"Her last smile, which he washed from the compound until the bus concealed it in a dust-cloud, was the happiest thing he had ever seen in his long, hot, hard, unloving life."
The gazebo was the only eye-catching structure from where I was standing, but I would still love the suburb neighborhood near Orchard Road. I assured my parents that I would be fine in our (hotel) room, as they would explore the malls near where we lived. We visited Little India last night, and then Chinatown the other day. My coursemates thought that the Singapore Flyer was similar to London Eye, but I would suspect that there were other Ferris wheels in other parts of the world. They could be the main attractions (like the Singapore Flyer and the London Eye). East would meet West in this island state, which won't have any semblance to Salman Rushdie's "East, West."
Rushdie lived in both East and West, and his collection of shorts blurred fiction and reality. I was uncertain if there was a satirical tone behind his tales, as his prose had an enchanting effect. My parents have the same feeling when they set foot in New Delhi many moons ago. (They promised me to go back to the subcontinent.) I grew up in Gold Coast, so I don't have any idea how a pair of Eastern eyes would look at a Western community. And the outcome could cover a wide range. It wouldn't be the case with Singapore, which can be seen in a day or two. Singapore and India, like Oz, were once part of the British Empire. But the locals have a different outlook.
The (dis)harmony of the spheres
"Good Advice Is Rarer Than Rubies" could have been an Eastern update of "Wuthering Heights." Muhammad Ali made a living from conning women who wished to get a British visa, but he made an exception on Miss Rehana. She was supposed to follow the long-standing tradition of arrange marriage, where her husband-in-waiting lived in England for some time. There was no trace of bitterness in her voice, not even sadness in her face. Life was surely unfair, but she accepted it. Mr. Ali, who was looking at the sunset, might have felt sorry for the young woman. He may have attempted to recapture those youthful feelings that were long gone. Miss Rehana made a good man out of him, even if she was unaware of the effects of her actions.
In Western society, Muhammad Ali would have been the bitter Heathcliff. It doesn't mean that the social structure in India would be better than an English society. (Mum told me to prepare for the unexpected.) Rushdie revealed the irony in a bittersweet tone, of how happiness could be found in small doses. The author didn't provide details about Mr. Ali's background, but his actions were enough.
"At the Auction of the Ruby Slippers" would describe how fictional characters and figures from popular culture crossed the line separating fiction and reality. It would be a pitiful sight, as mortals were desperate for attention. Rushdie penned this short in 1995, which was way before reality television took control of ordinary lives. He wasn't a visionary, as past generations have different means of getting recognition. The title would apply to Dorothy's pair of ruby slippers, which protect her from the Wicked Witch of the West. Where would the witch be? I couldn't see her from my window. It might be the same thing in London.
"Chekov and Zulu" delved into the chaotic chapter in Indian history, when India meddled in the civil war in Sri Lanka. The result spilled into the subcontinent, which cost the lives of Indira Gandhi and her son, Rajiv. Rushdie wasn't serious about it, as he thought about Len Deighton's spy stories. He also included the beloved characters from "Star Trek." I got lost midway, which upset me at first. It turned out to be a natural reaction, as Rushdie might not want his readers to be dragged into the vicious cycle. Could this be linked to the partition of India? It might be possible. The different dominions (of the British Empire) reacted differently to colonialism, and India's case created ripples. I hardly saw a similar case in this sleepy neighborhood, and the Merlion won't tell a thing.