P G Wodehouse and his magical world
No Red Roses for me....I am sorry St Valentine
"London brooded under a grey sky. There had been rain in the night and the trees were still dripping. Presently, however, there appeared in the leaden haze a watery patch of blue, and through this crevice in the clouds the sun, diffidently at first but with gradually increasing confidence, peeped down on the fashionable and exclusive turf of Grosvenor Square. Stealing across the square its rays reached the massive stone walls of Drexdale House, until recently the London residence of the earl of that name; then passing through the window of the breakfast room, played lightly on the partially bald head of Mr. Bingly Crocker, late of New York, of the United States of America as he bent over his morning paper. Mrs. Bingly Crocker, busy across the table reading her mail, the rays did not touch. Had they done so she would have rung for Bayliss the butler to come and lower the shade, for she endured liberties neither from man nor from nature."
These were the first lines that drew me into the goofily magical world of P G Wodehouse. A world, I have been a happy prisoner of, for about 4 decades now.
I and my friends were just in our teens when we were drawn into the world of words. The adventure began in a small library, wonderfully stocked for those times, in a dusty town in Central India.
As was with the times, the reading map would begin with James Hadley Chase and the skimpily clad women on the cover, lead you to Alistair Maclean and his Navarone tales and stop at Sherlock Holmes. With not much to do in that remote corner of the world, we peaked early and found Wodehouse.
The ’80s had just got into stride. On a stifling summer afternoon, with the school closed, I was sitting at home willing the clock on to playtime in the evening, oblivious of Pelham Grenville Wodehouse sneaking up on me, snare in hand. As they say, the ball had been set rolling…..
My brother, a book buff with good literary fiber, and one, who ignored the bilge, threw a book across the room. I looked at it, it had a bright sketch with sharp illustrations of a few gentlemen in suits waiting at a Rail station with a Lady with a brown case in hand.
“Try this, tere ko jamta kya dekh? he said. (does this suit you? in Hindi)
I had a look at the cover and raised my eyebrows. It was a far cry from the women, guns, and detectives with fancy caps. I thought, was this a prank in the making? I did then think that my brother, with his love for literature, would not do it with books. Sprinkling sneezing powder on the pillows while I slept, which was one of his, was probably par for the course, but he would not stoop to use books for pranks.
The book was titled Piccadilly Jim, by PG Wodehouse. The pages were already moldy and spotted brown on the edges, they had a moist smell, earned by not being read by many. I ran through the first chapter, to humor a watching big brother, and flicked on to the second.
Then it happened, the trap clicked, I might have heard it in my mind but probably didn’t notice it. I read what you read at the start of this piece. The construct, the humor, and the musical melody of perfectly chosen words were irresistible. I was in no time, sinking into the world of PG Wodehouse. Other authors were ignored and I was on my way into the paradise he created, to be well and truly trapped soon.
From "Piccadilly Jim" to "Luck of the Bodkins" and "Pigs have Wings", it was just a perfect joyride.
I walked the gardens of Blandings Castle with the pig-headed peer Lord Emsworth and his award-winning Royal pig Empress. I heard Jeeves dish out gems of wisdom as he shimmered around the house. I split my sides listening to Gussie Fink Nottle, with a bit more than recommended juice in him. and his outrageous Market Snodsbury School speech. The controversial Berlin's Broadcasts added to the charm and an almost autobiographical Over Seventy capped it all. There was no end to the magical allure.
Many decades and re-reads later, having reached an age where every man or woman spends half his day regretting the past and the other half worrying about the future, I realized the value of the vent that PG Wodehouse has provided me with his happy-silly world. While sitting on my balcony, engaged in regretting my past, to try and break the thought, I tried to think of what made PGW tick with me.
Here I go .......stay with me
....The ability to conjure up similes was an art he mastered.
(“He had the look of one who had drunk the cup of life and found a dead beetle at the bottom.”. )
...Short sentences which were loaded……...
( “Unseen in the background, Fate was quietly slipping lead into the boxing glove.”)
..Or long winding sentences that just teased you with words
(“Into the face of the young man who sat on the terrace of the Hotel Magnifique at Cannes, there had crept a look of furtive shame, the shifty hangdog look which announces that an Englishman is about to speak French)
He would often ignore pinstriped-stiff-formal words and come up with their boisterous first-cousins
(“Intoxicated? The word did not express it by a mile. He was oiled, boiled, fried, plastered, whiffled, sozzled, and blotto.”)
Now if you are one of those, who must have come this far just because you had to be with a friend and do right even when he seems to have lost his marbles, let me tell you where I am going with this.
Born in 1881 Pelham Grenville Wodehouse having created a world for us to live and delight in ( Evelyn Waugh said that, not me) …...died on 14th February. 1975
On the same day, about 1700 years before PGW died, a woolly-headed Saint with a strange penchant for matchmaking in troubled times was beheaded in France.
Saint Valentine gave this whining world, a reason to celebrate, and also a day when each rose with a love for its life wishes not to be red.
I believe that at every point and moment of life no matter what one does, one is making a choice, and all of the choices stay with you as long as you infest the earth.
Sorry Saint, for all that you did for love, I have made my choice.
No Roses for me, red or by any name ….. On this day, I would prefer to tip my hat to one of the greatest humorists, stay trapped, potter around in the impish magical world he created, and enjoy the chains and my captivity.
Vive les chaînes ( Long live the Chains)
About the Creator
I believe that sport mirrors life and its ups and downs.
I write stories , match reports, and tributes on Football, Cricket, Tennis, Chess etc.
My blog : Be A Sport
Twitter : @tvsbhatta
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