8

Uncle Fred fails to cheer!

Lord Ickenham or Uncle Fred is a fictional character created by humorist P G Wodehouse. Uncle Fred is most mischievous; his "constant aim" is to "spread sweetness and light" and bring joy into the lives of others.

Honestly, when I started reading P G Wodehouse novels during my school days I could not understand them. But I persevered and kept reading and re-reading them. When I grew a bit older and could understand them, I became so addicted to the novels that they became my constant companions. Uncle Fred has unfailingly spread sweetness and light in my life.

Anyone who is fond of P G Wodehouse novels will tell you that it is very difficult to read them with a straight face. If you are reading the novels in the cozy atmosphere of your home then it is no problem because you can laugh heartily without anyone as much as raising an eyebrow. But reading these novels in a place where silence is sacrosanct could spell disaster as I discovered!

I was attending a class in college and I found the topic very boring. I removed my P G Wodehouse novel and, after concealing it below the desk, paid my full attention to it. I was sitting at the back and, so, quite safe.

I don't remember the title of the novel that I had with me on that day; I think it was "Uncle Dynamite". After the first few pages I broke into a smile. The next few pages brought a giggle. Now since I was sitting at the back, the little giggle went un-noticed. But as I progressed further the giggle gave way to a series of giggles which, of course, was easily heard as there was a pin-drop silence in the class with the other students fully engrossed in the lecture.

Needless to say I was discovered by the professor who wanted to know what was so funny in the serious topic that he was trying to explain.

Unfortunately I had probably come to a very funny part just then and I wanted to laugh out aloud. I tried to suppress the laughter. Have you tried to suppress your laughter? Laughter does not like to be suppressed and if you try to smother it, it comes out in an angry gush and ends into an explosion! The professor thought that I was laughing at him and that made him angry all the more. He ordered me to pick up my books and leave the class immediately. That was embarrassing!

That was one particular day when Uncle Fred had failed to bring sweetness and light into my life. It was all dark and gloomy for me on that day!

Smile at your peril

Since childhood, I had been taught by my parents that I should always greet people with a smile even if they are total strangers. The teachers in school also impressed upon me that this was the best practice to follow. But, it is later in life that I learnt that this may not always be the best practice.

Having passed out of the threshold of school, I entered the portals of a college. The college was some distance from home and I had to commute by bus.

I was just a few months old in college and was quite relishing the freedom that college life had to offer.

One day, after the lectures were over, I decided to go home early instead of loitering around with my friends. I was lucky to get an early bus and boarded it along with many other students who lived in the same locality as me. These students were complete strangers to me as yet.

I managed to get a seat and was enjoying the ride home. There was a boy, much older than me, who was sitting on a side seat and his face was visible from where I sat. The arrangement of the seats was such that whenever I lifted my head, I found myself staring at his face - not that this disturbed me at that time. I was busy in my own thoughts and occasionally when I lifted my head and met the boy's eyes, smiled at him in a friendly manner. I was also thinking of a funny incident which had occurred on that particular day and, probably because of this reason, was smiling all the more.

Anyway, the bus reached my stop and I alighted. I was about to walk away when I was accosted by the big boy who had also got down at the same destination.

"Why were you smiling at me? Do you think I am a joker?"

I was dumbfounded by such accusation and before I could utter even a word, he had punched me hard on the face.

The boy was much older than me and I realised I could not take him on. So, I just walked away. He had punched me real hard and within minutes, my mouth had become swollen. I went to a hospital on the way and was prescribed antibiotics and pain-killers. Reaching home, I lied to my parents that I had fallen down.

Next day I discovered that the news had already spread among my friends. Someone known to me must have been in the bus who had witnessed the incident. Some friends of my elder brother also came to know about the incident and, probably, they sounded the boy off because I never encountered him again. But, I became rather wary of smiling at strangers since then.

Taken for a ride!

"Snooty", that was the word which described this girl. She was in the same class as we in college. By "we", I mean five of us who were class-mates in an all-boys school and had joined the same college. She used to come to college riding a scooter while we had to pedal all the way on our bicycles.

It was probably because she came on a scooter and took no notice of us that we decidedly considered her as "snooty". The girl moved around in her own circle of friends and ignored us completely. One of my friends had taken a fancy for her and tried to strike a friendship. But she took no heed.

This friend was depressed and the girl's unwillingness to be friends with him convinced him beyond doubt that she was snooty.

One day he challenged me. "If you can ride pillion on her scooter I will offer you five rupees. I am sure she does not give anyone a ride," he told me.

.

I took the challenge and said it was easily done. My friend looked doubtful. It was decided that if I failed, I should pay him three rupees.

At the end of the day, the other four saw me walk up to the girl, saw me say something to the girl, and hey presto, there I was sailing on her scooter. The next day, I had my five rupees (I tell you it was a nice sum in the good old days).

Unknown to my friends, I achieved this task in the following manner: I walked up to the girl and candidly admitted about the wager. I also let her know that I did not have any money and if she did not allow me to ride pillion, I will be in deep trouble.

At first I thought she was about to slap me, but the next moment she broke into a smile and told me to sit. "But only this once. You will not even touch my scooter again," she warned. That was okay with me.

So that is how I earned the five rupees. But I learned one thing ... the girl was not at all snooty. She was a real sport.

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  • Indian Statistical Institute - www.isical.ac.in
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  • Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad - www.iimahd.ernet.in
  • Indian Institute of Mass Commission - www.iimc.nic.in
  • IIT Bombay - www.iitb.ac.in
  • Indian School of Mines, Dhanbad - www.ismdhanbad.ac.in
  • Birla Institute of Technology, Ranchi - www.bitmesra.ac.in
  • Central Institute of Fisheries Nautical and Engineering Training - www.cifnet.nic.in
  • Indian Institute of Information Technology, Allahabad (Deemed University) - www.iiita.ac.in
  • Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute, Kochi - www.cmfri.com
  • Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai - www.tiss.edu

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