It was the other day; a fellow fan of PG Wodehouse asked this question ` I, too, am amused to know that PGW's greatest fans are in India. To what do you attribute the devotion?’
For an author who died four decades ago, he still sells like hot cakes in India. I doubt if he still sells as much in the country of his birth. Just visit any PG Wodehouse group on Facebook, you will find Indians reminiscing about his works. One of the most erudite of Indian politician, Shashi Tharoor is a fan of him.
Indians love anything that’s English. Indians love English more than Englishmen. Even Jeeves would not disagree with the above statement, given the craze of Indian parents to get their kids admitted to a convent preferably one with an International School tag attached to it. Kings English is what most know; in India we have `Butler English’ with its own set of rules. We talk to even our siblings in English. Even the governance system in India is largely based on the British model. Think about it, some of the best planned roads in India are still those which the British had planned. Such being the case, P G Wodehouse, the best writer in English after Shakespeare, being adored in India is nothing but natural. Indians love their grammar as much as they love their grandparents and PG Wodehouse with his impeccable English had to impress the Indians.
We, Indians love happy endings. Just read our epics; see our movies and even watch the most tear jerker of serials, they all have a happy ending. Is there any book that PG Wodehouse had written and did not have a happy ending? If there is one, I’m not interested in knowing, leave alone reading it.
Aunts in PG Wodehouse’s novels are as Indian as they are English. In India, after mosquitoes, aunts are the most irksome ones. Pity, you can swat a mosquito but not an aunt. Beginning from keeping you the most irritating pet names when you were a toddler, to sniping about your profligate spending habits, to pestering you to marry their daughter or son when you are eligible, to taunting you about not having kids on time, they do it all. Hence, there is no surprise that an average Indian agrees with Plum when he writes `Aunts aren’t Gentlemen’.
There is no shortage of Berties in India, their only achievement is either to have born to affluent parents or made a large inheritance. Most Indians have a Bertie Wooster in their friends list. Bertie is a more affable guy only because he was written by Wodehouse, who is from a society that respect rules more than Indians do. The Indian Berties are more menacing, troublesome and worth shooting down.
India is strewn with Ukridges and unlike him the Indian version is always successful and even reaches high positions in life. There is no shortage of ponzi scheme operators; quack doctors; con god men; fake job consultants, you name it, we have it. There is no Indian alive or dead who has not been done in by an Ukridge, one time or the other and some of them end up having a laugh about him in Wodehouse’s books. In a country of 130 crore people, some is the population of many a countries.
The Gussie type speech fiasco after having spiked Orange juice is the most common comedy scene in Indian movies. Most Indian guys have been George Finch trying to propose to a Molly but never have had a happy ending. We love to be Hamilton Beamish (The Small Bachelor). The body swap that takes place in Laughing Gas is part of Hindu Legend. I have no idea why I love Blandings Castle.
One can go on endlessly about how Indians connect with Wodehouse at various levels but the long and short of it is, PG Wodehouse novels are more Indian than English. There is always a lanky Balasubramaniam Meganthan in some college of India waiting to be introduced to the master humourist by his English lecturer.