I find myself reading Salman Rushdie wanting to nod my head in that way peculiar to those from South Asia. A gentle nodding and bobbing and swinging all in the one motion, through all three axes and almost impossible to mimic in their company without making a complete and utter fool of yourself. And be perceived to be mocking them. But Salman is not about the Indian seduction of my neck but my head. And it comes about through his playing with words. Running them together as they are spoken, giving a sense of that rapid fire staccato of the speaker regardless of where he hails from in that part of the world. India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh might have their political and religious differences but they are all united by a softly mangled use of the English language that is entrancing. Seems to me that the power of Rushdie lies in his ability to catch the ear of the spoken word. Straight up in the opening lines of the novel I am reveling in his words – the subject might not be laughing matter but his jumble of words are. Following the disappearance of one of the main characters (an actor) he writes “On one of Rama Studio’s seven impotent stages, Miss Pimple Billimoria, the latest chilli-and spices bombshell – she’s no flibberti-gibberti mamzell, but a whir-stir-get-lost-sir bundla dynamite – clad in temple-dance veiled undress and positioned beneath writhing cardboard representations of copulating Tantric figures from the Chandela period, – and perceiving that her major scene was not to be, her big break lay in pieces – offered up a spiteful farewell before an audience of sound recordists and electricians smoking their cynical beedis.” My goodness, where was Rushdie when I was sitting my English exams? A piece of prose like this would have been an examination blessing.
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