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Vol. XXIX No. 24, April 1-15, 2020

P.G. Wodehouse Writes to P.G. Sundararajan

by K.R.A Narasiah

KRA Narasiah recalls the time when the celebrated humorist wrote to PG Sundararajan aka Chitti, well-known litterateur of Madras.

The late P.G Sundararajan, known popularly as Chitti, joined a circulating library in 1935 when he was just 25 years old. In those days, circulating libraries were popular as people could read all the books and journals they wanted to for a modest subscription fee. As a consultant, it was Chitti’s job to select the titles to purchase for the library. He chose this line of work as he could also read all the books and magazines that he loved. In the process, he purchased all the books of P.G. Wodehouse, who quickly became his favourite author. He also came up with the idea of launching an English journal, which he volunteered to edit, to boost the library’s popularity. The library owner Thanikachalam (who was also the sole distributor of The Hindu in Madras) was highly impressed as the new journal Marina gained popularity among his clients. In fact, the name Marina was suggested by Chitti, after the Princess Marina of Greece who had, at that time, married into the Royal Family of England. Fortunately, Chitti’s friend Dhandapani was in charge of the art section at The Hindu at that time, and he gave Chitti a picture of the Princess from his collection.

Chitti published this picture as the cover of the first issue of Marina. Thanikachalam had some apprehension about publishing such a picture in a commercial journal, fearing objection from the government. But Chitti was not bothered. On the contrary, he was quite excited as he felt that the picture would be of great topical interest. The Madras Mail favourably reviewed the first issue and wrote, “The standard of language found in this magazine is much better than that of other English journals of Madras.” During a session in the provincial legislative assembly, a member objected to another member browsing through Marina, and that incident brought some added fame to Marina, too.

In the very first issue of Marina, Chitti had written a well-researched article about P.G. Wodehouse’s sense of humour, which was appreciated by many learned citizens. Thrilled, Chitti sent a copy of the journal to P.G. Wodehouse at his London address, along with a letter containing a request for an autographed photograph as a keepsake. Chitti’s friends thought that a busy and popular author like P.G. Wodehouse would not even read Chitti’s letter.

Lo and behold! Camping then in Paris, P.G. Wodehouse wrote a response dated January 18, 1936, saying, “Thank you so much for sending me the magazine. I thought your article most excellent and I shall always keep it. I am sorry I have run out of photographs. I have a book of short stories appearing soon and I hope to get to work on a new novel before long. Best wishes.”

Chitti used to say that he carried this postcard in his shirt pocket in such a way that it was clearly visible to others! In later years, Chitti used to say that the only thing common between both of them were the initials of their names.

Comments

  1. S. Venugopalan says:

    20 April is the birthday of our beloved dad CHITTI and I take it as a Birthday gift for his 110 birthday! from Magnificent Madras Musings! Nice article by Narasiah! Tx to all!

  2. P V Raghunathan says:

    I have closely known one of Chitti’S illustrious sons, S Govindarajan (Govind to me and many others SG).Govind is as good as PGW in subtle humour and ready wit; now I know the genetic roots .

  3. Meera Murti says:

    Great to know that Chitti’s finely penned article on Wodehousian humour in his popular journal ‘Marina’ earned the tribute ‘Most Excellent’ from the great PGW himself. He seems to have picked up quite a few tips from the hero in the Master’s novel ‘Psmith Journalist’ – showcasing a talent for elegant language and innovative thinking! Suchitra is keeping the family tradition flourishing.

  4. Maruthachalm.K says:

    Chitti brought out his amazing sense of humour in Keliyum Poliyum ( Imitation is the best form
    of flattery) I came to know about the sagacious valet Jeeves and talkative Psmith (characters of P.G.Woodhouse) only after speaking to him in 1980’s at Besant Nagar.

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