Criticism need not be acerbic

I always advise people never to give advice.

The master of wit, humour and language does not cease to amaze me and in this work read most recently by me, the master PG Wodehouse exceeds all limits in illustrating what subtlety is all about.

Generally, his writings in first person are the events and happenings as being described by Mr Wooster. In one of the rarest cases, the master makes the valet, Jeeves the protagonist who is describing his Governor Mr Wooster as a prelude to a very funny story. He says, “ Mr Wooster is a young gentleman with practically every desirable quality except one. I do not mean brains, for in an employer brains are not desirable. The quality to which I allude is hard to define but perhaps I might call it the gift of dealing with the unusual situation. “

There are two aspects to the above. The first is suaveness of the language where even the undesirable qualities, defects, shortcomings- whatever you may like to call it is described in an exceedingly genteel manner in a very nuanced way, reminding us of our very own Lucknavi culture. It’s said that in Lucknow even abuses are rendered with utmost tahzeeb ( culture) and tameez ( manners) ! The second is that while the emphasis or highlight is on one undesirable quality, the main inadequacy of having no brains is subtly underplayed. And it’s not about Wooster having no brains, but the desirability of all employers to have no brains is a sheer master stroke by the author.

The author’s work, which to some appear dated and this was observed by me too in one of my earlier blogs, holds so much relevance in the current context, when loud, abusive and impure language is the order of the day. People write acerbically, holding no bars and using imperfect language that looks so ugly, especially on social media. Let’s make PG Wodehouse compulsory if we want a generation that speaks and writes not only good and floral English but understand the need for subtlety and understatement in presenting their thoughts.

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