Return of Gussie Fink Nottle
Some of you may have my earlier adventures in Gussie’s avatar when I gave out the prizes in a village school we had adopted as part of our CSR activities. For the newbie, here is the link
Now once again I had an invitation from a school to attend their literature day as a chief guest.
It happened like this. The principal of an international school is a loyal follower of my blog and has actually read almost everything that I have written. She has also read my book and admired it greatly and has shared her opinion and appreciation of the book in particular and my writing in general on the social media. Totally flattered on having an intelligent articulate attractive young lady fan, we were in touch through social media.
Incidentally, a great many more women read than men, and they also comment and express their appreciation, often getting in touch with the author. This is one of the major perks of writing and a superb incentive to aging nerds like me.
Her school was celebrating a literary week where they invite an author to give an inspiring speech, and decided to invite me this year. Thrilled at the prospect of being recognised as a writer, I gladly accepted.
I anguished over what to wear, and remembering gussie and the split trouser theory, I gave ethnic wear a miss, thus avoiding entertaining the students with wardrobe malfunctions, as dhotis and churidars have a nasty habit of unravelling at inopportune moments; and stuck to sober casuals.
Fortified with plain orange juice I landed up at the impressive sprawling premises of the residential school, a little way outside the city. As I was ushered to the principal’s room, the memories of being sent up to see the principal came surging out of the unconscious, creating flutters in the stomach. There were a few young thugs waiting outside the boss’s lair, but they seemed unperturbed by the imminent interview. Perhaps the ubiquitous cane having been eliminated from the proceedings have resulted in such sangfroid.
The principal’s room was huge, much larger than mine, but it was not manned by a fire breathing ogre nine feet high in a cassock and a front to back collar; but a petite demure lady in a sari, whose rimless glasses were the only severe aspect and kept me from being flippant and flirtatious.
I was taken around the campus on a tour. The boys’ hostel evoked strong feelings of nostalgia. I even entered that place I had often dreamt of visiting in my misspent youth; the girls’ hostel. Needless to say, the children were in class and not in the dorms. A couple of boys were flushed out from under a tree outside the girls’ hostel and sent packing, after hearing their lame excuses for their presence there. My heart went out to the poor blighters.
I then inspected some kids dressed as literary characters and looking miserable, all except mowgli, who was prancing around in his briefs and happily living up to the role of the wild jungle man cub without fear of reprisal from the teachers.
We proceeded to the auditorium and a surprise awaited me. There, among the decorations with literary themes, were three larger than life drawings; at the centre of which, flanked by Shakespeare and Wordsworth, was a replica of my book cover. I felt like the golf crazy Russian poet in one of plums golf stories, who thought that only Tolstoy and Shakespeare were any good, and comparable to him, and Wodehouse was tolerable, and the rest were rubbish.
Thoroughly pleased and embarrassed, I stoically sat through the performances of the much suffering volunteers, and the student body suffered them glumly, with bored clapping appreciating the end of individual bits. Only glitches were loudly appreciated.
Finally the dreaded moment came, and I had to earn my lunch. As the final item, the patience of the audience was stretched thin, and I had to tread cautiously, armed only with coconut water pick me ups.
Once again, forewarned by Gussie, I steered well clear of motivational talks. Instead, to give credence to my status as an author, I told them a story. To ensure total comprehension, I requested the vernacular language teacher to translate along in the local language, using all colloquialisms.
I made the story as politically incorrect as I could get away with, keeping the students happy, with a hidden message of tolerance and inclusiveness which would mollify the teachers. I acted, pranced, made animal noises and generally played the fool. Soon, the roars of laughter and appreciation that would be a match to the reception of Gussies speech came as music to my ears, and I could see the teachers smiling too.
After the speech I had a photo session with the kids and there was a mad scramble to shake my hands and take my autograph. A young lady wanted me to sign her shirt, but I dissuaded her warning her of her mother’s reaction, when she persuaded me to sign her hand.
This was my five minutes of fame promised to every citizen in this century. I briefly knew what rock stars feel all the time.
This is the story I told them, although altered to suit the mood.
Return of Gussie Fink Nottle