WODEHOUSE DRAWS A FULL HOUSE

This club, formed five years ago, has a unique range of characters who meet to bond on the world’s most loved humorist, reports Rishi Majumder

Photographer: Rana Chakraborty

right ho!

Try an apple cake?” persuades Giri Dore seated in the terrace of his sprawling, almost Edwardian, Marine Drive home. “You’re not on a diet are you?” questions Kaushal Thakur. “He doesn’t look like he’s on a diet…” smiles Surya Prakash. And the laughter begins.
Dore is a retired cricketer, Thakur a businessman and Prakash an old but young-atheart senior banker. But cackling in striped old-world sofas and quaint cane chairs around a large center table loaded with tea and an array of (delicious!) cakes, they could easily be P G Wodehouse’s Bertie Wooster, Psmith or Lord Emsworth. Which would make this apt once-a-month meeting place — almost exclusively for Wodehouseans — Wodehouse’s Drones Club, strictly for members only. This overweight writer, three mandatory slices of cake later, did come to feel like Empress, Lord Emsworth’s force-fed pig.
“No, we’re not sticklers. You can be a member even if you’re just an avid reader,” Thakur offers expansively. “Just log in to blithespirits@yahoogroups.co m or come down to one of our
meetings.” “But be warned! A Wodehousean will never trust a non-Wodehousean,” adds S Ananthanarayanan, a senior railways officer and newspaper columnist. Ulp! That cake just got stuck.
Formed five years ago, the club comprises around 25 members, their age-range running laterally inverted from a 17-year-old Pranav Pirmlani to a 71-year-old Dore. “But we don’t just discuss Wodehouse,”
legal adviser PG Murthy, jokingly called “our own PG”, protests. That’s right. Wodehouse at Blithe Spirits (the name of the club, interestingly inspired by poet P B Shelley) is just the lowest common denominator. Even as the discussion moves on from the origin of Psmith’s character to the terrible state of the Indian cricket team, Wodehousean wit remains the subtext. For hadn’t the author said, “My way of writing about life is making a sort of musical comedy without music and ignoring real life altogether!” Hence, even their discussions on good ole Plum (the humorist’s nickname) facilitates bonding on their favourite passages. “We hate analyzing and hate being analyzed,” Prakash elucidates ominously. “Now analyze that!” Dore continues. Then more laughter, as Thakur pacifies, “Don’t take these digs otherwise please,” in between his guffaws. “It’s a good rule in life never to apologise. The right sort of people don’t want apologies. The wrong sort take a mean advantage of them,” Wodehouse had written once. Please don’t take this otherwise, Mr Thakur.
Most members of this club have been introduced to Wodehouse since their school years. “I’ve spent a happy 10 years of my life collecting priceless Wodehouse novels,” Prakash, who possesses some of the earliest editions, informs. “And now he’ll spend an unhappy ten years guarding them,” cracks businessman Raj Daryalani. Laughter again. Young Pranav’s playing a CD recording of Andrew Lloyd Weber’s musical Jeeves now, as Ratula Datta, a researcher, comments: “No wonder the musical didn’t work. That doesn’t sound like Wooster at all!”
But what really draws this diverse crowd to Wodehouse? “Escapism!” answers Prakash promptly. Is the fictional Blandings Castle that remote? Or the idiosyncrasies of aristocracy so irrelevant? “There
might well be a reason Wodehouse is today more read in India than in England even,” confesses Ananthanarayanan. “I so often see rich, educated Indians, with the very same hypocrisies — some adopted from historic British influence, some selfgrown.”
Funny, for Wodehouse had concluded a famous preface with, “Who can say that ere long spats and knuts and all the old bungho-ing will not be flourishing again? When that happens, I shall look my critics in the eye and say – Edwardian? Where do you get that ‘Edwardian’ stuff? I write of life as it is today.” Or let’s end this in more popular Wodehousean: Right Ho!

This article originally appeared in Mumbai Mirror, Times Of India: http://alturl.com/zmf4

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