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If someone had told me at the age of ten that one day I would write a bestselling book in English, I would have been completely surprised. English and I were not on the best of terms, since I was doing my schooling entirely in Malayalam, my mother tongue. Not only the sciences and social studies, even English language was taught in Malayalam by our well-meaning teachers. Moreover, like any staunch Communist, as most Malayalis were, I abhorred English as the language of capitalist imperialist pigs. Thus, I would have been wandering through life quoting Malayalam poets at the drop of a hat and drawing myself up indignantly at the mere sight of anyone speaking in English, had it not been for P.G. Wodehouse.
Yes, yes, I can imagine the perplexed looks on your faces. ‘PG Wodehouse is English personified’, you must be thinking. So how did this Anglophobe gain from the great man?
Well, the story goes as follows. I used to love reading. Apart from reading mythologies of every conceivable country– Indian, Roman, Greek, Egyptian, Mexican, Nordic, Celtic etc. translated into Malayalam, I would also read translations of classics such as the Three Musketeers or Bram stoker’s Dracula. (not a very wise move, considering I used to stay awake many nights, clutching on to a pod of garlic, staring at my brother’s face to see if his fangs were growing). But my mind was always on an enormous tome at home with the title ‘Most of P. G. Wodehouse’. One night, after my brother BalG, our cat Namu and I pestered my dad relentlessly, he picked up this volume and narrated to us ‘Monkey Business’, the gripping story of Montrose Mulliner, who ‘overcame’ an 800 pound gorilla to win the hand of the girl he loved – all in chaste Malayalam. He managed to retain most of the original humour in the translation, and we were hooked on to PGW. Over the next couple of years, we learned how Wilfred Mulliner rescued his lady love from the vile clutches of Jasper ffinch ffaromere; how Adrian smiled his way through to victory; how George sizzled like a cockroach when he should have been crooning sweet nothings etc. among other assorted Mulliner stories. Golf stories, Blandings stories and Jeeves stories followed in quick succession.
I realized two very important things in life 1. Reading English books can be really fun and 2. Pigs are noble creatures.
Over the next couple of years, starting with Enid Blyton and swiftly working my way up, I managed to improve my English vocabulary sufficiently to be able to read the great man for myself. There were, of course, words that completely stumped me at first – such as ‘imbecile’ and ‘predicament’. However, I gamely plodded on and over time, as I devoured every one of those 952 pages, my grasp and love for the English language grew by leaps and bounds. English language was great – and one that could express humour so well. And with my newfound chummy disposition towards pigs, even being a capitalist, imperialist pig was not so bad. Sad to say that my yearning for a porcine companion remains unfulfilled to this day.
It is not surprising then, that when I wrote my first book, ‘Oops the Mighty Gurgle’, it bordered on the absurd, being sprinkled with situations that could remind one of Bertie Wooster’s predicaments. The greatest compliment I received was when someone told me that the book was a perfect blend of PG Wodehouse and Isaac Asimov. You see, the book was an attempt at marrying science fiction with absurd humour – and I must confess with all humility that I have had many a fan mail, blaming me for causing the reader to look like an imbecile for giggling inanely on a flight. Not surprising, considering that the Darth Vader equivalent in the book is an evolved future-pig called Napoleon and that the most interesting chapter of the book is based on a planet called Holibutt that is inhabited by a species called Cerebums- whose brains are strategically located in a more central part of the body.
And then I wrote my second book, the one that went on to become a bestseller, titled ‘From Ouch to Oops’. This time the challenge was even more – to marry humour and inspiration. It narrated my own life story through its various ups and downs, culminating in the story of how I was crippled by an autoimmune disorder at the height of my career and then reinvented myself as an author, writing my first book using a voice to text software. Thanks to PGW, even this story – which people have found inspiring- was told in a lighthearted, humorous and extremely positive vein.
I guess I can never write a book that is completely serious. But then, I ask you, why should one tell a story as if one has a stick firmly shoved up one’s posterior, when one has the ability to make readers laugh their posteriors off!!
To read ‘Oops the Mighty Gurgle’, click here OMG!
And to read ‘From Ouch to Oops’, click here FOTO