Thursday, March 24, 2011
The story that I found most interesting was “Good advice is rarer than rubies” because of the way he develops his characters to show the love for one’s home culture. This story shows the displacement between a familiar culture and one that is expected of them, and as I read the story, I felt bad for Rehana because of the decision that was made for her when she was young. Rushdie shows an Eastern tradition of arranged marriages, and how people are often unhappy with that predetermined choice, and the desire to make decisions for one ’s self. This story truly emphasizes the love for home and how sometimes people do not want to adapt to another situation because they prefer the life that they have. As I read, I placed myself in Rehana’s shoes and was sympathetic for her because if I were in her position, I would not want to move to another country where I did not feel comfortable.
One thing that attracted me to Rushdie’s book was the form. Rushdie does something very different by creating separate stories for readers to follow, but then organizes them into three separate parts. When I first picked up the book, I flipped through it and was struck by how Rushdie placed the stories into three sections, which is in a similar format to authors we have read already. The titles of the three sections are significant because they describe the different directions that one can take, yet as I thought about this deeper, I considered the fact that Rushdie may be commenting and saying that despite what direction you choose to take, you can make any place in the world your own home. Although some of his characters may not be enthusiastic about leaving their homes, I think that Rushdie is saying that it is possible to leave and adapt. I have not finished the entire book, but I found the three parts very telling because they show how Rushdie recognizes the different places and points in their lives that people may be in, and connects them all through one text. Although we know that Rushdie explains the difficulties of fitting into a culture as an outsider, I think that he is still encouraging his readers to try. This form also asks the reader to look closely at a connection between each of the stories to see how Rushdie pieces the entire work together.
The stories in Rushdie’s text truly show how important home is and how difficult it can be to live in a place that you are not used to and do not feel immediately content with. I think that Rushdie’s short stories are a unique way to relate to the reader and help them understand how his characters feel.
While Rushdie’s East, West is a collection of short stories, the work that most caught my attention was the final story of East. “The Prophet’s Hair” was tragically poignant, a tale of misfortune for nearly every character. As I read, I was reminded of the importance of family and the effect that they have on our lives.
Over the course of this semester, I’ve come to understand the significance of the word ‘home.’ It isn’t simply a place where you go to sleep and rest—a home is safe and familiar, filled with the people you care deeply for. A home is a great thing, but the family you share that home with makes all the difference.
I went home for spring break this year. Some of my friends fled to warmer climates, and others were involved with Spring Break Outreach. A part of me would have liked to take a trip to Florida or some tropical island so I could relax on a beach for five days. Instead, I found myself admiring the consistently cold temperature of New Jersey, despite one or two days when the weather painstakingly teased us with warmth and sunshine. While home, I decided to search through one of the closets that’s filled with pictures.
My mom keeps most of the photographs we have in bins, saying that she’ll organize them one day as a project. Wanting to help my mother, I dragged a number of bins to the center of the room and began digging through the massive amount of envelopes. You remember the days of disposable cameras, right? We must have gone through enough of them to supply a small army. There were so many pictures, which was a good thing for me because it meant that I wouldn’t reach the end of my trip down memory lane for quite some time.
I must have spent three straight hours flipping through picture after picture after picture. Some brought back memories, great times I spent with my mom, dad, and sister. Others I had no recollection of, and it was fun seeing my younger self interacting with the rest of my family, immediate as well as extended. I began to realize how extremely blessed I was to be a part of such a loving, caring family. Not every kid grows up with fond memories of his childhood; many want nothing more than to forget the nightmare that was home.
My parents have always been (and always will be) open and honest with my sister and me. They have always told us that we were adopted, and whenever we ask questions about our history, they give us straight answers (if they know the answer, of course). I’ve always respected that about my mom and dad, and recently I’ve noticed I’m able to connect with my parents on a deeper level. I am no longer a child in need of constant parenting; being in this state has given me opportunities to know and understand my mom and dad on an adult level.
In “The Prophet’s Hair,” we see what secrecy can do to two polar opposite families. An important concept I drew from this story was this: when the head of the house falls (meaning the man of the house), so too does the rest of his family. When Hashim chooses to keep the stolen relic, a type of curse is placed on his home; his actions following the discovery of the prophet’s hair are terrifying and abnormal. Before the vile was brought into their home, hurtful thoughts/secrets were kept hidden between the man and his wife and children. Hashim’s explosion toward his family provides relief for him; he must have been harboring those thoughts for a long time. Secrets tend to take a toll on the person keeping them, and this can be seen in “The Prophet’s Hair.”
The family’s home was no longer a place of safety and refuge with Hashim’s volatile nature. Huma’s desperation led her to an extremely dangerous man to help solve her problem. Her father, like many fathers today, became unbearable to live with.
How do you view your dad? Your mom? Is your family a safety net for you or a cause for dread?
Throughout the teacher (the narrator) expresses his belief that if Ramani’s parents were alive he would be on a different path. He even takes it upon himself to interject and attempt to make things right by confronting the thief’s widow and asking her to cease relations with Ramani. His effort is ultimately futile, and he lobbies his case no further. Clearly the teacher believes Ramani needs guidance, offering it to him whenever he can. There are also junctures where Ramani seeks guidance from the teacher, exposing his need for parenting. In one scene the teacher talks of how the widow is depriving Ramani of his manhood. Deprivation is almost always an indicator of strangled freedoms, and here is no different.
Ultimately this story is about a boy without a home. Eventually he seems to find one, but is it the home that he really wants? He uses his unfiltered freedom, unhampered by parentage, to find his home, but is it truly his home? The narrator makes it seem like Ramani is a victim of exploitation at the hands of an enthralled widow. Unable to cope without a homeland, and much too young to know how to deal with such an experience, Ramani places his homeland in the radio. What his real home becomes is the home of the widow’s husband, a home left behind. Ramani’s entrapment in a home that isn’t uniquely his is the real tragedy of this story.
The letter at the end is indicative of his entrapment, but are we supposed to take these claims at face value or are we meant to question the verisimilitude of his predicament? The teacher’s skepticism, like all skepticism, seems slightly misplaced, but I can’t help but agree with him. The letter speaks of wealth and happiness, but the teacher’s comments in the final paragraph on the boy’s “huge mad energy he poured into conjuring reality” (32). Is this just another conjured fantasy to fill the void left by a lack of homeland? The fact that he chooses to write to the teacher also shows his lack of homeland. With his parents deceased, he has no one to turn to. Although he shares an intimate relationship with the teacher, both of them feel uncomfortable taking it to the level of a parent-child relationship.
At the end we are left with a tragic, sympathetic view of a boy who wasn’t able to build himself a true home. His unfiltered freedom ultimately destroyed itself, leaving him trapped in a place that he shouldn’t be. Unfortunately this type of thing is all too real and happens all too often in our own world. People deserted by their homes often find reconciliation in entrapment, and forge new homes that aren’t nearly comparable to what was or could’ve been.
The conversation that we had in class on Tuesday about arse-kissing truly resonated with me when reflecting on the goals I wish to achieve through my service throughout the semester. While I would certainly lose my volunteer position if not get arrested if I tried so much as to touch any of the people I tutor on a regular basis, metaphorically speaking, it is just this type of arse-kissing that I hope to be able to do with them.
My goal is to create equality, trust and comfort between myself and the women and children that I tutor. Without such a relationship it is impossible for us to learn from each other or to build a camaraderie in which we view one another as equals. I have found this easier to do with the women at the Caroline Center than the children at Guilford. This is due in large part to the fact that I am there more frequently and see the same small group of women each time. At Guilford I still feel like I am a little bit of an alien presence that descends upon the school every Thursday afternoon. There is only one student who I have come in contact with on several occasions and despite my best efforts I have not yet been able to crack him. He is an extremely intelligent boy, or at least one who is very good at memorizing facts, who comes after school to study for class before heading off to his second after-school program. Once we burn through his study sheet I try to ask him about himself. He politely answers directly to the point and no farther. I helped him clean up the classroom, which I believe surprised him, but still didn’t grant me access to the inner-workings of his 11 year old mind. If he remembers my name I’ll be satisfied.
On the other hand, I have come to get to know a little bit about each of the women at the Caroline Center and we have come to develop a familiarity with each other that Hau’ofa seems to suggest can create an equality that could ultimately be the solution to world peace. I cannot help but think of how we would view each other had we met under different circumstances. It is possible that one woman could be my cashier somewhere or even just someone I pass on the street and, without a doubt, we would have made certain assumptions about the other that are ingrained into our minds through the media, fear and unsupported prejudices. I would appear to be a snobby, selfish Loyola student and chances are I would assume her to be uneducated, unmotivated and without a future. These things could not be farther from the truth. While, of course, I am a Loyola student, I’d like to think that I’m not snobby or selfish and these women are possibly more motivated to get their education than most Loyola students are. I have heard many of them say things such as “I never miss school,” “I’m here every day…” or “I only miss school when I’m sick.” Many college students, on the other hand, tend to lean more towards “It’s over 60 and sunny out…I don’t need to go to class today” or “I’m kind of tired, I’ll get the notes from someone.” We’re all guilty of it. Perhaps because we feel entitled, perhaps because we know that missing a day will not be detrimental to our grade because we can usually bounce back, unless the attendance policy sneaks up on us. It doesn’t work that way for these women. They need to learn what is taught in class every day because they need to get their GED in order to succeed in the current economy. Sure, if they miss a day they can get the assignment but they do not have time like we do after school to make it up because they are juggling jobs and raising children, often by themselves. As Hau’ofa and Kolvenbach encourage, by being in direct contact with such strong women who I might have otherwise written off, I believe we are all experiencing the expansive vision that it is possible for humans to have. By recognizing that there is no inferior or superior group, eliminating fear and finding that common ground that can open up the world we are individually taking the steps towards creating a new future that doesn’t have to be like reality is now.
I guess the magic is all the same, magic is magic. I'm a total Oz nut. I still have the VHS from when I was a kid and for Xmas my mom brought me the 70th anniversary edition. The image of the ruby alippers are, in the movie, something that aew qanted by evil, but they are also a symbol of home. I gind it interesting in the story we read that the main character wants nothing to do with this magical world she is in. She just seemed kinda of too lady-like for me at times.
However, she has something different than Dorothy. Dorothy spends the entire movie trying to get home, and this woman makes a choice to go back to her homeland. Personally, I think she makes a stupid decision. Then again Im not shocked; its a motif tha's been used a dozen times. The main character is at a cross roads and chooses the former when everyone thinls she's going to choose the later. Not an exhausted theme, but then again its also a short story so there is a limtde space to work with, as opposed to a 2 hour mvoe. The title though, shows what will happen through to the end of the book, and that is the most transparent title I've seen in a long time.
The other irony is that thorugh this magical experience, is tht it makes the main character miss her normal life even more. She chooses to go back to normalcy through seeing the abnormal; Dorothy had some kind of tension because she had grown fond of the friends that she made in Oz. The interesting breakdown of both characters is a really interesting comparison, given the title used. In additiont to the motifs of home.
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
In Rushdie’s Good Advice is Rarer Than Rubies, The Prophet’s Hair, and At the Auction of the Ruby Slippers, home is seen as a place in which one feels a sense of familiarity and belonging. In At the Auction of the Ruby Slippers, Rushdie uses the ruby slippers as a reference to The Wizard of Oz and its relationship to home. Personally, The Wizard of Oz has always creeped me out, and if I were Dorothy I would want to get back home right away. Not only is Oz unfamiliar to Dorothy, but she also is introduced to many different kinds of “people,” for instance the tin man, lion, scarecrow, witches, and munchkins. When one feels as though one does not belong, it contributes to one’s dislike of his or her homeland. One’s home should be created with love, and as we learned from Kisses in the Nederends, should provide comfort and allow one to be him/herself, even if it means farting in order to be comfortable with oneself and others, because one’s homeland should allow one to “overcome the fear of not being somebody” (Rushdie 103).
At the end of Good Advice is Rarer Than Rubies, Muhammad Ali realizes that Miss Rehana is happier to stay in her homeland with the familiar than she would have been in unfamiliar England to live with a stranger. In her homeland, Miss Rehana feels a sense belonging as she explains, “I work in a great house, as ayah to three good boys. They would have been sad to see me leave” (15). She has a job and family that makes up her home. Also, the tests by the Sahins (although ridiculous) may go to show that she is not ready to enter into a homeland that is unfamiliar with a man she hardly knows. One’s homeland should be created out of love, not through force, making one move and create a new life for his/herself that one does not truly desire.
In The Prophet’s Hair, the main characters’ home begins to change for the worst once the relic is discovered. It is as though an unwelcome guest has invaded their home, creating complete disarray, as Hashim changes his behavior in the presence of the relic. Atta, Huma, and their mother feel a loss of their homeland for they all feel a loss of themselves as Hashim no longer treats them as family members. Instead, he abuses them, which eventually leads to the family’s demise. Again, one’s homeland should provide one with a sense of belonging and love. Therefore, the relic in its “unfamiliar” homeland needs to be returned to its home in the mosque for certain parts of one’s homeland to get better (although only the blind woman benefited at the end). The lack of freedom in the household brought on by the power of the relic destroyed this homeland, but as with many of the characters we have met in the other novels we have read in class, one must “take matters into one’s own hands” in order to try and preserve one’s homeland. For the characters in The Prophet’s Hair and Okonkwo in Things Fall Apart, their efforts resulted in death, but in Good Advice is Rarer than Rubies, Miss Rehana takes action to gain entrance into England, but when her efforts fail, she happily returns to her homeland where she belongs.
As stated previously, one’s homeland should provide a place in which one feels comfortable and knows who one is and that he or she belongs. The auction unites various types of people (rich, poor, old, young, etc) with the common goal of buying something to add to one’s homeland and/or feel as though one is “somebody.” Rusdie ends At the Auction of the Ruby Slippers saying, “Thanks to the infinite bounty of the Auctioneers, any of us cat, dog, man, woman, child, can be a blue-blood; can be – as we long to be; and as, cowering in our shelters, we fear we are not - somebody” (103). We all have the potential to be something great, but cannot hide in our physical homes. Rather, we should leave our physical homes in order to make our outside environment, our homelands, better. For those who go to the auction, they are looking for greatness in the objects that are sold, just as Dorothy found greatness (her home) in her ruby slippers. Again, love, of an object, person, or physical location is what creates one’s homeland, providing one with a sense of belonging where one can be his/herself.
When reading Rushdie’s Good Advice is Rarer than Rubies, I was struck by Miss Rehana’s attitude throughout the story. She enters an unfamiliar place, and from the moment she descends the stairs of the bus, she carries herself with grace and confidence, attracting the attention of those around her. Initially I believed that she must simply be encouraged by her beauty and her engagement to a sophisticated London man. However, as I read on, I realized that the source of her self-assurance was not quite so external.
Miss Rehana meets Muhammad Ali and seems to be somewhat fidgety after he corrects her mistaken reference to Bradford, England as Bradford, London. Rushdie writes that she thanked him, “responding gravely” (8). She then allows the old advice-wallah to peruse her paperwork, asking “Is it OK?” and “for the first time there was a hint of anxiety in her voice” (8). Her apprehension, however, is slight and brief. The moment of concern is later overshadowed by her remarkable composure upon explaining her story to Muhammad Ali and divulging her utter failure during the passport test: “I got all their questions wrong…Distinguishing marks I put on the wrong cheeks, the bathroom décor I completely redecorated, all absolutely topsy-turvy, you see” (15). In this instance I understood that not only did Miss Rehana get all of the questions, but she didn’t care. Although she tells the old man that her fiancée is a stranger to her, the type of questions she was asked could have easily been discussed over the phone to ensure success. She seems to have purposely avoided sufficient preparation for the test and, I suspect through her allowing Muhammad Ali to double-check her papers, even went to extra lengths to ensure failure.
What is her explanation for all of the self-inflicted sabotage and apparent indifference to failure? “Now I will go back to my Lahore and my job. I work in a great house, as ayah to three good boys. They would have been sad to see me leave” (15). Despite this response, Muhammad Ali continues to grieve dramatically. Miss Rehana calmly tells him, “I do not think…I truly do not think you should be sad” (15). The final image we are given of the lovely Miss Rehana is of her smile, which Rushdie describes as “the happiest thing he [Muhammad Ali] had seen in his long, hot, hard, unloving life” (16).
This story’s message about “home” seemed to me to have many facets. Like works we have read in the past, home here involves familiarity, comfort and most importantly, love. For Miss Rehana London was a complete lack of all those “home essentials.” However, the most striking idea about home I took away from this tale, and my among my favorite I myself have come across thus far, is that where you consider home is a place you want to be so desperately, so badly, that you would do anything to be able to stay there. When your home is equipped with all the “home essentials” (a list which varies among individuals and can go on and on), the joy you feel there and the longing when you are away are inexpressible. Home is what people mean when they say, “There’s nowhere else I’d rather be.”
When I first started reading Rushdie’s “East, West”, I honestly didn’t understand what I was supposed to get out of the stories because they all seem to say something else that didn’t make up a medley, as we spoke about a few classes back. When I actually put thought into what the stories meant and what the characters symbolized, it made me realized how brilliantly written the stories were. The story that resonated the most to me was “Good Advice Is Rarer Than Rubies”. I guess it was because one of the main characters was a young lady who was just trying to figure out the world, in her own way, by herself, and I that’s something that I’m doing, or trying to do at this very moment. It seems like there are many of my family members who already have my life planned out for me, because they think they know me and they are not afraid to proclaim what their plans are.
At the end of the story, Muhammad Ali seemed more devastated at the end when Rehana didn’t end up getting the passport to England. He, along with other people in the country assumed that a young woman would want and should want to uproot everything that she had in India to go England because there was a man waiting for her. I also think that by having Ali narrate the story, we gain so much more than if Rehana were to narrate it. We get to see how much they (the people of India, represented by Ali) expected out of a young lady.
However, Rehana ends up overturning those assumptions and actually uses the advice that she was given by Ali to bomb her interview and get denied the passport. Ali couldn’t seem to grasp why a young woman would want to stay in India and I think that says a lot about the society that she was in. I guess the moral of the story was to not assume. It sounds like such a simple task and we learn it from we are very young, “don’t judge a book by its cover”! However, it’s almost as if it’s second nature to see something and automatically assume and judge that thing without even getting to know that person, or thing, or whatever it is.
I think this is what most of these authors have been trying to do with the works that we have read so far. We have in Hau’ofa, the overcoming of assumptions that traditional medicine and modern medicine had about each other. In the end, they both ended up working together to help Oilei take care of his problem. In “Potiki” when the father lost his job, other characters assumed that the family was going to become destitute and he was thinking quite the opposite. Now he had time to actually look after the land and live off of it like they are supposed to. Most of novels/essays have been tools for us to use to overturn certain assumptions that we may have had before reading them.
Chekov and Zulu are the two main characters, and we never learn their real names, although Rushdie does tell us that Zulu is a Sikh. The story takes place after the death of Indira Gandhi at the hands of two Sikhs, and mentions that members of the Sikh religion are being violently persecuted for their peers’ actions. Chekov and Zulu reside in London, and are on a mission from a their government to discover who is behind the attack. The two men endlessly liken their mission to an adventure from the Star Trek television show, which is endlessly humorous. Chekov is the brains behind the operation, whereas Zulu is the one who will be embedded in the terrorist organization, who they call the Klingons. Chekov, in his spare time, makes money by entertaining wealthy business men, who donate money to the Indian government. Clearly, Chekov is fine with associating with the colonizers of India, although he mentions that their home “has been plundered by burglars, (155)” referencing the fact that there are large amounts of Indian art in the English museums, and much of the British Empire’s success was based on the toiling and suffering of the Indian people. Zulu on the other hand, is a simple family man who prefers to focus only on the mission at hand.
The characters’ obsession with Star Trek is an interesting detail for Rushdie to involve. Clearly the characters were deeply affected by the American television show, even though Chekov admits that they never saw the show as children and simply used their imaginations to create legends around the characters they had heard of. This hobby carries over into their adult lives, as we see that Zulu has Star Trek figurines on his mantle and his wife has been forced to watch endless episodes. In America, people like this are referred to as Trekkies, and are generally written off as nerds regardless of what they do in life. However, these two Indian trekkies are more like James Bond than they are like Geeks. They know how to lose tails and infiltrate terrorist cells to retrieve secret documents that they can then give to their government, who can in turn use them to take down sleeper cells in their own country. This is funny to think about, and next time I see a grown man dressed up like a Klingon, I’ll think twice before messing with him, because he might know krav maga or jujitsu or something.
All joking aside, each character’s overt love of western culture, which also includes Zulu’s deep reading of Lord of the Rings, covers up their feelings about English involvement in Indian politics and terrorism. Chekov, at a dinner party amongst wealthy English “India Lovers”, states, “England has always been a breeding ground for our revolutionists. (164)” He says this with a sort of approval, suggesting that he is thankful to England for doing such a great service for India. In reality, these revolutionists were often the starting point for bloody struggles and terrorist organizations. Zulu has a much grave view of Englands’ involvement in terrorism. After he completes his mission and subsequently quits, he tells Chekov, “terrorists of all sorts are my foes. But not, apparently, in certain circumstances, yours.” This is a reference to the fact that evidence implicated English congressmen in the attack on Indira Ghandi, the same congressmen that Chekov associated with at his dinner parties. Clearly Zulu has a much different opinion than Chekov. Rushdie uses humorous and serious tones to contrast the allure of western culture like Star Trek with the ominous implication of Western governments in Eastern problems. This, in turn creates an extremely fun story to read and ponder, as well as it instills a respect for my inner geek.
This problem can be especially difficult for actors who have to assume roles for extended periods of time. In my experience with theatrical productions, the actors must quite literally live in the worlds of their characters for the duration of the rehearsals and productions of the show. I have seen actors become engrossed in these roles to the point of detriment, especially if the role requires heavy emotional exertions. One show I was in was about students in a Catholic high school dealing with friendship issues and questioning their faith. Many of the college-age students I was performing among began picking up traits of high-schoolers. We became like students in a school, and the world of Holy Trinity high school became our own. My director knew me only as Emily, my character’s name, and still to this day, even after I later played the role of Katie, believes that is my name. We called the only adult member of the cast “Father Frank” on a regular basis. His real name was Don, but his character name seemed more respectful. I have often had the experience in becoming caught up in a fictional world. The emotional toll that follows afterward, with the end of the show, is strongly linked to the fictional reality we all lived in for months.
This is what I thought of when reading “At the Auction of the Ruby Slippers” in Salman Rushdie’s novel East, West. The story centers on the auctioning of the fantastical and omnipotent ruby slippers of Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz. No, not the slippers used in the film. The actual slippers that Dorothy herself wore. The slippers that transported her home from the land of Oz. The heels she clicked together three times to leave the fantasyland.
People come from far and wide to bid on this incredible item. The narrator himself is anxious to win the bidding. His desire lies in the loss of his lover. He believes that he can get his lover to come back to him if only he could present her with these ruby slippers. He wants to use them to bring her home. Ironically, her name is Gale, which just happens to be Dorothy’s last name. The narrator is right alongside all of the fanatical bidders looking to bring home this piece of fantasy. They are all so enthralled and engrossed in the fiction that they allow it to transport them away from home. It takes them out of the world and into the delusion that the slippers might actually be all powerful. A fantasy world just as titillating as Oz itself.
The narrator bids relentlessly, and he bids high. He is willing, he says, to pay anything to get his love back. He admits he may have built his love up, remembered her falsely. But he wants her back regardless. As he is bidding, however, he seems to be transported to another world, a realm out of the one in which he is bidding. It seems he goes into a fantasy world in his mind. But really he is being transported away from the fantasy, away from the slippers that may or may not be powerful, away from the Gale he remembers, away from the bidding that will help return him to her. He is taken to a world where the fanatics are not, where Gale is just as ordinary as anyone else, and where the slippers, whether they exist or not, are not worth the all-consuming attention. The fantasy actually lifts him up so much that he is transported away from it and he can let go.
Dorothy’s slippers take him home.
The tile of the first short story, “Good Advice is Rarer than Rubies,” sets the stage for Rushdie’s comment on the power of advice and how it defines our relationship to home. I have always considered advice to be a very transformative tool for how it so significantly affects us, leading us toward a particular path in life or away from another direction. It’s something we seem to always say we want, but are seldom pleased with finally receiving – sort of like finding out the answer to something we wish we never knew. Advice has the power to deepen our opinions about something, as well as cause us to reconsider something we once thought was permanent; to say advice was powerful would be an understatement.
For me, I have always identified advice with my Dad. When I think back to every important decision I have had to make or when I just wasn’t sure if my gut was telling me the truth, I have looked to my Dad. Recently, I find myself picking up the phone or e-mailing him more and more often as I search for jobs, consider interviews, and debate relocating cities. He’s my go-to for instant advice, be it for an additional suggestion or the occasional, “Well, I’ll have to think about it some more”…in other words, not so great idea. It wasn’t until I went away to college that I realized the influence his advice has had on my optimism and enthusiasm for exploring a new hobby or taking on a new challenge. In high school it was easy to just drop by his office adjacent to our family’s living room and casually ask him what he thought of my latest idea. Now more than just a room away, I sometimes have to be my own “advice.” Rather than rely on him for every bit of guidance, I imagine myself sitting in his black swivel chair and thinking to myself, “What would Dad say?” The countless pep talks, discussions, and occasional debates between the two of us have become a part of my thought process and my perception of what it feels to be at home. Home is where my Dad’s voice is and the comfort of knowing he just “gets” me.
This is not to say, however, that my dad’s advice was always spot-on, let alone what I always initially gone looking for. It’s very likely that for every time I have been extremely grateful for his words of wisdom, I have resented his ability to so significantly affect my thoughts. Rushdie, too, acknowledges this “hypocritical” nature of advice when Miss Rehana turns the tables on Muhammad Ali and reminds him he may not know everything. Muhammad Ali insists he can help Miss Rehana by offering a fake passport, later lamenting to himself, “Old fool, the oldest fools are bewitched by the youngest girls” (11). He even promises her that he is doing what “I would not do for my own daughter,” creating this falsified document and “solving all your problems in one stroke” (11). Ali Muhammad thinks he is doing Miss Rehana a favor by creating her a new identity, suggesting he himself knows very little about her no cares to learn any more. He assumes he understands her story, insisting “parents act in our best interests,” when she shares with him her arranged marriage (14). In truth, however, he is looking at her from the surface, as just another face he can distort on a passport. Her identity means nothing to him until she offers a self of herself to him personally, in turn bestowing advice on him. Ironically, it is Miss Rehana who says about her fiancée, “I have his photo, but he is like a stranger to me” (14). Muhammad Ali also sees Miss Rehana’s face as a stranger, able to be altered with simple switch of identities.
It is not until Miss Rehana returns and reveals that their plan has failed does Muhammad Ali see her as someone beyond words on a passport. “I do not think you should be sad,” she tells him…Now I will go back to Lahore and my job” (15). “Her last smile,” Rushdie writes, “was the happiest thing he had ever seen in his long, hot, hard, unloving life” (16). Muhammad Ali realizes the significance of advice from a stranger, powerfully enough, as Rushdie suggests, to shape the rest of his life. Similar to the surprises my Dad’s advice always brings, Muhammad Ali is rewarded by another’s words that will last him a lifetime.
Ruby Slippers have been a symbol of home since the Wizard of Oz first appeared on screen. Click three times and you shall return home safe and sound. Rushdie takes the shoe’s symbolism a bit farther in his story. He writes “behind bullet-proof glass, the ruby slippers sparkle. We do not know the limits of their powers. We suspect that these limits may not exist” (88). It would appear from this statement that the thousands of bidders at this auction are only here so that they may be able to buy something that could promise them anything in the world. While one would suspect that these bidder’s desire material things, such as power, money and fame, Rushdie instead explains that these bidder’s desire to find a true home. He writes “Home has become such a scattered damaged, various concept in our present travails. There is so much to yearn for. There are so few rainbows any more” (93). This quote explains how many of us have lost our sense of home and therefore we have lost our sense of life. We feel unconnected and through this feeling we have lost hope and we turn away from future promises of good.
I really connected with Rushdie’s quote “their affirmation of a lost state of normalcy in which we have almost ceased to believe and to which the slippers promise us we can return” (92). I know that everyone has felt lost sometime in their life. There is an emptiness that seems to loom over oneself and make one start to question everything. These uncontrollable thoughts send you on a downward spiral where you feel as though you are spinning and spinning until you feel like you will never stop. You wish for solid ground, a home where you can settle and put these thoughts to rest. I have been feeling this way recently due to the fact that I am nearing the end of my college career. I am not sure that when I am forced out into the real world I will be able to find a new home, a solid ground to settle on. As Rushdie said my “home has become such a scattered damaged,” place. And just as the Orphans wish for a time machine (93) I wish for one as well so that I can go back to simpler times, where I was content and confident in my home. I am sure I am not the only one who wishes for this.
Yet when you look further into Rushdie’s story you realize that he raises an even more important question when he writes “How hard can we expect even a pair of magic shoes to work? They promise to take us home, but are metaphors of homeliness comprehensible to them, are abstractions permissible? Are they literalists, or will they permit us to redefine the blessed word?” (93). Here Rushdie is questioning the shoes’ ability to fulfill our desires. Will these shoes send us to our current homes or will they understand that we desire them to find us our destined homes? I feel as though Rushdie is suggesting that nothing in this world can provide us with those answers, so instead we lie to ourselves and throw money at the problem. This way we give purpose to our lives again and we are able to feel that much closer to finding where our true homes lye.
However at the end of the story when the auction is over and the narrator is left with nothing, he touches upon a point that furthers our desire for home. He writes “Thanks to the infinite bounty of the Auctioneers, any of us, cat, dog, man, woman, child, can be a blue-blood; can be – as we long to be; and as, cowering in our shelters, we fear we are not - somebody” (103). It seems as though Rushdie is saying that our true feelings of home lie within ourselves and our insecurities. We all desire to be somebody in this world, because this gives us a solid ground to work off of. For if we don’t known ourselves, how can we know our true homes?
In East, West Rushdie explores the difference in being a “Fool-Actual” (79) and a “Fool-Professional” (79) in the short story “Yorick.” Yorick, the title character, is the King’s jester and the Fool of the story. As the “Fool-Professional,” Yorick was “permitted by his motley to speak wisdom and have men laugh at it; to tell the truth, yet keep his head, jingling as it was with silly bells” (79). But when Yorick becomes the “Fool-Actual” his wisdom is lost and he rants and roars, confirming the assumptions his audience makes. The Fool-Professional has superior insight into human nature and the important aspects of life; the Fool-Actual lacks the wisdom of the Fool-Professional.
We are consumed by the desire to not act the fool because we want to be accepted by others, but we forget that being a fool includes being a Fool-Professional and the wisdom attached to the position. Yorick only becomes a Fool-Actual when he doubts himself and believes he is a “Dolt” (79). And we too become fools, confirming the criticisms of others, when we doubt ourselves and abandon our individuality, only laughing when the crowd laughs. People may assume an individual is a Fool-Actual when he or she goes against the grain and expresses the unique voice inside of every human. However, the person who displays comfort in his or her body is the Fool-Professional, with the knowledge that to survive in the world one must find a home in themselves by embracing their quirks.
Hau’ofa, author of Kisses in the Nederends stated “One of the things I dislike about going to serious movies in our island is the damned audience. They always laugh uproariously at the wrong things and ruin the movie. It’s like when I went first to Australia, fresh out of the boondocks. I tended to laugh merrily at all sorts of things, and not infrequently, someone would ask indignantly, ‘what are you laughing at?’ I almost lost my sense of humour trying to be civilized; but fortunately I never got quite civilized” (Hau ‘ofa 161). Self-consciousness is a defining characteristic of human nature. We do not want to be the only one laughing; we do not want to look like a fool. So instead of embracing our individuality, we act with assumed civility and laugh when the crowd is laughing, losing our voice along the way.
Just like Hau ‘ofa, I laugh endlessly. I can find humor in almost any situation. In high school, I had a history teacher who would dress up like important historical figures we were studying. At the beginning of class, he would tell us that we had a visitor that day. People would roll their eyes and moan. During the middle of class, he would leave the room saying “I will be right back, I left something in my office.” Then he would return dressed up as Arthur Balfour, and other figures I am now forgetting. He would tell us a story—fully committing to the character, voice and all, occasionally wearing a fez since it was a Middle Eastern history class—while trying to drive a significant point into our heads, in hopes that we would learn something in high school. After the tale was told, he would promptly leave the classroom as said historical figure and come back as himself, asking “Did I just miss our visitor?” Every single time, the same chain of events happened. Apparently the room full of seniors was too good to find anything amusing in the situation. My fellow classmates would sit there with sour faces, and I would be laughing uncontrollably. I could not help it, though I realize the classroom isn’t the most appropriate place to be overtaken by laughter. When he would leave the class to go change into his alter-ego, my giggles would make their appearance.
Eventually, I caught on to the fact that no one else was laughing. I looked like the fool. I looked like the suck-up. My laughter became a form of brown-nosing in the eyes of my fellow classmate.
I decide that I would try to contain my outbursts in an effort to not be the Fool-Actual. But trying not to show my true emotions took away all the joy from the experience. I became too focused on not looking like a fool and as a result I didn’t learn, ultimately making me a fool. My laughter makes me unique. By denying that aspect of myself, I was no longer comfortable in my own skin. I was too aware of how others would judge me. But what is so great about being a part of the majority, and laughing “uproariously at the wrong things” (Hau ‘ofa 161), just because everyone else is laughing? You may feel like a fool, but you are being truly authentic. And in that moment of authenticity, you are an example of a greater wisdom; you are a “Fool-Professional” (Rushdie79). You know the importance of being honest, comfortable, and at home with oneself.
For one, I believe that traditions are important; they define us, and ultimately distinguish different races and individuals from others. While they create a certain unity, traditions are still one of those factors that aid in the individual’s quest for self expression. One person might practice something someone else, thus adding to their unique perspective. We need tradition, it is important, but as we all have witnessed, sometimes it can inhibit us. Hau’ofa in Nederlands is both showing how some traditions change while affirming that some still remain the same. He also, obviously, pokes fun at the times when various traditions do inhibit the people- when they can be a pain in the -yes- ass.
The most obvious example is in the question of modern medicine vs traditional medicine, the perfect catalyst for. Of course by the time the need for medicine rolls around, Olwei ‘s arse is in so much pain he is willing try any remedy that might bring him relief. That is except for modern medicine. Hau’ofa especially jests with the scene where Olwei is being ‘cured’ by Losana. It is an absolutely absurd scene that ends in an elaborate ritual that results only with Olewi in more pain, screaming some of the funniest profanity ever performed in recent literature. It is then with modern medicine that Olewi starts to gain some relief from his ailment. In his world the traditions of the past and new age medicine come together, they exist side by side. What Hau’fa seems to be saying here is that it is foolish to completely exclude one over the other, and through the incident affirms that one can still retain tradition. Here, Olwei was ignorant to new possibilities, and it cost him, it bit him in the ass. Just as Olwei was ignorant to a newer culture, so can others be to a native people and their own beliefs- a paradox, a reversal of ignorance showing that a cultural tradition can be just as biased as a newer more colonial people.
What’s also interesting is how Christianity is portrayed in the context of the novel. Again, we see the author making jests while at the same time questioning the role of tradition in modern society. The world of Nederlands is one that has vastly converted to Christianity and yet still retains ancient traditions passed on through their own separate culture. It is very much like how several pagan symbols and traditions became incorporated into own modern Christianity: “Although Tipotans had been Christians for over a century, they had not shed their fear of spirits. The new religion merely downgraded their native gods to the rank of malicious ghosts, who roamed everywhere and did horrible things to people.” (24)Again, some traditions don’t necessarily fade completely away. As seen here they adapt to the modern religion. Rather than dissipating the ancient gods, people still carry with them the unnecessary superstition and folklore that originally accompanied them. In this sense their stories and mythologies still exist in society, the oral tradition is still around but adapting to the new age.
The novel is not condemning either tradition or modernization, but rather begging the reader to not be arse and only choose one. When dealing with a homeland there can be many different aspects, many different traditions. Yet at the same time one must remember that they have the right to uphold any traditions or practices they choose and it shouldn’t be prevented just because of modernization. At the same time one should be open to new possibilities, new traditions.