her lost children had been brought up so very well, with good family values. Several times, she expressed her gratitude to Kala for having taken so very good care of the children.

Upon reaching Goa, they located John, who confirmed that he had rescued four children when the boat accident took place. He was happy that the family had got reunited.

All is well that ends well

After some time, they all decided to be together at Lucerne in Switzerland. Jospeh helped Rakesh and Kala to start a catering service for Indian dishes. They stayed on two floors in the same apartment complex. They shared meals, ideas and things between themselves.

Madesh is now training for lawn tennis. Suraj has joined a violin academy and become part of a local music group. Sita has started studying to become a doctor. Yashoda has taken up a course in hotel management. She also helps her parents in their business.

Leo continues his practice on the piano. Livio has become a ski instructor. Sara is studying engineering. Anisa has started offering ballet classes. Often, she can be seen performing on stage in various parts of Europe and Asia.

Lake of Lucerne and Bristenstock

Leila and Joseph are happy that all of them are finally together. All the children are honest, truthful and good at heart. They have a strong character. They are talented. They speak politely and respect their elders.

The whole family has faith in a super power which keeps all the people in this world happy, joyful and satisfied.

(Related Post: https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2018/07/05/an-eight-year-old-whips-up-a-story-part-1-of-2)






Read Full Post »

(Here is a story whipped up by Shalini, an eight year old who has an abundance of creative juices sloshing about within her. Yours truly was merely assigned the task of putting it to pen and paper, so to say.

The story is dedicated to the loving memory of Shri Murali Manohar Goel. It is the story of Leila, Joseph, Kala and Rakesh; of how the four pairs of twins born to Leila got separated; of how they came together again.)

The story of a family coming together again

Leila faces a storm

Leila was standing on the upper deck of a boat, watching the blue waves in the Indian Ocean. As the sun started setting, its rays created beautiful patterns. Some seagulls were diving down and catching fish for their supper. The skyline of Mumbai was just becoming visible.

Leila used to live in far off Lucerne, a big city in the heart of Switzerland. She and her husband, Joseph, had saved some money over past few years and planned this trip to India. They had landed in Delhi. They had seen the Taj Mahal in Agra. They had travelled through the Thar desert. Mumbai was their last stop, from where they they had taken a ferry to visit Elephanta Caves nearby. After two days, they were to catch a flight back to Switzerland.

Leila was tall and beautiful. She had hazel blue eyes and long dark hair. She was happy that their dream trip to India had gone well so far. As she gently patted her swollen abdomen, she thought how happy her eight babies, waiting to come into this world, would be.

Suddenly, she noticed some big waves rising in the ocean. A strong wind started blowing, rocking the boat. She turned and saw her husband Joseph had also joined her on the deck. Just then, a siren blew. A seaman came rushing, telling them to return to their cabin. A storm was coming, and the captain wanted all the boat’s passengers safe.

Even as Leila and Joseph were climbing down a staircase to reach their cabin, a very big wave hit the boat. It turned over dangerously. Leila looked at Joseph with alarm. Joseph pressed her hand by way of an assurance.

All of a sudden, Leila started feeling labour pains. Even before they could reach their cabin, the boat rolled over. She felt as if she was about to enter a watery grave. She was worried about the safety of her yet-to-be-born babies. Leila’s head hit a staircase rail and she lost consciousness.

When Leila awoke, she found herself in a white bed. She was connected to some tubes and an equipment at her back was making a rhythmic bleeping sound. A concerned Joseph, with his head in bandages, was sitting by her side. He patted her hand affectionately.

‘Where are we? What happened?’, she asked feebly.

Joseph smiled weakly.

‘We are in a hospital in Mumbai. Due to the storm, our boat had started sinking. The captain and the staff took good care. They brought us safely ashore and got us admitted here.’

Instinctively, Leila felt her abdomen. It felt empty.

‘What about the children?’, she asked with sudden alarm.

‘Well, you delivered all eight of them while on the boat itself. Congratulations, dear!’, said Joseph.

‘Hope they are fine? Where are they?’ Leila asked.

‘Hmm..as luck would have it, in the confusion, when the boat sank, we somehow lost four of them. But the other four are fine and safe, don’t worry.’

‘Can I see them? Where are the others?’

‘Yes, I shall tell the nurse to bring them in. Lovely kids. Two girls and two boys.’

‘But what happened to the others?’

‘We are trying to find out but have lost track. Police have asked people on the sea coast but we still have no news.’

‘That is so very sad’, said Leila, suppressing tears rolling down from her eyes. ‘How do the four remaining with us look?’, she asked after some time.

Just then, two nurses came in, carrying the four babies in their arms.

Leila was overjoyed to see the babies, who were all sleeping.

‘My little angels’, she said, kissing them all one by one. ‘I hope God is taking good care of the other four also!’

John survives the storm

John was an auto mechanic. He used to live in Goa and was unmarried. He had a nice helpful nature. He was on the same boat on which Leila and Joseph were.

After the boat sank, he found himself floating in the open sea. He was on some planks of wood. With him were four newly delivered babies – two boys and two girls. In the darkness, they were simply lying there, with a torn bed sheet from the boat covering them from the chilly air. Their eyes were closed. They were unaware of the storm around them. Two of them were even smiling, as they slept soundly.

John cuddled all four of them, two on each of his sides. He did not want any harm to come to them. He was praying and hoping that the winds would gently propel them towards a safe spot on the Mumbai sea shore.

Once ashore, John was wondering what to do with the four babies. He was poor and could not bring them up. He thought he could leave them at an orphanage which might take better care of them.

And this is what he did a few hours later when the raft hit the shallow shore. He went to a church nearby and met the pastor there. The pastor was caring and nice. He gave him some bread and warm soup. He also gave him some clothes to change.

Both of them dried up the four babies. They wrapped them up in fresh dry clothes. The pastor then accompanied him to a nearby parish which also had an orphanage. Sister Alicia, the in charge there, was happy to receive the kids. She had some nurses under her, who started taking good care of all the four.

After two days, when John had had some rest at a friend’s place in Mumbai, he came back to the orphanage. He felt that the kids were in good hands. He left his address with Sister Alicia and returned to Goa.

It never occurred to John to inform the local police about the four kids he had found in the sea waters after the boat had sunk.

Kala and Rakesh get a gift

In a two bedroom flat in Mumbai lived a couple, Kala and Rakesh. They were married for six years but were still childless. The doctors had advised them to adopt a child instead. Both used to love children. Often, they would pray to have a couple of children.

Kala was of medium height. She had beautiful eyes. She was very loving. She cared even for her neighbourhood kids, helping them in many ways.

Rakesh had a close friend in the restaurant where he worked. His name was Peter. Once, Peter was having dinner at their place. The topic of adopting children came up. Peter said he knew about an orphanage where they could try their luck.

Next Sunday, the three of them went to the orphanage together. Peter introduced them to the in charge there, one Sister Alicia. She walked around with them and introduced them to many children who were happy and playing in the compound.

Some lovely children caught the attention of Kala. They were very cute, with blue eyes and dark hair. Sister Alicia told them that these four kids had survived a boat accident some time back. She wondered if they were from some foreigner couple. She had tried locating their parents, but had failed to do so.

Kala and Rakesh were delighted to meet these four kids. They offered to take care of all of them. Sister Alicia could see they were good people. She agreed.

That is how the remaining four kids of Leila and Joseph found an Indian family. Kala named them Madesh, Suraj, Sita and Yashoda.

Leo, Livio, Sara and Anisa grow up

Back in Lucerne, Leila and Jospeh started bringing up the four kids lovingly. The boys were named Leo and Livio. The girls were named Sara and Anisa. Like their mother, all of them had hazel blue eyes and dark hair. Often, Leila would worry about her missing four children. She would pray to God that they be safe, wherever they may be.

Leo was a simple boy by nature. He was obedient and caring. Livio and Sara were naughty and playful. They liked to play pranks on others. Anisa was a quiet and studious child. They all looked the same. By nature, they were all quite different from each other.


They loved playing on swings. They enjoyed their outings on the lake. Leo and Anisa liked to spend time at the Natural History museum, identifying different butterflies and insects displayed there. Livio and Sara liked to visit the Transport Museum. All four of them liked skiing, swimming and ice skating. Trekking in the mountains was a favourite hobby of theirs.

Leo and Anisa gradually developed interest in music. Leo learnt to play the piano. Many times, he represented his school in different concerts. Anisa learnt ballet dancing. She was liked by all those who saw her perform.

All four of them looked like each other. Often, people would mix up between the four children. Livio or Sara would play a prank on another kid at school, but Leo or Anisa would have to take the blame. Leo or Anisa would do some good work, but Livio or Sara would get praised.

At night, all four of them would cuddle around Leila and go to sleep after listening to a story. Often, they heard the story of the boat accident. They believed that they had four other siblings who were their twins. But they did not know if those four were still alive. If so, where were they and what were they doing?

Madesh, Suraj, Sita and Yashoda blossom in India

In India, the other four kids started going to a good school near their home.

Madesh was naughty. He liked to play in the garden outside and would be found fighting with other kids. As he grew, he developed an interest in playing tennis. He thought he could play for India team when he grew up. Roger Federer was his role model.

Suraj was a quiet boy. He was good at studies. All his teachers liked him. He took to learning the violin. He dreamed of learning Western music from a professional academy. He wanted to play as part of an orchestra all over the world.

Sita was a quiet girl. She would play with her dolls all alone.  She was an obedient child. She was good at heart, and would willingly share her toys with other children. Her dream was to become a doctor and serve people.

Yashoda was a mischievous kid. She was intelligent and did well in her studies. At school, she would often make funny drawings in the copy books of other children. She was more like a tom boy and liked playing outside the home with other boys. She wanted to become a restaurant manager, like her father.

All the four of them were fond of listening to tales from Indian epics at night. Their grandmother, Rakesh’s mother, used to tell them stories from Ramayana and Mahabharata at night. On holidays, they would go out for picnics to such places as the Juhu beach. They loved making sand castles and picking up shells at the beach. They learnt good family values. They did not know they also had four siblings in a far off country known as Switzerland.

(Continued in Part 2)

Read Full Post »

For those interested in the art and science of management, here is a video clip which captures the journey of my book so far.

Feedback is welcome.

(Related Posts:




Read Full Post »

Older Posts »