Friday, January 14, 2011

What Ho! What Ho! --- A Wodehouse Enthusiast Speaks

P.G. Wodehouse

"It is a strange force that compels a writer to be a humorist," writers Dorothy Parker in her foreword to a collection of humorous writings by S.J. Perelman. Indeed, in a world where all we normally encounter is a cavalcade of grimaces and frowns, a host of un-humoristic happenings which opens up before us a horizon of intimidations imperviously beaded with rain drops of blind ignavia and hopelessness, we need some egress, some rest-room to run into and save ourselves from impending doom. And it is in this context of impenetrable gloom and despair that humor strikes up the flare of joy and gaiety by distracting us from the blemish-worn face of stark reality and focusing our attention on the lighter side of life. Humor is God's gift to a grief stricken heart, and humorists like P.G. Wodehouse are theandric beings, messengers of the divine father, that bring us the gift of comedy.  

Of late I have been making a study of Wodehouse's humorous tomes, and I must tell you that ever since I had finished the first chapter of Inimitable Jeeves there was no stopping me. After that time I have read and listened to a mixed bag of Wodehouse classics like Right ho, Jeeves, Code of Woosters, Stiff Upper Lip, Jeeves, Uncle Dynamite, Carry on, Jeeves, Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit, etc. I now proudly own a treasure trove of Woodhouse goodies that had cost me a fortune but are an investment for life. I am braced by the fact that if the unhappy maiden known to us by the sobriquet of grief, ever thinks of marking me as her own, I shall gallantly don the armor of Wodehouse-humor and sally forth.  Oh, what a mere stretch in the gallows of grief would do to me? I reckon I would voice, topping my words with a mocking laughter. With Wodehouse under my belt I am up for the ride, baby, I would say sticking out my tongue in the direction of the grief-maiden.

Having finished the omnibus collection of Wodehouse, I have come to the point that there are two kinds of people on earth: people who have read Wodehouse, and people who have not. My message to the folks who fall into the latter group is that they should go and boil their heads. I could not believe that there had even been a time when Bertie Wooster and his personal gentleman, the shrewd, Jeeves were not part of known literary circle. I am appalled, rather consternated, to even think that I too had once belonged to the unholy confederacy of Wodehouse agnostics. But now, having remedied that defect, I am well-groomed and even scholarly in Wodehouse literature. I have proudly digested all the facts that are there to know about Bertie and Jeeves and the band of other Wodehouse characters, and in the process have derived so much joy and fun that the painful facts of reality now seem faraway concerns to me. Thanks to Wodehouse, my natural disposition to being gloomy and cheerless has been replaced by the chummy atmosphere of prosperous gaiety. Also, reading Wodehouse has sharpened my tongue and added such words and phrases like "rally round," "insouciant," "chum," "bucks you up," etc., to my glossary of the English language.

Wodehouse Characters by Kevin Cornell

I was once asked by another avid Wodehouse reader, a personal friend, which Wodehouse book is my favorite. At the time I had been pretty baffled by her query, and had failed to choose one singular classic in a company of thousand sparkling pieces of Wodehouse's humor writings. The situation of failing to choose one in a million has not changed for me; however, after careful consideration, I give my tip of the hat to Stiff Upper Lip, Jeeves--a novel where Wodehouse, I think, has surpassed himself. Of his myriad characters I am in love with Roderick Spode, the self-proclaimed leader of the Black Shorts, the proprietor of UlilyJ, the ventripotent, anger-rich dictator who worships Madeline Basset. I give my second vote of approval to the newt-fancier, orange juice addict, fish-faced lover of Madeline Basset, Gussy Fink-Nottle; and trailing behind him in the third position is the lady Basset herself, filled with such outrageous fancies as stars being "God's daisy chain" and rabbits being "gnomes in attendance to the Fairy Queen". This "droopy, saucer-eyed blonde" is an example of Wodehouse's brilliant sense of humor. In her we see the "squashy soupiness" of the delicately nurtured female species, a group of women, I think, we modern Amazons unanimously despise.

Now, those of you who are so bucked up by my generous praises of Wodehouse literature and cannot wait before you head for the library, or the bookstore, I urge them to wait and listen up. If you are not a bibliophile, I advise you to stay away from the heavy-weight hardbacks and buy the dramatized versions of Wodehouse classics presented by BBC starring Richard Briers as Bertie Wooster and  Michael Hordern as Bertie's man-servant, the inimitable Jeeves. You can also try the sitcom Jeeves and Wooster to get the feeling; however, I found the series a tad frivolous, and annoying, too, at times. They had changed the subject matter of several of the stories a good deal and in the process had jettisoned much of the meaty-bits, if you will, that had made the original stories comic masterpieces. Yet, it is a good respite from the rotten Jersey Shore culture; you might also learn some classic British words in the process and use them in your quotidian speech.

I hope you have a great weekend.


Sunday, January 9, 2011

Srimad Bhagavad Gita -- A Spiritual & Philosophical Interpretation In Poetry

Srimad Bhagavad Gita

Barnali Saha

Subject: The Bhagavad Gita is an intrinsic part of the Indian philosophy. The spiritual and the philosophical aspect of the teachings of the Bhagavad Gita touched me, and made me ponder the essence of human life. Having read the Bhagavad Gita, I decided to compose a poem on the topic in my own way. The work is original, and is inspired by teachings of the Bhagavad Gita.

The scene: Kurukshetra battle field, where Panadavas fought the Kauravas. Arjuna the valiant Pandav, son of Pandu, sits in agony. He could see the death ground where members of his family now fight. He is in desperation.

 Lord Sri Krishna, the eternal spirit of the Bhagavad Gita (watercolor on paper by Barnali Saha).
Lord Sri Krishna, the eternal spirit of the Bhagavad Gita
watercolor on paper by Barnali Saha.
© Copyright Barnali Saha - All Rights Reserved. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

Eons ago in a battle field,

A valiant knight agonized sit,

Gazing at the sorry sight,

Brethrens who loved dost now fight,

The mighty king thought it right,

To leave the war, abandon the strife.

Then he laid his arrow and bow,

The seed of blood he refused to sow,

Lest lamentation expropriate him,

And denigrate his blood from root to brim.

To his rescue came Lord Krishna,

A gentle soul to ease the dilemma,

To give him a profound insight,

Into human soul, the wrong and the right.

There he oped his mouth and spake

And words like sweet honey filled the dry lake

Of Arjuna's heart.

"Oh! Friend of mine, the purport of thy life,

Is to do thy duty,

The body of clay would in ashes crumble,

Thy deed, thy soul would forever rumble.

Thy deed wouldst take thou beyond thy reach;

To the world where thy soul wouldst nirvana meet.

Mingled in ease to my holy tune

Of bliss of pleasure of eternal joy.”

“Oh! Peerless Archer, do thy work,

Do not be swayed by the checkered lot,

Do thy job and expect none,

For expectations are too many under the sun,

Men pin their hope in the galleon of life,

Yet at the end they have to strive,

To defeat the ineluctable lot;

Who for them a different story got,

Thou I see art overwrought.

Thou cannot see the opponent's gambit

Yet, don’t be afraid and do not submit.

Be strong, be steady, sacrifice

Abandon the wrongs and the artifice

Then my dear, wouldst thou be an ultimate devotee,

A pious spirit who does his duty.

The blessing of knowledge in the peregrination of life,

Is the provenance of all thy human duty,

For if knowledge doesn't precede action, futile is the duty.

The eternal consciousness within you,

Wouldst always be subservient to you,

And thy soul would be thy humble servant,

Whilst, thou be the legal master.

O captain! Of thy soul rise up and play thy role,

For thy destination seek you to rise,

Be modest but not shy.

Millions and billions of light years wouldst pass,

Yet the soul would perpetually last,

Scintillating like a bright star,

In the galaxy of knowledge.

Betwixt the heart of the omnipotent god,

Thy soul a place wouldst have got.

At the brink of life as you reach,

Oh! My brother, listen to what I teach,

Thy raiment tattered wouldst be shed,

Thy body in oblivion wouldst surely fade,

But thy soul, thy eternal soul,

Will take up a new role,

In new attire it would be decked,

A new father it would get.

People have different race,

Different colors on their face,

Yet, all have an eternal soul,

That find its abode in my Mighty heart.

Beyond the bounds of life and death,

There I stand, Oh! My friend,

The Omniscient spirit dwells in me,

Thy soul eternal is a part of Me.

I am omnipresent, omnipotent and omniscient,

I am the Creator and the Survivor,

Many worship my eternal soul,

But the one that loves me has the strongest hold.

I need no jewel or gold,

But the love of a tender soul,

Thou may genuflect before me for worldly pleasures,

Lots of joys, riches and leisure,

Yet, I wouldst love thee,

For without devotees Krishna cannot be.

Do thy work and capitulate to me,

I would protect thee,

Save thee from worldly cares,

Extract you from the eternal quagmire.

When the world wouldst in darkness melt,

When the anathema of death would spread,

When the hostile master wouldst rise,

When humanity wouldst be demeaned to the smallest size,

When the morning sol would be a curse,

When Life would be stale and terse

When chained down human spirit would cry in pain.

Oh! Falguni, I will bring benison and rain,

In mortal body I would come down,

Save the world and restore Nature's crown.

Fear not Partha, surrender thy tired mind."

The mighty Lord Sri Krishna,

Then showed the anguished man his Viswarupa, (divine universal form)

The thousand faces that he has,

The thousand duties that he does,

In Brahma, the Creator, In Vishnu, the Survivor,

In a sapling green, in the great mountains,

In an ant and in a drop of rain,

Dwell the Immortal Lord.

The beauty of the sight awed the world,

Filled with benison; dews from heaven drop,

Spellbound, overwhelmed was Arjuna now,

He could not believe the sight he saw,

The agony in his heart now sweep away,

Arjuna now urged if Krishna may;

Be his charioteer in the war,

With a gentle smile the Lord agreed,

And, oped his mouth again to speak.

“Oh! Great Pandava I would be the doer,

Thou be an instrument,

I would play the tune,

Be not intimidated by the war,

I am there like the brightest star.

Here I reiterate the facets of my devotee,

A gentle man who no pain could see,

A man who no foe has,

A person who loves my art, the world and its children.

Happiness and sorrow are same him

An ideal man he may seem

Such a devotee is what I seek

He may be mild he may be meek.

For what matters is the soul,

The eternal body, the eternal role.

The mortal body is a fertile soil

And there the mighty soul toil.

Like a reaper cuts down ripened grains

Oh! Arjuna, thy soul the same duty holds.

Golden crops of happiness it may sow

Or, morbid poison of death row.

I am the King of that soul,

I control the land, thy body, thy goal.

Rise up friend of mine,

See the insinuations, the twist and twine.

Behold my greatness Partha, the bold.

Be my devotee and surrender thy soul.

Do the works as the Vedas say,

But keep your head in the process, if you may.

An excellent chiaroscuro is the journey of life,

Tales of laughter and sorrows and strife,

You may not be infallible,

No human being is

Yet, you may do your task and fear not the lees.

The paths of Duty, Knowledge or Devotion,

Oh! Falguni, you have a great many option.

Choose the one you may,

Listen to what your heart might say."

The bemused, Arjuna now spake,

“Oh! Krishna, I am a little man,

Follies, foibles I have done,

Ablution from sins I do seek,

Yet, I know not the road to meet.

Born with independent spirits we all art thy protégé,

Save me my Lord, Nature's effigy.”

Sri Krishna then spoke again,

There poured the final drops of rain.

"All who have faith in Me,

All who in me their soul see,

They will have to worry none,

As, Krishna is for them under the scintillating sun.

To bless, to love to care like a father,

And in the end they climb the ladder

Reach my soul in glee

And there they would forever be."

Here I end the spectacular tale,

The holy words the Lord did tell.

Conclusion: The philosophy of the Bhagavad Gita has eternally swept the minds of the world. By delving deep into the rich text we may seek solace in this world of tumult and flux. We are all constantly engaged in a battle with our destiny. We have great responsibilities. Following ideals of equality of the soul or the immortality of the soul we may rise above the petty society surrounding us and be a part of the greater universe. The modernity of the teachings of Bhagavad Gita, like the dwelling of an omniscient spirit in nature, is echoed in many literary works. William Wordsworth cultivated the same belief and his Pantheistic theory reflects this idea profoundly. The world we now see, is very similar to the battle field that Arjuna saw, human beings are tearing down each other, licentiousness, pain, war are part of every country. We are in desperation. Such pandemonium can throw us in deep paranoia. Believing in the ideals of duty, knowledge and love as the ultimate goals of life, we can face the harsh façade of the world with a gentle heart. The teachings of the Gita are everlasting; like the omniscient spirit which is the core of the Bhagavad Gita, its inculcations too are omniscient -- it is not circumscribed by a single society, it is boundless and its appeal universal.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year

Resolutions and poor me!


Around this time every year a chunk of overwrought Homo Sapiens, make it a point to look back (in anger?) at the rotten residuum of their past eccentricities. New Year's Eve of late has transmogrified to a day when skeletons of the past years are exhumed, and you know what that means! People run for their desks and pencil down their to-do lists of things which will act as their salvation in the upcoming New Year. Hence, whole lists of resolutions are platted out with the intention of reinventing oneself and giving oneself another chance in the upcoming year. But keeping up with the resolutions has proved to be as difficult as keeping up with the Kardashians, for though written with the best of intentions, we slowly and steadily always manage to find out ways to break these promises to self. Not civil, you may say, and I agree in total with you. But think of resolutions as our nasty parents judging us with their censorious and austere looks; when faced with eyes like that, baby, you chuck it and run for your lives. Take it or leave it resolution lists are a bit elaborate, and without a doubt, stuff that are easy to make but difficult, if not impossible, to follow. Then why on earth do we make them, you ask? Because we very well want us to be better, nobler, finer individuals, and this wish becomes strong and overwhelming around the time of the bottom of the year thereby inducing us to create lists of worthwhile resolutions.



This year I have managed to curve on the imaginary stone a random list of resolutions I have promised myself to keep by hook or by crook.  Having undergone a pitiless self-scrutiny, I have realized that my life needs order. More often than not I have felt myself suffer from the lack of appreciation of routines. I hate monotony, and the fact that monotony on a daily scale is otherwise referred to as routine, gives me the pip. A daily order is just what the physician would prescribe, provided I visit a physician with my problem, that is, still routine is what I need. A well laid out daily time table with strict headlines from the start of the day till I head for the dreamless is getting the first spot in my resolution list. The requirement for getting up early, writing for one whole hour everyday, eating a proper breakfast, and generally speaking living a wholesome life are things the first resolution entails.



Trailing behind this painful ruling is another death-trap, a sordid resolution: spend less time on Facebook, Orkut, and less money on Amazon. I am sure I have spent a fortune on the aforementioned three, and sometimes I couldn’t help but wonder if the new cool features on Amazon are the result of the capital I gladly transferred into their trouser pockets. Books uplift your mind; they are frigates that take you faraway, and they cost money! What can you do? Even mental fortification comes with a crispy dollar sign. And now, a word or two about Facebook, Orkut and other such rotten devices of distraction, Let me tell you something, dear friends, there is no better way to while away your time than social networking. The people who created them are geniuses of the first order. The websites are addictive, and even though you know very well that you care a rat about your friend’s notification and her change of status, you can’t help but have a peek. And one peek leads to another, and before you know it there you are skimming through the notification list or playing games, and generally speaking, polluting the virtual world with our own webtrash. I often feel that social-networking is like indulging in a decadent dessert; for although a medium dose of three teaspoon is the recommended intake, we tend to gorge in the entire the plate and hope for more. Well, I am about to give up my gluttonous web-apetite and head to the prospective life improvement forum, if you know what I mean. This is going to be very tough, I hear myself say. Let’s see how long you can put up with this nonsense says my skeptic meta-voice.


The year of 2010, you would doubtless agree, had been a year which required us to defenestrate our prejudices and welcome a new tech-savvy life. In the last year we have seen innovations that even five years ago have been looked at as stuff of the dreams. After the rocking success of 3D, the i-Pad, etc, you cannot anymore ignore the importance of technology in our lives. This year I am making it a point to be tech-savvy and learn more about the marvels of scientific innovation and technology. I am amazed by the excogitations in the scientific world. Who would have thought that space travel could be a possibility? Or that one day we could chat with our distant world-neighbor residing on the other side of the face of the world via a computer! I mean, take it or leave it, technology is a booming new tradition, and I cannot allow myself to be a misoneist anymore. In the past I have often craved for a reboot of the vintage style, a time-travel back to that sepia-toned old-age life of retrograded prosperity. The above idea frequently haunted me after I had caught sight of Snookie and her gang romping in their debauched television series Jersey Shore. The very sight of Snookie, and the innumerable do-nothing housewives, always made me wish to run to the other end of the life quarter. I heard they thought of dropping Snookie last night in place of the crystal ball at the Times Square New Year bash. But alas, we weren’t that lucky!


 The most important resolution in my list has to be my fourth resolution: read more books. I have always considered myself an avid reader and generally find myself curled up with a good hardback or paperback before heading for the dreamless. But I realize that more hours of reading is what I require. I still have an unfinished Updike volume incubating on my bookshelf. You know what's funny, every time I pick up that collection of essays, and another book of words, I break the record for the most yawns in a minute. I mean I literally doze off. Not that Updike is uninteresting or anything or the words totally unrelated to modern life, it is just that those two tomes have proven to be highly somniferous for no apparent reason. And like them, I have a ton of others, including some travel treatises, a collection of Dostoevsky, which I have thankfully half-finished, and Tolstoy's War and Peace that must be read this year, provided I could keep myself awake.

In the personal quarter my year of 2010 has proved to be positively incandescent. I have had developed worthwhile relations with people of the same mental setup. This year I am thinking of broadening the social horizon. This is my fifth and final resolution. Getting to know people is what I think the call of the day. Give up sofalizing and bring in the good old spirit of hospice. Of course, a certain tact and diplomacy is called for when you are spreading your social wings, but I guess that last year has taught me some cool people handling tricks. I wish to exercise them.


With the incomprehensive list of promises at hand I take my first step toward this New Year. 2011 and all its possibilities for better of for worse stare at me with an unblinking gaze, and I propose to walk on, holding my head high, my hand proudly displaying my wonder list of resolutions--my salvation that might help me survive in this topsy-turvy ride of existence in a modern era. My computer smiles at me tenderly. I haven’t touched the damned social-networking pages more than once since this morning. A voice inside me, a soft lingering tone, and what this lingering tone is telling me is that I might have a new update on Facebook. One click would take me there; just a click, isn’t that wonderful? One click won't harm me, will it? Just this one time perhaps…hmm… I wonder what it is that is waiting for me on Facebook!  Oh, dash it! Resolutions suck. Boo….

                                                                   Happy New Year!!!
Picture Courtesy: 1.

                          Other pictures also from the internet.