‘Good Advice Is Rarer Than Rubies’ by Salman Rushdie is the first short story in a collection of ten. It tells of one of the British Consulate’s Tuesday women, Miss Rehana. On the last Tuesday of the month, young women travel long distances to try to gain entry into England and be with their fiancés. The lala at the gates asserts his authority and power over them, even though he is only guarding the Consulate entrance. Most of them are accompanied by one or more male relatives, but Miss Rehana is alone because she is an orphan. Seeing her on her own, a grey-haired man called Muhammad Ali comes over to Miss Rehana, ostensibly wanting to share his wisdom to help her so that she will get her papers for travel to England. She appears to take his advice, but we feel there is something she knows that the reader and Muhammad Ali are not privy to. After she leaves the Consulate, we learn what happened to Miss Rehana.
If you’re new to Salman Rushdie, this is a great story to begin with. Sentences which appear simple are rich and revealing. Rushdie hints to the reader, but does not reveal anything until the end of the story. There is a twist in this tale about transformation of character and traditional notions of power, and it is well worth reading the story to find out what these are.
‘Good Advice Is Rarer Than Rubies’ in Salman Rushdie, East, West (London: Vintage, 1995).