Plum, Pothunters and Psmith

I have mentioned before how much of an avid reader my father was. One of his favourite writers was P.G. Wodehouse, affectionately known as Plum. And possibly his fondest Wodehousian character was Psmith! “Psmith-with-a-P!” my father would remark with his idiosyncratic laugh whenever he brought up Wodehouse. Perhaps his preference for Psmith stories had something to do with the recurring theme of cricket, another subject close to his heart.

Knowing my own love for books and wishing to get me hooked on this particular author at an early age, Appa decided to get me my first Wodehouse at one of the annual book exhibitions held at my school. The book he picked, unfortunately, was The Pothunters and Other School Stories, with stories centred on a world about which I had scant knowledge: the British public school system and their sporting traditions. The content of the book were all too heavy for an adolescent in Bombay, far removed from middle-class Britain. Which is to say, I gave up in chapter one. My mother bravely persisted whilst frequently remarking to me that the book “isn’t as funny as Wodehouse usually is”. I don’t recall whether my father himself ever read it, but those first few pages made me vow not to pick up a Wodehouse again if this was the sort of writing to be expected.

During my years at Xavier’s, many of my friends went about with Wodehouses clutched to their chests, regularly spouting quaint and uncommon words and phrases. I concluded that since my, er, cool friends liked Wodehouse, my father must not have been such a bad judge after all! My own wandering interests, however, meant that I never got my hands on a Wodehouse (my friends fiercely guarded their copies, refusing to lend them!) and I didn’t give it another thought.

I recently acquired a Kindle Paperwhite, ostensibly for the purposes of reading my academic literature, although PDF-to-MOBI conversion issues have left me largely reading fiction on it in my spare time. Trawling through Project Gutenberg, I came across several Wodehouse books and thought it to be the perfect opportunity to give Plum another chance. The first one I read was Psmith in the City, and I am very much in love. From the opening cricket scenes to the various antics that Psmith gets up to in his particular and bizarrely endearing fashion, I consumed the book unlike many I have consumed before. I then wolfed down Psmith, Journalist before moving on to eternal crowd-favourite, Jeeves.

As I read more, I am constantly reminded why my father loved the author. I can see, in my mind’s eye, the smile playing out on Appa’s lips as he sits cross-legged on the sofa, immersed in the world of Wodehouse.

One of the first gifts my parents gave me was instilling the joy of reading in me. One of the last birthday gifts I gave my father was a Jeeves anthology. That thought makes me happy.