Members recalled the glory of P.G.Wodehouse, the greatest humourist, who like the arab quietly folded his tent on Valentine’s Day and disappeared over the sands of time. In the echoes and parallels of eloquent prose it is vain to seek such elegance of language laced with a rare filigree of humour. He wove on the roaring loom of Time with the warp of imagination and the weft of humour till his last breath. Truly a blessed soul who wrote 90 plus novels in a life span of 90 plus years. A miracle indeed! Since his demise we have had a long winter in the world of humour. We tipped our hats to Sir P.G.Wodehouse.
We all know about Wodehouse as a cricketer but we have in Giri Dore another in our midst at Wodehouse Corner. Giri Dore, as seasoned as a cricket ball, was invited to Kolkota to be the National Match referee for Siemens teams across the country. With his years of experience on the field this was not surprising and soon Giri, recalling his sunny days in Calcutta between 1959 and 1965, winged his way to Kolkota. with the latest Cricket Rules in his hip pocket. On arrival, after much wading at the airport through a crowd of Chatterjees, Mukherjees and Bannerjees Giri was escorted through Tollygunge, Ballygunge and other outlying bally places to the sports ground where there were more Chatterjees and such of their ilk, besides an assortment of persons with appellations like Ghosh, Das and Sens. There he saw a delightful crowd cheering away. In one corner a chap was coaching a section of the crowd in hissing and other sounds to unnerve the players. The elite and the well bred sat at the far end away from the noise makers. Amongst them were delicate fair hands that elegantly held fans that opened now and then to wave off the flies or the rising heat. Their plunging necklines and pearl necklaes stamped the hallmark of class and affluence. Even in such gatherings there are class and caste shades, each segment coexisting seamlessly though, together but apart. The matches were hectic and on quite a few occasions disputed issues were referred to Giri, who with his balance, diplomacy and tact left the players satisfied with the final decision. By evening, the crowd stood tired and subdued, listless “with the drooping of their collective necks.” When it was announced that the session would conclude with a song by Dore they became attentive and were astonished to hear Giri sing a Portugese tune with Spanish rhythm followed by music on the harmonica. The audience gave a deafening applause which still rings time and again in Giri’s memory long after they faded.
Not many may remember Wodehouse having received an Honourary Doctorate from Oxford University in 1939 for his English but it turned out that he became equally adept as a doctor as many a depressed soul has recovered from a reading of his novels. In his writings, Wodehouse prescribes the cure for insomnia. Briefly stated, :
Breakfast: After toast and marmalade,
Jeeves and the Hard-boiled egg.
Lunch: After cauliflower and lamb cutlet,
Jeeves and the kid Clementine.
Dinner: Clear soup, chicken en casserole,
Jeeves and the Old School Chum.
Before Retiring: Liver pill followed by
Jeeves and the Impending Doom.
Actually, holding a Doctorate in say, Physics or Philosophy can be a social disadvantage. The physicist Dr. Millikan, famed for his accurate measurement of the diameter of the electron, overheard his charwoman answering a phone call in his apartment telling the caller, “No. the professor is no good for giving any medicine.” PG narrated an incident about his Professor at the Institute of Social Sciences who had a doctorate in sociology. His neighbours often rang his doorbell at night in quest of medicines and no amount of explanation would convince them of the fact that he knew nothing about medicine. They persisted in being given asome harmless pills, potions and powders. A powder to cure cough, a tablet for headache, a pill for fever and some mild purgative. What he thought was mild was perhaps too strong for the patient who never turned up thereafter.
On PG’s request to Ranju for a brief, precise narrative of his (Ranju’s) meeting with Krishna Mohan at Hyderabad he received a long, verbose, and detailed affidavit (designed not to omit any detail whatsoever).Attempts to condense it met fierce resistance as the stuff was tightly packed traversing history and geography enmeshed with sequenced details. Any change attempted was like trying “to paint a lily”. So PG thought let the readers have it thick and undiluted. Here it goes:
“I met OMH Krishna Mohan Gabbita in the lobby of Hotel Taj Vivanta in Begumpet, Hyderabad on Wednesday 7th Feb. He arrived at 10.15 am sharp and I appreciated his punctuality.
Over coffee at Viva, I asked him if he had brought any PGW novel written by him in the Telugu. I had forgotten to mention this when I spoke to him that morning. I was curious to know how he had replicated the flavour and nuances of the written word and phrases in the English language by the Great Master. Some of my classmates ( many of whom had left that morning for the airport to return to respective destinations after the 5 day reunion ) had remarked that it is very difficult to capture the essence of Wodehouse humour and play on words in any other language other than English. Lost in translation was the phrase that jumped to mind.
OMH asked me if I had some time to spare. Our former neighbours from Mumbai had invited us for lunch at their home in Motinagar but when OMH requested me to visit his house, a ten minute drive away, I could not refuse. He said we would spend ten minutes at his place and his chauffeur would drop me back at the hotel.
I am glad I visited his home in Somajiguda where I met his wife. I am the proud owner of a large collection of books and novels but was amazed on seeing the contents of his library. An Ayn Rand novel caught my eye. OMH also showed me one of the eleven volumes of a Historical Compendium which he acquired after parting with a king’s ransom. I was tempted to count all the 92 books of PGW but lack of time and a sense of politeness came in the way.
Six novels of PGW have been written ( or transliterated ) by Krishna Mohan in Telugu language and these have been well accepted by his faithful readers. Each print edition is for 1000 copies and all have sold out***. He is now writing his 7th book. Krishna Mohan has to seek permission from the Wodehouse Estate and pay them a royalty for every 1000 copies plus three hard copies of each book printed. He has a group of PGW fans who meet regularly in Hyderabad. OMH talked about the late Bapu, a renowned artist and film producer who designed the covers of his books. He also spoke about B S Prakash***, an authority on PGW. All his friends have now re-christened Krishna Mohan as “Gabbita Wodehouse”.
I had a quick photo session during which I captured most of the contents of his library. Links to these pix have been sent to you.
I was most impressed with his achievements during his career with DRDO and BDL, particularly Krishna Mohan’s role in the development and production of the Prithvi missile used by the Indian Armed Forces. I just had to take his picture with a model of the missile, naively asking him to stop me if I am violating any Official Secrets Act!! “
During his visit to Hyderabad, one bright morning PG met Krishna Mohan (OMH) or KM at his residence. The meeting (just like the one Ranju had with him) could be called a mini-Wodehouse get-together. There was a nice interaction with KM on the travails of a translator, right from the start in selecting a novel that would be amenable for translation, the torturous struggle in adapting to the cultural milieu, the challenge of searching for the right word and phrase while keeping the humour alive, all this with an eye on the commercial imperatives and the petty cash of the cash register. A strenuous effort and kudos to KM for keeping the vernacular flag of Wodehouse flying. We carried our discussions to the lunch table. It was time for the wine cup and the guitar. The melodious strains of the guitar were not audible bu.t then as Keats said, “Heard melodies are sweet, those unheard are sweeter”. This was followed by a sumptuous lunch and it was merely stating “The food is tasty” “Exceedingly tasty” as we consumed calories far beyond the limits permitted by the quack.