Good Advice Is Rarer than Rubies Summary
by Salman Rushdie

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Good Advice Is Rarer than Rubies Summary

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical 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 old man is so taken with Miss Rehana that he offers to provide her with a British passport.

Muhammad Ali is surprised by his own generosity and feels that, against his better judgement, he is about to give her the valuable passport for free. Miss Rehana, though, is shocked that he is urging her to do something illegal. She protests that such an action would justify the suspicions of the British sahibs, and she walks away from him.

The con man spends the day waiting for Miss Rehana outside the consulate. When she appears, smiling contentedly, he assumes that she has been given the visa. She tells him, though, that he was right. The British officials did ask her detailed questions about her fiancé. The engagement, she explains, was arranged by her parents when she was nine years old and Mustafa Dar was thirty. Because she had not seen Mustafa Dar for many years, she was unable to answer most of the questions about him and permission to enter England was denied.

Muhammad Ali exclaims that the outcome is tragic and that Miss Rehana should have taken his advice. However, the young woman is not at all sad not to be leaving her home for marriage to a virtual stranger in a foreign country. She returns on the bus to her job as an ayah, or nanny, for three boys in Lahore. Muhammad Ali is struck by the happiness in her smile.

Summary

“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...

(The entire section is 1,688 words.)