Summary (Masterplots II: Short Story Series, Revised Edition)
The story begins on the last Tuesday of a month when a colorfully painted bus brings Miss Rehana to the gates of a British consulate. This is the day when women, referred to as “Tuesday women,” go to the consulate to get visas to join fiancés who are working in England. Muhammad Ali, identified as an “advice expert” watches Miss Rehana descend from the bus and go to the consulate gates, where a guard tells her that the English officials are still eating breakfast. Muhammad Ali is immediately taken in by her beauty. Although he normally is paid for his advice and seeks to cheat women seeking visas, he decides to advise Miss Rehana even though she tells him she has no money.
The aging confidence man leads the young woman to his desk in a corner of the shanty-town near the British consulate. There, she tells him that she is seeking permission to go to Bradford, England, to be with her fiancé, Mustafa Dar. Muhammad Ali warns her that the sahibs, or British officials, are suspicious of the women seeking to go to England and that the sahibs will interrogate her in detail, asking private and sometimes embarrassing questions. If she fails to answer correctly, they will conclude that she is not really the fiancé of a British resident and will refuse her request. These are the claims that Muhammad Ali usually makes to his victims before asking them for money to obtain the proper papers from an acquaintance of his who works in the consulate. However, the...
(The entire section is 502 words.)
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“When I first saw The Wizard of Oz, it made a writer of me,” Rushdie once said. He drew on his interest in that story when he wrote “Good Advice Is Rarer Than Rubies,” which alludes to the famous slippers that offer Dorothy an opportunity to go home, away from the magical and foreign place that is Oz. “Good Advice Is Rarer Than Rubies” was published in the collection East, West, which explores the ways in which people of Eastern ethnicity, especially those from India and Pakistan, experience conflict when they confront Western cultures. The collection is divided into three groups of stories—the East, the West, and the combination of both. “Good Advice Is Rarer Than Rubies” uses unreliable third-person narration to celebrate Eastern values through a tale about an Indian woman who will use trickery to avoid marriage to a man in Great Britain because she prefers to stay at her home in India. Miss Rehana, a beautiful Indian woman, so beautiful that she captures the attention of all men who look at her, is on her way to get her papers to go to London. Muhammad Ali, an expert advice-giver and trickster, smitten by her beauty, gives her free advice as to how to avoid the insults and red tape of immigrating to England, offering to arrange for her a free passport to bypass this. After listening to him patiently, Rehana instead uses his advice to avoid getting the permits she needs. Her fiancé in England was chosen by her parents rather than by herself, and as it turns out, he is an old man. She prefers to reject the Indian societal pressure to marry and instead continues her life as an independent, single woman working as an ayah (nanny) to three children in Lahore. The story rejects the notion that England is a preferable place to live over India but equally rejects the Indian practice of arranged marriage as well as the expectation that all young women must marry. As a result, the author does not simply celebrate Indian culture; he depicts it in a realistic, nuanced way.
Every Tuesday, women arrive from different parts of India to apply at the British consulate for a permit to enter England, where they will meet with their fiancés or husbands selected by family members through the tradition of arranged marriages. Muhammad Ali makes sure he is always there to meet the bus of “Tuesday women” because he “specialize[s] in advising the most vulnerable-looking of these weekly supplicants,” charging them a fee for his “services,” which he purports will simplify the immigration process. In fact, he merely cons the women desperate to get to England.
When he sees Miss Rehana climb off the bus, however, Muhammad Ali is struck by her uncommonly beautiful eyes. Approaching her, he offers his services for a small fee. “Good advice is rarer than rubies,” she tells him, adding, “But alas, I cannot pay,” for she is not a wealthy woman. He continues to urge her to accept his help but she continues to decline because she does not have the money. Normally, Muhammad would walk away or try harder to convince her to pay for his services; however, Miss Rehana seems different than the other women he makes it his business of conning. Her beautiful eyes overpower him so much that, in spite of his best instincts, he finds himself offering her his advice for free. “I have been drawn to you by Fate,” he tells her, so “for you my advice is free,” even while he says to himself, “I am going crazy.” “This fraud,” as the narrator describes the old man, is completely charmed by the beauty of Miss Rehana. She smiles and agrees to listen, because “when Fate sends a gift, one receives good fortune.” She does indeed “receive good fortune,” but not the way Muhammad intends.
Bringing her to his desk in the corner of the “shanty town” near the consulate, he asks Miss Rehana questions that make him sound official while also gathering information about her. Nonplussed by his official demeanor, Miss Rehana merely munches on the pakoras she purchased at a stall when she got off the bus. During the interview, Muhammad Ali inspects her application papers, deems them “tip-top,” but then he tries again to frighten her, warning again of the difficulty of entering England, for the “sahibs [think] that all the women who come on Tuesdays...[are] crooks and liars and cheats.” She needs help—his help, he again insists. Finally, she asks for his advice and, delighted, he tells her that he...
(The entire section is 834 words.)