How P. G. Wodehouse Saved My Life

“I wish I’d strangled your neck the moment you were born,” Mom yelled at me, and threw the class-report in my face. I picked up the report, ran to my room, and went straight to the mirror.
 
“This time, she’s gone too far.” I said, glaring at my reflection.
 
“C’mon, you know she doesn’t mean it. She said this, like, a million times already,” my reflection replied.
 
“Well, this time, she’s going to be sorry. I’m going to do what she always wanted to do. I’m going to kill myself.”
 
I went to my desk and wrote a note to my father:
 
“Dear papa, I am killing myself because I can’t bear mom’s cruelty any longer.”
 
I returned to the mirror, feeling much more cheerful.
 
“Before I kill myself, I’m going to read Leave It to Psmith and have lunch at Blue Nile.”
 
My reflection gave me a beatific smile. I took the hundred-rupee note hidden deep in the maw of my desk and Leave It to Psmith from my school bag and slipped out from the backdoor.
 
At Blue Nile, I sat a corner table, ordered a mutton biriyani and tandoori chicken and opened Leave It to Psmith. I love every book written by P.G. Wodehouse but this was my absolute favorite.
 
As I read, I became enthralled by Psmith’s resourcefulness and how he never lost his cool in spite of all the problems he faced. Though I was reading it again, I enjoyed it even more the second time.
 
I continued reading even after the waiter ceremoniously placed the biriyani and grilled chicken before me. I read it while I enjoyed the banquet of fragrant aromatic rice with the spicy pieces of meat. I accompanied Psmith as he impersonated a Canadian poet to enter Blanding Castle, outwitted the other imposters in the castle, prevented a necklace from being stolen, and successfully wooed the beautiful Eve Halliday.
 
In Leave It to Psmith, to illustrate the quality of equanimity, Wodehouse narrates the tale of an Arabian traveler who slept on a patch of grass containing an acorn and discovered when he woke that the warmth of his body had caused the acorn to germinate and he was now sixty feet above the ground in the upper branches of a massive oak. Unable to descend, he said, “I cannot adapt circumstances to my will; therefore I shall adapt my will to circumstances, I choose to stay here.” And he did.
 
By the time I finished the book, it was four o’clock. I was the only customer in the restaurant and felt contented and pleasantly stuffed. The bill included caramel pudding, mango ice cream and ginger tea. I left the rest of the money to the waiter, who had not disturbed me at all while I read the book.
 
I returned home, feeling the warmth of the afternoon sun on my back. Mom was asleep but she had left my lunch on the table. I went to the mirror and smiled at my reflection.
 
“Okay, so I flunked Marathi and Hindi. Papa will probably blow his top tonight.”
 
I held up Leave It to Psmith.
 
“P.G. Wodehouse says happiness in this world depends chiefly on the ability to take things as they come. And Wodehouse can never be wrong.”
 
I went to my desk and tore up the suicide note.
 
15 June 2011


Rohi Shetty is a medical doctor, Vipassana meditator, writer, editor, translator and blogger. His short stories and articles have been published online and in print.

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