P.G. Wodehouse in India

I remember hearing, at some point, that P.G. Wodehouse is quite popular in India. So, it being Boxing Day and all, I Googled the appropriate terms and the right sort of article began popping up.

First, a slight NPR piece which is best enjoyed by ear, not eye. I also found a longer, more thoughtful piece written by Indian author Shashi Tharoor. It’s well worth a read.

A taste:

But we did need a passport, and that was the English language. English was undoubtedly Britain’s most valuable and abiding legacy to India, and we Indians took to it — both for itself, and as a means to various ends. These ends were both political (for Indians like Nehru turned the language of the imperialists into the language of nationalism) and pleasurable (for the language granted access to a wider world of ideas and entertainments). If the British taught us their literature to colonise our minds, it was only natural that Indians would enjoy a writer who used language as Wodehouse did — playing with its rich storehouse of classical precedents, mockingly subverting the very canons colonialism had taught us we were supposed to venerate.

This insidious but good-humoured subversion of the language, conducted with straight-faced aplomb, appeals most of all to a people who have acquired English but rebel against its heritage. The colonial connection left strange patterns on the minds of the connected. Wodehouse’s is a world we can share with the English on equal terms, because they are just as surprised by its enchantments. Perhaps that is as good an argument as any for our continued national love, 54 years after we cast out his compatriots, for the works of P.G. Wodehouse.

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