Blithe Spirits, a fan Club devoted to that inimitable humourist P.G.Wodehouse, used to hold monthly meetings at different venues. The invariably boisterous group had a nomadic existence piling up now at Baristas, then at Café Coffee Day, moving thereon to the Yacht Club and later to Kyani restaurant at Dhobi Talao. It was Giri Dore, a saviour, who invited the group to his home at Churchgate and this has been the happy permanent venue for Wodehouse Corner meetings on the last Sunday of every month for several years. Short of joining hands and dancing round, members have a jolly time recalling the subtle humour of the great author and of many others who excelled in their craft. Unfettered by formal agenda or protocol one sees a free play of jovial banter on any topic, be it the wind or the weather or the weary state of our economic scenario. Amidst the shifting lights and shadows of existence, Blithe Spirits is as rejuvenating as the elixir of life. Like-minded Wodehouseans may come over and see for themselves.
September 2013 saw us once again assembled as a group stuck together ‘like flies on flypaper’. The normal style is loud talk all at the same time on diverse topics ranging from the weather to walnuts, changing as the time passed to other branch lines of thought and argument. Now and then a wild laugh like a howl explodes as if calling attention to the group that it’s time to cast all care and concern aside and discuss serious issues – issues germane to life and living that evoke fun and only fun.
Since we last met a strange thing happened to our Dore. As he sat one morning he saw that every straight line was now crooked in the middle. He washed and cleaned his eyes but there it was persistent as ever. The straight line became a crooked companion. Dore who has lived a straight life was worried that this crooked line will take over his existence and rushed to the eye specialist for a miracle cure. He met one Dr. Nut who put him through tiresome tests and investigations before throwing up both his hands which also appeared crooked to Dore. The quack also gave him several medicines and asked him to come back after 8 weeks. In the meantime he strongly advocated that Dore remain friendly with the crooked straight line. Dore thanked him, paid his fees, washed his face with cologne, and left the hospital with his new companion. The crook (more like a delinquent) now walked silently by his side. The last we hear is that the new companion was trying to be as straight as possible.
And now for some good news from Our Man in Hyderabad: the film “Wodehouse in Exile” can be viewed on You Tube without the hassle of pen drives, CDs and ailments like virus that they are prone to acquire and spread. The film is about the penultimate chapter of Plum’s life when not only did he face some 13 months of detention in a German camp but the wily and cunning fashion in which he was innocently led by the Germans to give the infamous Berlin broadcasts. When released later he was in hot water with the British authorities who considered him as a traitor. It was pathetic to see this son of Righteousness, this innocent writer of humour lampooned by rogues from his own country. In England when sentiments were raging for his scalp it was George Orwell who wrote a long scathing article asking the Government not to be stupid and that a proper perspective was the need of the hour. All charges were then dropped against Wodehouse and he set sail for the US from where he never returned to the homeland. It is said that A.A.Milne was one of the writers who worked against Wodehouse but strangely enough Wodehouse and Milne later became friends.
When Ramana passed away Bapu created a life size sketch, an attribute that was displayed in his drawing room with a stunning caption: “You left me like a picture with no wall to hang…”
Krishna Mohan (OMH) narrated his great fortune to have had a lasting friendship with two outstanding Wodehouseans in the South, Mr.Bapu a great skillful cartoonist and Mr. Ramana, a writer both legends in Telugu literature and who were active for over 35 tears in the exciting world of cinema. The eminent cartoonist-writer duo, both Wodehouseans to the core, have a collection of almost all the first editions. While in the US, Bapu visited Remsenberg, Long Island to pay tributes to the great humourist at his grave. Bapu loved KM’s translations of some of the novels and lovingly referred to KM as “my own Wodehouse”. When Ramana passed away Bapu created a life size sketch, an attribute that was displayed in his drawing room with a stunning caption: “You left me like a picture with no wall to hang…”
PG mentioned of an sms of a cartoon by Bapu showing Wodehouse as a cowboy with smoke emanating from his ears. A surprise gift to the Wodehouse Corner arrived from KM – a Xerox copy of Plum’s book titled “The Parrot and Other Poems”. A glance at some of the poems showed Wodehouse’s skill in poetry heavily influenced by humour. Humour takes over as the poem proceeds. Dore conveyed our thanks to KM for the addition to our small collection.
All neat and nice, laced with heat and ice. Some heat and conflicts rise to near-primitive expression but are hastily smothered to manageable dignified events – growling hearts behind smiling faces.
Much time was spent on special snacks brought by Ranju and Raj. Now it is not easy to describe them or write about their taste. Like Mulliner all joined in saying, “It’s good” followed by “It’s exceedingly good”. “It’s tasty.” “It’s exceedingly tasty”. Suffice it to say that united these two could be successful entrepreneurs in marketing unmatched snacks that transport people to moments of transcendental bliss, alas too few.
A member referred to the wretched subject of service tax on cooperative societies that was rumoured to be actively collected. One wonders what could be the logic in seeking service tax from a housing society that sends monthly bills as outgoings for money that is used, on a hand-to-mouth basis, to pay the salaries of the liftman, pump operator, sweepers and others who hang around the premises. Whether it is a beauty parlour or a courier service, a bill from the telephone company or a credit card bill, the tax man with his hand outstretched is ever round the corner with his begging bowl. We live in an age that continually defies logic.
This reminds one of the thankless job of being on a cooperative society committee. In all such society meetings there are some common features:
Venue: In humble modest co-op. societies: An old disused garage or room of some member. In affluent class of coop. society: Club house or Society Office.
Time: 9.30 PM or Sunday 10.00 AM.
Profile of members present:
- Couple of loud-mouthed, troublesome and cantankerous members, who squabble on every issue.
- Few of the constantly complaining type who do not do any work for the society.
- One meticulous paper and pen-oriented elderly man who likes to get all records straight and takes down notes as if he is in a classroom.
- Others yawning and waiting to get it over so as to return to their TV serials.
- Some who do not know what the hell is going; being present only on insistence by spouse to sit, observe, and vote if required.
Some have witnessed cooperative society meetings in the weaker section where proceedings resemble close to a street quarrel. Meeting scheduled at 9.00 pm. in open garage on ground floor. Participants turn up leisurely at 9.45 pm or later in striped pajamas (half), banians carrying their chairs and stools from their homes. Meeting called to order when a minor pandemonium is about to start. Hands are raised and Pandurang asks loudly for an explanation why A-Wing gets water for 15 minutes more and when will B-Wing get justice. This was apparently discussed several times before without any answer except coming close to blows. Secretary pacifies him with some solution when another militant from A-Wing dares him to do anything which will reduce even a drop of water. Fight aborted and agenda shifts to accumulation of old shoe rack, broken ladder on staircase landing outside Kuppusamy’s flat and tricycle (used by Godbole when he was a brat of four years) which accompanied him from house to house, now lying outside his flat (Godbole now 65 years) near the lift for years and so on. Stubborn refusals and roaring arguments with shrill voices of women present amidst the barking of dogs that turn up to see the commotion. In better class of societies where there is systematic agenda circulated in a professional manner one sees quieter discussions taking place, being ‘differences’ instead of ‘quarrels’ in dignity and finesse — the issues of contention being allotment of scarce parking space for cars, is there enough security for senior occupants from murderers ostensibly entering to hand over courier parcels, salesmen with dusters and detergents, the menace of motorcycles in the vicinity, the search for a revised quotation for lift maintenance contracts, and such other items of an exalted agenda. All neat and nice, laced with heat and ice. Some heat and conflicts rise to near-primitive expression but are hastily smothered to manageable dignified events – growling hearts behind smiling faces. Not cooperative living but living under compulsion, not even greeting the neighbour except when face to face at the annual society dinner served buffet through a hired contractor. A member pointed out that some cooperative housing societies have even started video-recording the proceedings of the meetings not for any aesthetic performance but to record unruly primitive play and display of emotions like tearing up the annual report, breaking the chairs and the door or hurling the mike and such other equally amiable gestures.
Anantha, in reply to a query, expatiated on the world of wines, from the growth of the vine to the final stage of that ambrosial elixir which, since time immemorial, has lifted mankind into the life transcendental. Anantha could easily qualify for a Doctorate on the subject displacing J.B.Attwater who, as we all know from Wodehouse, was licensed to sell ales, wines and spirits.
Members felt their energies liquidated and wound up the meeting.
— PG Murthy
Note: This article has been forwarded by Ranju Bhat, BTech Chem 71 & H4. He is a devoted Wodehouse fan and member of PGW Fan Clubs including Mumbai Chapter of Blithe Spirits which meets on the last Sunday of every month in SoBo. Ranju was in regular correspondence with Sir P G Wodehouse till his demise in Feb 1975.