Right, so that's the lot.
I also particularly enjoyed the feeling of knowing exactly how a character felt, whether someone was talking about twisting the knife in the wound or when Bertie asks Jeeves not to say "Indeed sir?" telling him that it's virtually tantamount to saying "Oh yeah?" Even Keats, Burns and Shakespeare made their presence felt as the books are replete with quotations and allusions to their works. All in all, it was quite an education.
Q.1 What prompted the setting up of the Wodehouse Society in St Stephen's College?
A/ There was an irreverence in PGW's style that appealed to us as undergraduates. The content of his fiction was so far removed from our immediate environment that it appealed to our sense of the nonsensical. Sheer absurdity became the meeting point between his world and ours. In a time of turmoil, PGW's gentle but intensely funny humour somehow brought us down to earth. He infused ordinary things with mischievous incongruity without being crude in any way - thus, Jeeves, the gentleman's personal gentleman who read Spinoza in his spare time; Aunt Agatha, who chewed broken glass and wore barbed wire next to skin; dogs with a secret sorrow; the American tycoon who
prided himself on being Third Vice President of the Amalgamated Nailcutter's and Eyebrow Tweezer's Corporation; or Mr Mulliner's pharmacist nephew with his famous invention, Mulliner's Buck-U-Uppo. And the very name of the minor aristocrat, Lemuel Gengulphus, Bart.
The Wodehouse Society was our boyish response to the intensity of our times - the late sixties. We produced a rag named Spice, full of nonsensical articles, held Lord Ickenham Professor Imitation Contests, and hosted debates and essay competitions. And we poked fun at everyone and anyone, including the authorities. PGW made life interesting and bearable, because he taught us never to take ourselves too seriously. After you read him you could never get rid of the sneaking suspicion that in all of us there was a particle of the well-meaning oaf Bertie Wooster, lurching his way from one disaster to the next, and whose greatest achievement was his imitation of a hen laying an egg. And Wodehouse could evoke tender human feelings too, quite effortlessly, as in that most famous of short stories, Lord Emsworth and the Girl Friend.
Q.2. What first attracted you to Wodehouse's stories?
A./ First, a correction. PGW wrote collections of stories, but he was primarily a novelist. What attracted me? My father's collection! He used to buy them religiously, and after I'd gone through the lot, I began reading whatever appeared. There were over seventy titles, and by my late twenties, I think I had read most of them.
Q.3 What, according to you, are the reasons, Wodehouse is popular in India?
A./ Perhaps the familiarity of Indians with colonial English manners makes them receptive to PGW's love for puncturing pomposity. He was always ridiculing the English aristocracy. After all, we have our own stuffed-shirt social strata with their noses in the air. Humour is the most subversive thing there is. The best way of dealing with high and mighty oppressors is to laugh at them. Wodehouse takes the clothes off all emperors.
Q. 4. Do you think the Wodehouse brand of humour is still relevant?
A./ Relevant? PG Wodehouse is timeless.