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ashokbhatia

While dishing out the unique fare that P G Wodehouse specialized in, never would he have imagined the kind of spell it would cast upon the unsuspecting youth in a country like India which remained a colony of the British Empire for quite some time. The kind of whodunits which he unleashed on the gullible youth occasionally launched an array of goofy schemes and practical jokes. And if the setting for rolling out such schemes happened to be an educational institution, one can merely bemoan the fate of its Reverend Aubrey Upjohns and other illustrious lion-tamers who had no other option but to be at the receiving end.

Imagine an educational institution which is teeming with a bevy of intellectually inclined youth. It is not difficult to surmise just how busy the institute’s Wodehouse Society office bearers would be, whipping up one goofy scheme or the other at regular intervals.

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While dishing out the unique fare that P G Wodehouse specialized in, never would he have imagined the kind of spell it would cast upon the unsuspecting youth in a country like India which remained a colony of the British Empire for quite some time. The kind of whodunits which he unleashed on the gullible youth occasionally launched an array of goofy schemes and practical jokes. And if the setting for rolling out such schemes happened to be an educational institution, one can merely bemoan the fate of its Reverend Aubrey Upjohns and other illustrious lion-tamers who had no other option but to be at the receiving end.

Imagine an educational institution which is teeming with a bevy of intellectually inclined youth. It is not difficult to surmise just how busy the institute’s Wodehouse Society office bearers would be, whipping up one goofy scheme or the other at regular intervals.

Late night raids on cookie jars and smoking cigarettes in the shrubbery were surely considered passé by them. Instead, they specialized in organizing some practical jokes which would have an undercurrent of the kind of subtle humour Plum stoutly believed in. Apparently, this was one of the annual features of the activities of the P G Wodehouse Society located on the campus.

Here are some which were narrated to yours truly by a dignified senior Mr Mulliner, who happened to be a distinguished alumnus of the institution concerned. It was a chance meeting which came about while we were undertaking an otherwise listless bus ride in Chicago recently.

A musical charade

The names of two famous singers from neighbouring Pakistan, ostensibly on a visit to India, were touted to attract a large audience to the auditorium. Faculty members from even the nearby colleges showed up, accompanied by spouses ornately dressed for the great occasion.

Since there was a shortage of volunteers to dress up as Pakistani ‘ghazal’ singers, only three could manage the feat, though. Thus, a troupe comprising a single singer, what with a tabla player and a harmonium player in tow, got formed. Some strings got pulled and a decent car with a diplomatic number plate was organized. The trio arrived at the venue in true style and was cheered lustily by the crowd, agog at the prospect of listening to some soulful melodies.

Once the trio had been greeted with customary garlands, bouquets and shawls et al, the person believed to be the singer stood up and started an elaborate ‘alaap’. When he continued with his off-tune rendering for quite a length of time, the audience started getting a bit jittery. Some thought it was perhaps a Pakistani custom to belt out some random notes, just to kick-start the proceedings. Pretty soon, it transpired that both the instrumentalists were merely twiddling their thumbs and playing some notes furtively, somewhat out of sync with the singer.

The jamboree ended with the singer finally announcing that the performance was merely a charade. Wisdom dawned upon the audience that a practical joke had been perpetrated on the unsuspecting hoi polloi.

Cora Bollinger, had she been present, could have possibly saved the day by belting out a version of ‘Sonny Boy’. However, that was not to be.

The case of the missing dead body

At the stroke of midnight, a rumour was heard that a student had committed suicide by hanging himself from the roof of the college gymnasium. Negative news spreads virtually at the speed of light. In no time, a crowd gathered outside the gymnasium building. True enough; a dead body appeared to be swaying gently from the roof. The gymnasium door was bolted from inside. A soulful suicide note was also apparently found outside.

The warden got called in. He lost no time in waking up the Principal who trooped in after some time, much like the US marines arriving at the site of a natural disaster. But lo and behold, the body had done the vanishing trick by then, possibly taking a leaf out of one of the whodunits of Agatha Christie.

As the pseudo-suicide unleashed by the society members dawned upon those assembled, the warden obviously got an earful from the irate principal, who did not like the prospect of losing his beauty sleep on such frivolous, or even non-existent, grounds.

The nocturnal presence of a female

In the hostel rooms of what was then an exclusive territory of the so-called sterner sex, the presence of a member of the tribe of the delicately nurtured beyond certain hours was not permissible.

However, on one apparently innocent night, word went around that a soft and shiny leg perched on a table was clearly visible from the window of a particular room in the hostel, reminiscent of the 1960s Hollywood flick ‘The Graduate’. Tongues started wagging. Imagination had a free run.

When notified, the warden decided to investigate the matter without any delay. But his repeated knockings on the door of the room concerned produced rather discouraging responses from within. Entreaties to open the door were met with stony silences. Threats uttered while his clenched fists pounded on the door were met with stout refusals to oblige.

Enraged, the warden went across the back lawns, so as to be able to peek inside the concerned room through a back window. Unfortunately, status quo prevailed and satisfactory results were not produced. Some kindly souls amongst the office bearers then took charge of the situation, calling upon the occupant to open the doors.

This brought home the bacon, so to say. The neatly shaved leg came off the table. The door flung open and out came the only occupant of the room, merrily parading his legs to all those who had assembled outside. Once it was established beyond doubt that one of his legs alone had been adequately prepared and presented to the unsuspecting public and that no female was in sight, a sigh of relief emanated from the warden. However, the decibel level of the merriment which ensued and the giggles that emanated from the crowd of students was far higher in the otherwise silent night.

The perils of being an educationist

Roberta Wickham and Stiffy Byng would have surely approved of these fruity schemes.

But had Reverend Aubrey Upjohn been present, he would have been frustrated at not having had the liberty of retaliating with some juicy canes in the soft spots of the office bearers.

Alas, such are the perils of the kind of rules and regulations which bind our hapless educationists these days. Only stiff-upper-lips and sterner gazes appear to have survived in their disciplinary arsenals.

Some of you may agree that the likes of Aubrey Upjohn, Miss Tomlinson and Miss Mapleton lived in far happier times.

(Notes:

Illustrations courtesy the world wide web.

The incidents described here took place sometime during the relatively innocent times of 1970s. The youth of today, armed with Artificial Intelligence, Robotics, Social Media et al, could surely come up with far more juicier schemes. The mind boggles at the limitless possibilities.

One is truly grateful to the senior Mr Mulliner who narrated these incidents in juicy details to a perfect stranger like yours truly.

Here is hoping he, an eminent educationist in his own right, would soon chronicle his Plummy memoirs in exhaustive detail, possibly inspiring the youth of today to come up with even fruitier schemes, thereby hastening the spread of the epidemic of Wodehousitis all over the world.

(Related Posts:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2015/07/30/the-epidemic-of-wodehousitis

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2016/10/01/the-class-of-1976-how-it-managed-to-get-suspended-for-a-week

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2018/01/01/spreading-wodehousitis-some-plummy-awards)

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