Any reader new to British Indian author Salman Rushdie must be aware of his great interest in the concept of home throughout his work—especially two short stories from the collection East, West (1994), “The Courter” and “The Auction of the Ruby Slippers,” and The Satanic Verses (1988). Born in Bombay, India, in 1947, Rushdie was sent to study in England at the age of fourteen. Since then, he has spent most of his life in England and has obtained British citizenship. Rushdie uses his own experience as a migrant to depict “a migrant’s-eye view of the world” (IH 394). He suggests that migration is an act of uprooting from one’s homeland. It comes with not only the sweetness of belonging to somewhere one has long wished but also the bitterness of running away from and eventually losing his or her home. By analyzing Victor Fleming’s 1939 MGM film The Wizard of Oz, Rushdie examines the possibilities of the rainbow for migration and the ruby slippers to return home. In the works above, he depicts how each migrant struggles to find them.
I. Rushdie and The Wizard of Oz
1992 BFI Film Classic booklet “The Wizard of Oz” is the fruit of Salman Rushdie’s love for the film The Wizard of Oz. With recollections of his childhood memories, he analyzes the film closely and shows how this film became his “very first literary influence” (WZ 9). He treats Dorothy Gale (Judy Garland) as a representative of migrants and her song “Over the Rainbow” as “the anthem of all the world’s migrants, all those who go in search of the place where ‘the dreams that you dare to dream really do come true’” (WZ 23). Through this song, Dorothy expresses the collective emotion of emigrants who wish to escape from their home by finding their rainbow. Rushdie, who once found his rainbow to leave India and founded his life in England, was once again in search of another rainbow, especially at the time of writing this essay in confinement (I will discuss in detail this later). By analyzing the film closely, he recalled how much influence this film had on him not only as an author but also as a child.
In 1957, at the Metro Cinema in Bombay, ten-year-old Rushdie saw the film, which inspired him to write his first story, “Over the Rainbow.” Ever since the first viewing, the film has been part of him and influenced his work—in particular, Haroun and the Sea of Stories (1990) and Midnight’s Children (1981), the Booker Prize winner. Although we must not ignore how his own experience as an immigrant also affected his work in terms of his interest in migration and home, the film remains a great source of inspiration because of its two famous elements: the song and the pair of ruby slippers. The film promises a way to escape and a way to return home. In the following, I am going to demonstrate why Dorothy’s song is appealing to those who wish to escape.
An escape is the lure of elsewhere where there is no trouble and where dreams come true. In The Wizard of Oz, orphaned girl Dorothy lives on her Uncle Henry (Charley Grapewin) and Aunt Em’s (Clara Blandick) farm in Kansas. Dorothy tries to tell what Miss Gulch has done to her dog Toto, but adults are too occupied with their work to listen to her. Although employees there—Hunk (Ray Bolger), Hickory (Jack Haley), and Zeke (Bert Lahr)—seem to care about her, they cannot help her either. Aunt Em says: “Now you just help us out today, and find yourself a place where you won’t get into any trouble” (WO). Wondering if such a place exists, she sings “Over the Rainbow.” During the song, Dorothy keeps her chin up to look for the blue sky in black-and-white sepia tone clouds. The camera frames her in a medium shot and follows her slowly in a long take with an interruption of a few-second shot of Toto. When she sings, “Birds fly over the rainbow. Why then, oh, why can’t I?” she notices the warbling of birds (WO). In the next shot, we see the sky where a ray of sunlight is leaking through cracks in clouds. Although this sunlight just looks ordinary, with birds singing on the sound track, this is the most beautiful scene so far in the film. At the finale of the song, one must not fail to notice a change in Dorothy’s description of the birds: “happy” and “little” (WO). While even “little” birds have a power to be free from gravity, Dorothy has no wings to fly away from the gravity of an unpleasant home. The sunlight yet looks promising so that she believes a place beyond the rainbow must be “happy.” After Miss Gulch comes to fetch Toto, which escapes from her and returns, Dorothy is determined that she must run away. Being a child, her mind is simple but belief is powerful enough for her to begin her escape.
Rushdie treats this scene as a beginning of the yearning for escape: “What she expresses here, what she embodies with the purity of an archetype, is the human dream of leaving, a dream at least as powerful as its countervailing roots” (WZ 23). The lure of the sunlight and of sound of happy birds encourages Dorothy to uproot from her dissatisfying home in Kansas. The sunlight represents the light in darkness that lures the lost. Migration becomes such light as hope for those who wish to escape. It is my contention that this scene is similar to movie theater experience. If we suppose that black-and-white Kansas is a movie theater in darkness, Dorothy is one of the audiences tightly restrained to her seat, as she is not free from the gravity of her home in Kansas. The ray of sunlight through the cloud clacks is the light reflected on the movie screen in which a dreamland exists. When Dorothy sings “Over the Rainbow” and looks at the sky (screen), her mind travels to somewhere over the rainbow. The way she looks at the sky is similar to how people in search of freedom or a better life look at her on screen in admiration or envy. Like Dorothy, those audiences are also chained to their unpleasant home, but they temporarily satisfy their desire for migration by experiencing an escape/migration by identifying with her.
If one has burdens and responsibilities on his or her shoulder at home, it is not easy to suddenly leave there. On one hand, some may argue that Dorothy can make her leave easily because she is just a child who is free from adult distress. While I agree that her carelessness with adult business is problematic, I, on the other hand, argue that we must not underestimate her ability to follow what her heart desires. Taking an affirmative tone towards her action, Rushdie suggests “Over the Rainbow” is “a celebration of Escape, a grand paean to the Uprooted Self, a hymn—the hymn—to Elsewhere” (WZ 23). Instead of cowering at home and being hesitant to change her fate, Dorothy sets herself free by uprooting from her home to explore other possibilities of life. Yet, at the end of the film, she learns that what she had initially desired in a foreign place has been always at home. Her journey in Oz helps her reevaluate the value of home.
The reason why The Wizard of Oz has not been forgotten but become a legendary film is that it shows a process of not only escape but also homecoming. “Over the Rainbow” triggers one’s desire to find a better life and celebrates escape. In contrast, the phrase, “There’s no place like home,” emphasizes one’s desire for returning home. Rushdie mentions a failure in financial success of the film’s premiere in 1939 due to the beginning of World War II shortly after; the film did not establish its popularity until it was shown on TV (WZ 11). Along with Bob Clark’s 1983 A Christmas Story, George Seaton’s 1947 Miracle on 34th Street, and Frank Capra’s 1946 It’s a Wonderful Life, there is no Christmas in the U.S. where The Wizard of Oz is not on TV. When I was in school in Massachusetts, my friends and I often watched it before Christmas break. Knowing the lyrics by heart, we sang “Over the Rainbow” together, reminding me of the feeling I had before leaving Japan. As the break came closer, looking my friends go home one by one, I felt a lack of home. I missed my home in Japan. Yet it did not sadden me because a good friend of mine invited me to his house for Christmas every year where his family’s warm welcome always gave me a sense of home to belong to. Their calling me their son made me feel at home, rewriting my definition of home that it should be where one was born. Watching Dorothy say, “There’s no place like home,” on TV, I could not agree with her more for the film’s celebration of homecoming.
Salman Rushdie is a successful example of an immigrant who has earned his freedom and life in England by following what his heart desired, but he also knows the bitterness of being exiled from home. As mentioned earlier, he sympathizes with the message that “Over the Rainbow” conveys. However, at the time of writing The Wizard of Oz for BFI, it is possible that he was more inclined to master the magic of the phrase, “There’s no place like home,” because a choice of homecoming was impossible for him after Valentine’s Day in 1989.
The success of Midnight’s Children made him a famous writer, and he was expected to produce more work—not a kind of the book subjected to book burning. In 1988, Rushdie published The Satanic Verses whose title was referred to so-called “satanic verses” in Qur’an he came across while studying history at University of Cambridge. Soon known as the Rushdie Affair, the book caused a controversy causing worldwide discussions between two cultural beliefs: a Western value of freedom of expression and a Muslim belief in no freedom to insult the Prophet Muhammad. This controversy led aggressive Muslim groups to perform book burning out in the public in Bolton on December 2 1988. On February 14, 1989, a year after the publication of The Satanic Verses, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, an Iranian religious leader, issued the fatwa to Muslims that Rushdie’s death must be achieved. The Satanic Verses was considered as a blasphemy mainly for three reasons: 1) the use of name Mahound, a derogatory term for the Prophet Muhammad; 2) the use of the names of Muhammad’s wives for prostitutes of the brothel of the city of Jahilia; and 3) a possible falsification of Qur’an. After the announcement of the fatwa, the British government immediately took an action to protect Rushdie—the beginning of confinement that lasted for nine years, seven months, and ten days.
Although these religious, sociopolitical, and cultural discussions are valuable to The Satanic Verses, Rushdie wants his readers to know this novel as a celebration of “hybridity, impurity, intermingling, the transformation that comes of new and unexpected combinations of human beings, cultures, ideas, politics, movies, songs” (IH, 394). In this paper, my focus is also not on the controversy but to examine how Rushdie demonstrates the hybridity of selves through migration and displacement. Using voice actor Salahuddin Chamchawala as his potential double, Rushdie depicts a process of how Salahuddin becomes a hybrid of Indianness and Englishness by facing an identity crisis. Also, we must note a relationship between The Satanic Verses and The Wizard of Oz in terms of escape, authority, discrimination, and home to understand how much more the film influenced Rushdie in confinement.
As Rushdie published his The Wizard of Oz from BFI in 1992, it seems that the film became a more important source of inspiration for him after the Rushdie Affair broke out. In a nostalgic tone, he states: “I’ve done a good deal of thinking, these past three years, about the advantages of a good pair of ruby slippers” (WZ 19). In confinement, not only could he not leave England, but also he had to move from one place to another more than he could keep thee count. It was he who was envious of Dorothy. It was he who was enchanted by “Over the Rainbow.” He did not have a rainbow for escape or the pair of ruby slippers to return home. He had no way to defy the gravity he was living under. In such an environment, writing became his pair of ruby slippers to uproot from the gravity. In the interview with W. L. Webb, Rushdie admits that he often repeats the same topics (“Salman Rushdie: Satanic Verses” 90). The two short stories from the collection East, West do touch upon similar topics as in The Satanic Verses but examine a process of returning home and forms of home from a different angle.
“The Courter” is Rushdie’s autobiographical memoir about his ayah Certainly-Mary whom Rushdie’s family brought to London with them a year after he started school at Rugby School in early sixties. The story develops in two ways. One is Mary’s peculiar romance with the hall porter, Mecir, in London and her attachment to her home, India. The other is the narrator’s interaction with his family living an apartment called Waverley House and how his hatred toward his father leads the narrator to obtain a British citizenship. Mary represents a migrant who sways between two different loves and eventually chooses to go home, like Dorothy who chooses monochrome Kansas over her companions in Technicolor Oz. Mary chooses the physical existence and texture of home, whereas the narrator refuses to choose to belong to anywhere. In a way, he represents Rushdie’s state in confinement—rootless and homeless.
The narrator in “The Auction of the Ruby Slippers” is an exile whose home consists of his memory of his female cousin, Gale, with whom he was in relationship. This is a parody of an actual auction of the ruby slippers from the film The Wizard of OZ that took place in May 1970. Found in MGM’s basement, they were sold for the sum of $15,000 to the person whose name remains anonymous today (WZ 46). The story focuses on the narrator’s challenge to win the ruby slippers in order to undone “an enforced exile from the beloved country of [his] birth” (EW 178). He, however, realizes that he already has his pair of ruby slippers—his memory of home. His realization literally helps him defy the gravity and gets free from the exile. In the same year as his The Wizard of Oz, Rushdie published a collection of essays Imaginary Homelands: Essays and Criticism 1981-1991. In it, he also uses his memory of Bombay to reconstruct it on his mind. Being away from Bombay for years, his memory may be fragmentary, but when put together, it becomes a photograph like the one Dorothy carries with her. In the scene where Dorothy repeats the phrase “There’s no place like home,” she is relying on her memory of home to direct the ruby slippers to take her back there. In the following two chapters, I am going to examine two short stories first in order to show the connection and pervasive themes that The Satanic Verses shares.
II. Yes, I am Certain—“East, West, Home’s Best.”
In “The Courter,” upon receiving a letter from his ayah Certainly-Mary, Rushdie tells us an anecdote of her adventures in London to which she emigrated temporarily with his family. Mary adjusts to a new environment by establishing a romance with the hall porter, Mecir, whom she calls the “courter” due to her difficulty to pronounce a “p” in English. Mecir shares language difficulty not only because he is also an Indian immigrant but also because of his damaged brain after a stroke. This story examines how migrants bear language hardship and how they use an alternative means to communicate as if in their native tongue. But more importantly, this is a story of certainty of a sense of belonging to one’s homeland where one’s identity roots deeply and true comfort lies. At the end of the story, Mary starts to have heart trouble. While the doctors cannot provide any remedy for her, she is certain of what her sickness is and its cause: “‘I know what is wrong with me…I need to go home’” (EW 208). Her sickness is homesickness; therefore she chooses to go back to India by refusing to choose her life in London. By maintaining her voice and self as an Indian, she never loses her certainty—her ruby slippers to return home—that attracts Mecir whose power of language has been lost.
Language is one of the greatest obstacles that migrants face. Including the narrator, none of the migrants in this story has completely conquered the English language. The narrator’s “brought-up” incident at school and his father’s “nipple” incident at a pharmacy demonstrate that non-native English speakers “can’t simply use the language in the way the British did” (IH 17). There is a latent gap in the use of language between native-speakers and non-natives. English is certainly hard for Mary. For example, her “p” does not know its right place: “Going shocking”; “Yes, fleas” (EW 176). She is not perfect in English, but it does not make her hesitate to speak. She speaks English in her own way. She is in a way free from an urge for desperate fusion into Englishness that some migrants may feel.
Her freedom from Englishness comes from her certainty of her identity as an Indian. While adjusting to the new environment, she never loses her self in translation. Her imperfection in English and her certainty attract Mecir whose damaged brain has taken fluency in speech and certainty away from him: “…he was stunned by her sureness, first into nostalgia, then envy, then attraction” (EW 176). As the narrator nicknames him Mixed-Up, people have given him many names in the past. An immigrant without a power of fluent speech, Mecir has failed to address his true identity. Mary’s misplaced “p,” however, gives Mecir an opportunity to become her “courter” that “he would try to be” (EW 177). Her giving him a chance to become a “knight in shining armour” for her leads us and the narrator to know who Mecir truly is (EW 206).
Instead of his tongue-tied speech, Mecir uses the art of chess as a means of communication with Mary who slowly but surely learns it as well. One day, the narrator’s family friend known as the Dodo, an Indian man who supports the narrator with his application for British citizenship, invites the narrator to play chess with him. To the narrator’s surprise, he beats the Dodo. With his newly found confidence at the chessboard, he plays a game with Mecir whom he thinks he can beat easily. Yet, what we see is the narrator, defeated and kneeling down before the master of chess: “Nimzo-Indian” (EW 193). He is not even a match for Mary in her skills in chess. Chess has become a language between Mecir and Mary that nobody else can speak. Mecir uses it as a means of courtship to talk to her and take her to an exciting, imaginary wonderland. Mary tells the narrator: “It’s like an adventure, baba…It is like going with him to his country, you know? What a place, baap-ré! Beautiful and dangerous and funny and full of fuzzles. For me it is a big-big discovery” (EW 195). The chessboard becomes their imaginary wonderland where their courtship develops. Mecir is a “knight in shining armour” who protects Queen Mary from the dangerous and evil. In “Resisting Power in Language,” Kishani Pilapitiya uses Reverend Mother who often says “Whatishisname?” in Midnight’s Children as an example of persons with an alternative form of language: “When language ultimately fails her, Reverend Mother reclaims the power to express herself by controlling the kitchen, an environment that enables her to express her meaning and emotions as much as language” (61). Reverend Mother’s kitchen is similar to Mecir’s chessboard that enables him to express his emotions. Also he uses chess as his pair of ruby slippers to go back to his home – his lost self. He, however, continues to be Mary’s courter until the day violence shatters his shining armor.
Home is in a way a “knight in shining armour” who protects one from violence. Yet home also can be a site of violence. When two gangs with Beatle haircuts take the narrator’s mother for the Maharani of B, another Indian family living in Waverley House, Mecir protects her and Mary by forcing out “the longest sentence he had spoken since the stroke that had broken his tongue long ago” (EW 205). Although one of the Beatles seriously injures him with a knife, Mecir’s knightly courage saves his Queen and her family. Observing his own family, the narrator realizes that violence also exists at home: wars between his “choleric, face-pulling father” and his eleven-year-old sister, “the true inheritor of [his] father’s black rage” (EW 201). The father figure who is supposed to protect his family from violence is the cause of it. Living under the same roof and breathing the same air, the narrator fears that he may someday become a person like his father who destroys a notion of home as a site of comfort and security. In order for him to get away from his father, a British passport functions as a rainbow for migration from horrible home with his wicked father. In The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy’s initial reason for leaving home is also adults’ failure to provide safety. Like the narrator, she chooses to physically escape from her home. But there is a key difference between them in terms of their will for migration. We have to recall that Dorothy, who is worried about Aunt Em, does return to her home once. While the narrator voluntarily chooses to escape from his home out of his hatred towards his father, Dorothy is involuntarily flown away from her home by a tornado.
Certainly-Mary and Dorothy demonstrate how souls of involuntary migrants remain in their homelands. According to Jaina C. Sanga in Salman Rushdie’s Postcolonial Metaphors: Migration, Translation, Hybridity, Blasphemy, and Globalization, there are two types of migration: “The condition of migration usually refers to either a voluntary or involuntary displacement from one’s native country, due to, among other things, war, disease, famine or other natural disasters, or economic reasons” (14). Mary’s migration to London as the ayah is an involuntary displacement from India. Her homesickness proves that her soul has never left there. The narrator realizes: “So it was England that was breaking her heart, breaking it by not being India. London was killing her, by not being Bombay” (EW 209). England has been slowly but severely gnawing at her heart. Her romance with Mecir, chess in particular, had helped relieve her homesickness, but she had never forgotten her desire to return home: “God knows for what-all we came over to this country…But I can no longer stay. No. Certainly not” (EW 209). Dorothy is the same as Mary. The natural disaster involuntarily takes Dorothy to Oz whose Technicolor world amazes and makes her immediately realize her displacement from Kansas: “Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas any more” (WO). She befriends with the Scarecrow (Ray Bolger), the Tin Man (Jack Haley), and the Cowardly Lion (Bert Lahr) who all seem familiar to her. Her journey with them is probably the most fun and exciting experience she has ever had in her life, but she chooses her love for home and is determined to return to the seemingly boring monochrome world of Kansas. Both Mary and Dorothy show how their homesickness comes from their love for their home.
Referring to a scene in John Huston’s 1961 The Misfits where a wild horse is roped and yanked by two cowboys—Clark Gable and Montgomery Clift—to whom Marilyn Monroe is drawn, the narrator describes Mary as also being “roped by two different loves” (EW 209). The mustang in this film becomes too weak to stand on its feet and gets conquered by two men who rope up its mouth and feet to sell it for dog food. Though Monroe criticizes their action, it is how cowboys give a meaning to lives of rootless mustangs. Unable to neigh or move, roped mustangs wait to be sold and killed. Mary’s love for Mecir and the narrator’s family (West) and her love for India (East) are pulling her neck back and forth. But she is not going to be one of those misfits without a home to belong to. In the interview with anonymous on July 5, 1994, Rushdie explains what “The Courter” is about: “…two kinds of love: the love of others and the love of home. The ayah in the story ends up having to choose between them, and chooses home” (“Homeless is Where the Art Is”162). To live, she chooses India where her identity roots firmly.
Just like Mary, the narrator also has a rope around his neck tightening and pulling both from East and West commanding, “[C]hoose, choose” (EW 211). While in school in England, the narrator successfully becomes a British citizen and gets a British passport. The passport was going to be a rainbow to escape from his dreadful father, but after all, it is the father who leaves him as the family moves to Pakistan. Has he finally gained his freedom after all? Ironically, he seems not. My contention is that he has not become free but homeless because he refuses to choose to belong to anywhere even after he lost two homes at the same time. One was his home with his family whom he loved, except for his father. The other was Mary whom he had associated with India. When she decided to leave, he said: “I had known and loved her all my life. Never mind your damned courter, I wanted to shout at her, what about me?” (EW 210) Two loves are now geographically apart and pulling his neck far from different directions. Mary represents the rope pulling from India, and his British passport is the other rope pulling his neck from another direction. But unlike the mustang in The Misfits, he is not going to be conquered: “I buck, I snort, I whinny, I rear, I kick. Ropes, I do not choose between you. Lassoes, lariats, I choose neither of you, and both. Do you hear? I refuse to choose” (EW 211). He is determined not to choose. Having no firm idea of what home means to him, he cannot use his British passport as the pair of ruby slippers to bring him back home. What is more important to him now is to be between East and West. His identity according to the passport may be British, and yet he chooses to be a homeless citizen of the comma.
On the front cover of the collection East, West, the comma holds significance. In the interview with anonymous, Rushdie comments on this comma:
I said to people when I started thinking of calling the stories East, West that the most important part of the title was the comma. Because it seems to me that I am that comma—or at least that I live in that comma. (“Homeless Is Where the Art Is” 162)
It seems that in confinement he often thought about where he stood in terms of his identity and belief. He was asked to choose either the East or the West, but he was determined to “live in the comma” just like the narrator in the story. While he uses Mary in order to experience the escape from England and return to India, the narrator functions as Rushdie’s advocate to voice Rushdie’s determination not to choose.
III. Incestuous love—There’s No Place Like Home.
According to the Oxford English Dictionary online, the definition of the word “home” is: “the place where one lives or brought up, with reference to the feelings of belonging, comfort, etc., associated with it.” In “The Courter,” Mary’s definition of home fits OED’s definition because India as an actual, physical place comforts her. In contrast, “The Auction of the Ruby Slippers” redefines the concept of home by examining the narrator’s relationship with his home that is consisted of his memories of his cousin Gale. However, in his world with “so few rainbows,” “‘home’ has become such a scattered, damaged, various concept in [their] present travails” (EW 93). In such a world, he has been exiled from his home. The power of the ruby slippers is a hope for one to go home. The narrator, however, seems to conclude that it is not the power of the slippers but one’s memory of home that ultimately takes one back home. Then, what is the power of the ruby slippers?
The pair of the ruby slippers is the untouchable and unobtainable iconic piece that, people believe, may erase the limits of human capacity: “See: behind bullet-proof glass, the ruby slippers sparkle. We do not know the limits of their powers. We suspect that these limits may not exist” (EW 88). Revering the power of the slippers, the following are the participants of the auction: movie-stars with auras, the memorabilia junkies, The Wizard of Oz film aficionados in costumes, philosophers and scientists who wish to analyze the magical slippers, political refugees, orphans who wish to return to their deceased parents, fundamentalists who wish to burn the slippers, and exiles. With a belief in the incredible power of the slippers in common, all participants practice “the cult of the ruby slippers”; both the narrator and Rushdie as an author are no exception to this (EW 89). In the previous chapter on “The Courter,” I have discussed how Rushdie uses his writing in order to perform a simulate experience of migration as well as to voice his identity. In this sense, Rushdie’s characters become his stand-ins.
By playing a stand-in, one is able to act another identity. In The Wizard of Oz, Rushdie briefly mentions the size of the ruby slippers sold at the auction; it was actually two sizes larger than Judy Garland’s, which suggests that the found pair might have been for Garland’s double, Bobbie Koshay (46). If so, it is an ironic possibility that the anonymous purchaser becomes a stand-in for a stand-in. But what matters to this person, who could not be satisfied with just identifying with Dorothy on the screen, is that the ruby slippers enable him or her to become Dorothy. Let us now take a look at Dorothy’s companions: the Scarecrow (Ray Bolger) lacks a brain, the Tin Man (Jack Haley) a heart, and the Cowardly Lion (Bert Lahr) courage. The Wizard of Oz grants their wish by giving each an object: a diploma, a heart-shaped clock, and a medal with a word “courage” engraved. Although we audiences may not be convinced by Oz’s so-called “great magic,” Dorothy’s companions are all delighted to finally become somebody they wished to be. In “The Auction of the Ruby Slippers,” the auction in a sense is Oz, granting one’s clinging to become somebody by wealth. Auctioned objects become rainbows for migration to a new self. But what about Dorothy? Her wish is not to gain a new self but to go home. The power of the slippers may be great, but what truly takes Dorothy back home is the power of Dorothy’s memory of home.
Looking back on one’s memory is a process of facing one’s past. As mentioned before, the narrator’s home consists of his memory of Gale, his lover. The auction functions as a place where he immerses himself in the memory of her and faces the past. Although she is no longer his lover, her memory strongly remains in him. Of all his memory with her, he chooses to share a moment of lovemaking with her:
…her habit of moaning loudly while making love….even now we have parted I am easily aroused by the mere memory of her erotic noisiness….Yet it satisfied me deeply, deeply, especially when she chose to cry out at the moment of penetration: “Home, boy! Home, baby, yes –you’ve come home!” (EW 95)
This particular memory with Gale is an important aspect of what home means to the narrator. She was his Kansas where he could come back and gain comfort. Her cry at the moment of penetration is noteworthy because she repeats the word “home” three times as if the movement of the penetration of his penis links to the movement of Dorothy clicking her heels three times, repeating “There’s no place like home.” By penetrating Gale’s vagina, the narrator (or rather, his sperms) goes back to home through her womb. It is ironic, though, that she is not a biological home he began because he was not born through her womb, but what matters is the definition of his home in this particular memory. Here, the physicality of home matters like the physicality of India mattered to Mary. The narrator could secure comfort by having sex with and embracing Gale—by coming back his home.
If Gale (or her vagina, rather) was the narrator’s home, he has been exiled to the country of the homeless. After finding out her affair with “a hair escapee from a caveman movie,” the young narrator left, “weeping [his] way down the street with [his] portrait of Gale in the guise of a tornado cradled in [his] arms” (EW 95). As Dorothy is flown away by a tornado, he is flown away from his home by a tornado in disguise of Gale. According to Sanga’s definition of two conditions of migration we looked at in “The Courter,” the narrator’s displacement from his home (Gale) is in part voluntary because he chose to leave. Because his home chose to have an affair with another (man), forcing the original dweller to leave, we could argue that his displacement was an involuntary exile. Her vagina became a property of another man’s penis. Therefore, his displacement is both voluntary and involuntary. His displacement from home corresponds with Dorothy’s displacement from Kansas. She initially makes her voluntary escape from her home, but she returns home immediately after Professor Marvel lies about Aunt Em’s health failure. She, however, gets ironically flown away and completes an involuntary displacement. Having been exiled from their native countries, both Dorothy and the narrator start to idealize their homes based on their memory.
Memory is an important aspect of how home is perceived. In other words, memory can manipulate one’s perception of home. Since an exile from Gale, recreating her on the narrator’s mind has been the only way for him to experience her. On an imaginary movie screen, he projects the images of recreated Gale through his eyes. As readers (or movie audiences), that is how we perceive her as well. In the following quote, the narrator admits that the real Gale may be far beyond his recreation of Gale:
Since those days I have dedicated myself to her memory…the Gale I adore is not entirely a real person. The real Gale has become confused with my re-imaging of her, with my private elaboration of our continuing life together in an alternative universe devoid of ape-men. The real Gale may by now be beyond our grasp, ineffable (EW 96).
Gale as his home has been literary “scattered” and “damaged” because of the escapee’s invasion, just like the scattered interior of Dorothy’s house after the tornado’s hit (EW 93). In the world where the concept of home is scattered, its traditional definition no longer is valid. Therefore, the narrator must redefine it and recreate his home based on his memory. At the end of his The Wizard of Oz, Rushdie concludes: “there is no longer any such place as home: except, of course, for the home we make, or the homes that are made for us, in Oz: which is anywhere, and everywhere, except the place from which we began” (57). If his home (Gale) from which he began no longer exists, the narrator can make his home based on her memory in his world of Oz in order to continue to pursue alternate possibilities of life he might have had with her.
The recreation of Gale has become an idol he worships instead of the real Gale. At the auction, there are actresses who must have come to at least take a glance at the ruby slippers out of their admiration for the star Judy Garland whom they can never be. Although Garland’s real life is often known to be full of scandals, it is not the Judy Garland everyone knows. She is Ester Smith in Meet Me in St. Louis (1944), Hannah Brown in Easter Parade (1948), and Vicki Lester/ Esther Blodgett in A Star is Born (1954); most of all Dorothy Gale in The Wizard of Oz is the real Judy Garland to them. No matter how much media exposed Garland’s (or Frances Ethel Gumm’s) real life, her fans kept her sacredness. Like Garland’s case, there can be gaps between the narrator’s Gale and the real Gale now, but as Uma Parameswaran suggests, he uses his “imagination [that] leaks on memory, filling [those] gaps” to keep the sacredness of the real Gale (“The Perforated Sheet: Metaphor as Method and Meaning,” 46). Trying to recreate her, he has made a fetish of the real Gale—the past.
Looking back upon the memory of home is a fetish of the past. Like the narrator, Rushdie seems obsessed with his memory of the past. In Imaginary Homelands, he shares a story of his return to Bombay many years after becoming a British citizen. He had “an old photograph [of a house in Bombay from 1946] in a cheap frame” in his office; this old black-and-white photograph reminded him of the opening sentence of L. P. Hartley’s novel The Go-Between, “The past is a foreign country” (IH 9). He inverted it into the following idea: “it’s [his] present that is foreign, and that the past is home, albeit a lost home in a lost city in the mists of lost time” (IH 9). Visiting Bombay led him to realize how much he had actually missed it:
…I went to visit the house in the photograph and stood outside it, neither daring nor wishing to announce myself to its new owners. (I didn’t want to see how they’d ruined the interior.) I was overwhelmed. The photograph has naturally been taken in black and white; and my memory, feeing on such images as this, had begun to see my childhood in the same way, monochromatically. The colours of my history had seeped out of my mind’s eye; now my other two eyes were assaulted by colours, by the vividness of the red tiles, the yellow-edged green of cactus-leaves, the brilliance of bougainvillaea creeper…when I realized how much I wanted to restore the past to myself, not in the faded greys of old family-album snapshots, but whole, in CinemaScope and glorious Technicolor. (IH 9-10)
Besides his memory of the city, black-and-white photographs functioned as visual sources for Rushdie to recall the past. His past was monochrome, but when he saw the vivid colors of the house and its surrounding environment, he realized that Bombay continued to exist to the present in color. Having chosen not to live in Bombay, it is Rushdie who had become foreign and monochrome to Bombay. His memory of Bombay had been fragmentary like snapshots. Therefore he wanted to connect them into one.
Rushdie’s desire to restore his past links to how the narrator wants the real Gale back in his present. The image of his Gale consisted of his memory with her and the photograph he took with him as he got exiled. The real Gale had been his past until the day he saw her at a bar in the distance. Like Rushdie’s home in Bombay, she continued to exist. On TV, there was the poor astronaut stranded on Mars. Without hope for rescue, “now a permanent resident of that planet” started to sing “a squawky medley of half-remembered songs”: “Swanee,” “Show Me the Way to Go Home,” and several numbers from The Wizard of Oz (EW 97). He probably sang “Over the Rainbow” from The Wizard of Oz to wish for a rainbow that would take him away from the horrible permanent residence. The other two songs are also about the love for home. Another tune was “Daisy Bell” that the dying computer HAL sings in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001:A Space Odyssey (1968): “Daisy, Daisy/ Give me your answer, do!/ I’m half crazy/ All for the love for you!/ It won’t be a stylish marriage/ I can’t afford a carriage/ But you’ll look sweet on the sweat/ Of a bicycle built for two!” Around the astronaut’s neck was a rope pulling from two directions: one was probably the love for his fiancé waiting on the earth, the other Mars. Unable to defy the gravity of Mars, this dying astronaut proposed her through the TV screen. The narrator saw the real Gale in tears, but he did not go to comfort her. Why did he not try to enter the home he left voluntarily and involuntarily that was just before his eyes?
There are several reasons. One is that he did not want to see how much she was ruined by other dwellers, as Rushdie refused to see the interior of the house. By doing so, he kept the sacredness of the real Gale. Another is that while Rushdie used his passport to enter India—a foreign country—in order to visit his house Bombay—his past constructed by his memory and old photographs—the narrator did not have a proper permission to reach Gale who had become a foreign country and the past. Gale has continued to exist as his recreation of memory on his imaginary homeland, but now that he has seen the real Gale, he is determined to return to her by winning the pair of ruby slippers: “Perhaps I might even click the heels together three times, and win back her heart by murmuring, in soft reminder of our wasted love, There’s no place like home” (EW 98). Having been exiled to the world where home is broken into memory shards, he collects missing memory shards at the auction by recalling her so that he can put pieces together into one with the magic of the ruby slippers.
The auction devalues the worth of memory. In the narrator’s world, money is the authority that decides “the value of our pasts, of our futures, of our lives” (EW 101), which the narrator learned from his previous experience at the auction. On request from the widower of a world-famous and much-loved pop singer, he attended the auction for a piece of edible panty. There, how money and greed controlled humanity overwhelmed him enormously, and he lost the auction. The widower did not accuse him of losing because he already had “three hundred thousands of those” panties (EW 100). The widower’s fetish of his wife’s lingering odor on panties led him to collect such a large number, as if he would fill a human-shaped balloon with the collected odor so that he could smell and touch his wife again. While the narrator uses his memory to recreate his Gale, the widower uses his wealth to recreate his lover. In this world, money has become the powerful gravity and authority that grants one’s needs. Without money, one cannot gain anything. It is ironic that people have lost an ability to appreciate memory to gain happiness and joy. Ever since he was enforced to uproot from his home Gale, memory and the photograph have been the only way for the narrator to recall the joy of being with Gale. If he wants to win the ruby slippers, he has to rely on the power of money. If he wins the auction, what will happen to his memory of Gale?
Uprooting from the authority, to the narrator, means to have more faith in the power of memory. At the auction, the price for the ruby slippers skyrockets; the narrator no longer can afford to see how “the money has become no more than a way of keeping score,” which gave him a feeling of detachment from the earth (EW 102). He realizes that the ruby slippers no longer have the power he had expected now that they have become an object of money and fetish. They are just an ordinary pair of slippers, just like an incomputable amount of edible panties. He may have lost an opportunity to return to the real Gale, and yet it seems he has realized that his fetish for her is the authority, causing the gravity that has held him down: “So it is that my cousin Gales loses her hold over me in the crucible of the auction. So it is that I drop out of the bidding, go home, and fall asleep. When I awake I feel refreshed, and free” (EW 102). His realization frees him from gravity—he has uprooted from his authority—money, the ruby slippers, and the real Gale.
The narrator’s withdrawal from the auction signifies his understanding of the power of memory—even if there may be lost shards of memory—that takes him back to home. Rushdie compares broken mirrors to the shards of memory:
…he is obliged to deal in broken mirror, some of whose fragments have been irretrievably lost. But there is a paradox here. The broken mirror may actually be as valuable as the one which is supposedly unflawed. (IH 10-11)
Rushdie, the narrator, and Dorothy all have a photograph in the frame that represents their home. None of their photograph has flaws—they are in perfect condition. If they are ripped into pieces and if some of those pieces go missing, will the meaning of what is on those photographs change? Rushdie argues that those ripped photographs are as valuable as flawless ones. Ultimately, what we rely on to put those ripped photographs together is our memory. Rushdie redefines the concept of home for the narrator; home is a collection of memory shards. Of course, there are memories that one may not be able to recall, but it does not mean that they have been lost. They will come back when the time is right. The pair of ruby slippers also does not have to have a physical form; there are an infinite number of versions of what the ruby slippers mean. To the narrator, his ruby slippers are his memory of Gale. The auction after all teaches the narrator that he had not lost anything. He had always carried his home with him—the memory of Gale. By refusing to approach the real Gale, he kept the sacredness of his Gale so that his Kansas would continue to stay the way his memory projects on his mind.
IV. Whatishisname? Salahuddin Chamchawala?the Montage of Selves
In the previous chapters, I have discussed how the souls of migrants firmly root in their homes and how memory is used to redefine the concept of home. The themes of roots and home are also the key elements in The Satanic Verses. But what is more significant to examine here is the metamorphosis of selves that Salahuddin Chamchawala undergoes as he migrates to England. In Salman Rushdie’s Postcolonial Metaphors, Sanga states that “Chamcha[wala]’s migration to England uncovers complicated issues of identity, roots, and home, and through the novel we witness the ways in which Chamcha[wala] contends with being a migrant (117). No matter how much Salahuddin tries to be a proper Englishman by conquering the English language or gaining a British passport to establish his identity as English, he cannot escape from his Indian self that roots deeply inside him. Because the hybridity of two selves constructs his identity, when he decides to kill his Indian self with rage, his other self also starts to collapse. The dark side of human nature fills his empty self and transforms him into a goat-like devil. In the following, I am going to focus on how Rushdie demonstrates the importance of coming to terms with their home, family, and identity for migrants to truly complete their migration. In doing so, I try to compare and contrast The Satanic Verses to two short stories we have discussed previously, see connections between the novel and The Wizard of Oz, and examine Salahuddin’s conflict and reconciliation with his father as a central theme of how Salahuddin finds his pair of ruby slippers to return home.
Salahuddin’s father, Changez Chamchawala, is the great authority standing so high that ten-year-old Salahuddin cannot climb over. Living at Scandal Point in Bombay, Salahuddin respects him because of his wealth and public standing, but Salahuddin slowly starts to see Miss Gulch from The Wizard of Oz in him because he takes away every precious thing away from him. The story of a wallet Salahuddin finds is an example of why he is afraid that his father would ruin his life. On the way home from his school, young Salahuddin finds the wallet full of pounds lying in the street outside his home. The wallet becomes a rainbow similar to the one Dorothy searches in the sky during “Over the Rainbow”:
Dazzled by the thick wad of foreign currency, the boy raised his eyes to make sure he has not been bserved, and for a moment it seemed to him that a rainbow has arched down to him from the heavens, a rainbow like an angel’s breath, like an answered prayer, coming to an end in the very spot on which he stood. His finger trembled as they reached into the wallet, towards the fabulous hoard. (SV 36)
If we were to hear anything on the sound track for this moment, we would definitely hear the warbling of birds Dorothy hears. As Rushdie describes the wallet as “an answered prayer,” young Salahuddin has been starving for an opportunity to leave his home. With the amount of money he has found, he can enjoy the first-class flight to his dreamland England, whereas Dorothy is violently flown away to Oz by a tornado. Young Salahuddin finds his rainbow just outside his home, but ironically that is where Changez rubs the rainbow away from him.
The father’s confiscation of the wallet seeds a fear in young Salahuddin that Changez may be the Wicked Witch of the West whose magic is too powerful for Salahuddin to push back. As his novels often include magical realism elements, The Satanic Verses also contains a magical item. In Changez’s study, there is “a magic lamp, a brightly polished copper-and-brass avatar of Aladdin’s very own genie-container: a lamp begging to be rubbed” (SV 36). Changez does not rub it himself or let anyone rub it, but he promises his son that Salahuddin can rub it as much as he wants when Changez dies. Salahuddin, however, cannot wait that day. Neither the lamp nor the wallet is going to be his pair of ruby slippers whose supposedly powerful magic will free him from the gravity and magic of his father. He has no hope: “the son became convinced that his father would smother all his hopes unless he got away, and from that moment he became desperate to leave, to place oceans between the great man and himself” (SV 37). From this point, he is determined to perform a dynamically geographical escape from his father someday. Yet being a young boy, he is not equipped with any wealth or means to complete the move. Therefore, he instead tries to seclude himself from India and any traces of his father in him by pursuing another identity—his ruby slippers to resist against Changez’s magic.
The name Salahuddin Chamchawala represents his Indian self and identity that his father gave him upon his birth. In order to feel different from his father, Salahuddin chooses to live in another identity as Saladin Chamcha, the name we see throughout the most of the novel. This name change is important in terms of his identity issue and the beginning of the mutation that young Salahuddin is about to undergo:
The mutation of Salahuddin Chamchawala into Saladin Chamcha began, it will be seen, in old Bombay, long before he got close enough to hear the lions of Trafalgar roar. When the England cricket team played India at the Brabourne Stadium, he prayed for an England victory, for the game’s creators to defeat the local upstarts, for the proper order of things to be maintained. (SV 37-8)
His love for the country of the lions of Trafalgar begins long before he gets a chance to get education there. His love for England is rather a fetish for supremacy and great authority that had once colonized India from the late nineteenth century to the early twentieth century. He calls the Indian local cricket team “upstarts” with disdain, though games always end up drawn. In “How to Read the Satanic Verses,” Sami Nair analyzes Salahuddin’s fetish of superiority: “His uprooting and his rejection of his origins are not a trivial negation: they correspond instead to his conviction that he is making a choice of civilization and that the West is superior to the East” (236). His fetish of England is due to his rebellion against India and his father. By cheering England, he achieves a sense of belonging rather to the colonizer than to the father.
Saladin Chamcha and the narrator from “The Courter” share a common issue: a rebellion against their father—the authority. In the short story, the narrator shares his anger about having been face-pulled by his father all through his life until he gets a British passport. He shivers as he imagines how “[his father’s] voice speaking in [his] mouth, how his gestures already mirror his [father’s], how his signature of his surname becomes closer to that of his father’s, and how the father’s blood is swimming and whispering in his blood” (EW 202). He knows that it is impossible to replace his blood or voice; therefore he uses his British identity as a way of physically uprooting from his father. In young Salahuddin’s case, a physical escape is not an option until the father gives him a chance to study in England. Instead, he builds an invisible iron wall between them by immersing himself in the new name Saladin Chamcha. It is in a way a passport (migration) to newness—a foreign country—and a farewell to (uprooting from) his old Indian self.
By crossing the globe, Saladin is going to be born anew. At the age of thirteen, Saladin Chamcha finally gets his rainbow to escape from India and his father, who though comes along with him until Saladin starts his boarding school. On the airplane called Douglas DC-8, Saladin reads science fiction tales. He thinks of DC-8 as the mother ship, but corrects himself that this is the father ship indeed. The further he moves away from India, the more he is surprised at how a feeling of appreciation and admiration for his father suddenly comes back to him. He, however, recalls Changez’s betrayals and ignores the old feeling. Instead he looks forward to his new life in England. Rushdie inserts a metaphor of a phallus here: “yet, the father ship, an aircraft was not a flying womb but a metal phallus, and the passengers were spermatozoa waiting to be spilt” (SV 41). England is then a womb in which Saladin starts as an embryo and grows until he is reborn into an English self. What waits in England though is a tough time for the embryo to survive.
Saladin’s preparation back in India to become an English was not enough to make the nation his alley. Instead of a warm welcome, it gives him hard trials. By figuring out ways to pass them, he strengthens his determination to become a proper Englishman. The first trial is with his father. When Saladin arrives in London, Changez gives him back the wallet from three years ago and tells him that he must take care of every paycheck with that money to prove he has become a man. Even in London, Changez maintains his great authority. Saladin tries to outcast him by fasting along with him but fails. Hungry, he buys roasted chicken and sneaks it into the hotel, but when hotel employees see him with it, he gets very ashamed. Shame overwhelms and provokes him, “which would fuel, perhaps, his determination to become the thing his father was-not-could-never-be, that is a goodandproper [sic] Englishman” (SV 43). The way Changez treated his son might have seemed irresponsible to Saladin, but if we were to take Changez’s side, we can assume that he gave Saladin a lesson to become independent by learning social manners of England and budget management, which he could not practice back in India. To become an English, he must undergo more trials.
Establishing an English self is a hard labor, and yet the harder the trials are, the more Saladin’s determination increases. When school starts, Saladin learns that his new name is hardly helpful to fit into the community. His classmates exclude him because of his voice. This is the beginning of his acting: “[Saladin] began to act, to find masks that these fellows would recognize, paleface masks, clown-masks, until he fooled them into thinking he was okay, he was people-like-us”(SV 44). Rushdie makes an interesting comparison between Saladin’s experience and that of Dorothy in a new environment. In The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy needs no mask to be accepted by Munchkins and the Good Witch Glinda. First, Glinda greets her while Munchkins observe her from the distance. Glinda demonstrates that the film is not optimistic because it clearly draws a line between good and bad according to appearance. She makes sure that Dorothy is not dangerous and tells Munchkins to come out. They welcome this foreign girl with a cheerful parade. Dorothy achieves their initial welcome by destroying the Wicked Witch of East, though unintentionally. Her nice, innocent-looking appearance also convinces citizens of Munchkins Land that she is safe. More importantly, that Dorothy responds to their welcome by singing proves that she shares the same language so that she must be “people-like-us.” In addition, the soft tone of her voice is similar to that of Glinda, while the voice of Munchkins is high-pitched. Munchkins conclude that if Dorothy carries similarities with the superior figure Glinda, she must be good or better than them. Dorothy never has to try to conquer Oz, whereas Saladin is determined to conquer England to become part of it. As he learns after struggling to eat a kipper that “England [is] a peculiar-tasting smoked fish full of spikes and bones” and that “nobody [will] ever tell him how to eat it,” he must tread a thorny path to be born through the womb (SV 44). These trials empower Saladin to establish his English self.
The education in London completes his rebirth as and migration to an English self. Saladin feels superior to his Indian self and makes other Indians feel insulted. Before university in England starts, he goes back to his home in Bombay for the first time in five years. With a perspective he acquired through English education, he criticizes the way his father Changez and mother Nasreen live. Disappointed at his mutation, Changez scolds him: “if he went abroad to learn contempt for his own kind, then his own kind can feel nothing but scorn for him. What is he?...Is this my fate: to lose a son and find a freak?” (SV 45-6) His words contain a grief, which is ironically emphasized by the eighteen-year-old walnut tree “he planted with his own hands on the day of the coming of the son” (SV 45). When Saladin was away, Changez considered this birth tree as his son. It contains the soul of Salahuddin Chamchawala. The soul of Salahuddin (Indianness) has been exiled because the body it used to belong to now carries the soul of mutated Saladin Chamcha. This is the beginning of long-lasting discord between Changez and Saladin. The death of Nasreen, who gets choked with a piece of fish, also deepens the ocean between India and England. Back in England, Saladin pursues more to make his English self perfect.
Saladin’s wife Pamela Lovelace is a pillar of his legal status as a British citizen. By the time he graduates university, Saladin acquires a British passport and citizenship. He pursues a career as a voice actor, “the Man of a Thousand Voices and a Voice” (SV 60). He has conquered the English language to fool the people of England through TV commercials. He marries Pamela and ties to establish a home. With a beautiful wife, his future looks promising so that he can take root and grow in England for the rest of his life. After many years of marriage, an awkward atmosphere, however, starts to ruin their relationship because they never succeed to have children. Saladin’s deformed chromosomes are partly responsible for infertility, but Pamela also has her reason. She tells Saladin “her parents had committed suicide together when she had just begun to menstruate over their heads in gambling debts” (SV 50). A lack of affection and love from her parents has destroyed her confidence to have children, a family, and a home. Both characters are subconsciously afraid to pass on their blood and gene to descendants. At the legal document level, Saladin is English. Yet, it is possible that his latent fear of his inner Indianness has caused the deformation of chromosomes so that he does not have to face a creature his Indian gene may create. Is he afraid to create a home in England, a home that his English self roots and returns to? When he returns to India after many years, he begins to feel that his Englishness slowly fades away because of overwhelming Indianness.
When two selves try to conquer the body of Saladin, he starts to have an identity paradox. Saladin returns to Bombay “with Prospero Players to interpret the role of the Indian doctor in The Millionairess by George Bernard Shaw” (SV 49). He manages to use his Indian voice on stage but is surprised at how his voice starts to betray him by pressing down his English self. Also he is astonished by how ignorant and malfunctioning he has become as an Indian; for as long as away from India, his Indian self did not grow or learn anything. He is now an outsider inside his own country. Home no longer is a familiar place: “This isn’t home. It makes me giddy because it feels like home and is not. It makes my heart tremble and my head spin” (SV 59). India has become his past and a foreign country. He is not remorseful of his choice to have left India, but he feels melancholic that the country (home) no longer recognizes him: his Indian self has become “a dead self, a shadow, [and] a ghost” (SV 59). In this way, Saladin is an exile from his home like the narrator in “The Auction of the Ruby Slippers.” He may have succeeded to establish his life in England but failed to create a home because of his and Pamela’s infertility. He is a homeless wanderer. He suddenly starts to miss India, especially because of his sexual affair with Zeeney, “the first Indian woman he had ever made love to” (SV 52).
Zeeney is the soil in which Saladin’s Indian self re-flourishes. During sex, she extracts his Indianness when Saladin ejaculates. She has a unique physical phenomenon: her eyes weep milk, though she has never had children. Her womb is the soil for Saladin’s Indianness to grow, and her milk feeds it. With her, his Indian self gets energized and slowly starts to come back, and Zeeney encourages: “Suddenly he wants to be Indian after spending his life trying to turn white. All is not lost, you see. Something in there still alive” (SV 55). Her words point out the hybridity of Englishness and Indianness inside Saladin. Because Indianness had never disappeared from him, it is coming back through his voice and memory. His oppressed Indian self starts to merge with its divided other—the soul within the birth tree of walnut.
When Saladin returns to his home at Scandal Point, he makes a decision to kill off his Indian self. Saladin’s father had remarried to Vallabh a year after Nasreen died. Changez keeps “[Nasreen’s] soul alive” by naming Vallabh Nasreen the Second (SV 69). Because Saladin still loves and lives in memory of his mother, he is disgusted by this fact, but he does not deserve to judge them, because he has left home years ago. His home moved on without him. Yet, the spirit of his son had remained in the forty-year old walnut tree in the garden. The tree has rooted in the soil of Changez and grown older. The tree represents Saladin’s other half of Indian self, Salahuddin Chamchawala. With rage and disappointment at his father who has done an unforgivable act of recreating his mother, Saladin tells him to “cut it down…cut it, sell it, send [Saladin] the cash” (SV 70). Changez considers Saladin’s request as an act of unforgivable and that he no longer has a son—he is going to be “a pair of emptied shoes” that nobody is going to fill when he dies (SV 71-2). Unlike Dorothy’s ruby slippers, such shoes have no value. Nobody would want them especially if his own son refused to be his father’s stand-in. By cutting down the walnut tree, the soul of other Indian self dies. Saladin completes his uprooting from his home, but at the same time, he has completely lost his Indian self. His identity now is British as his passport—the only object that assures his English self—that once again takes him back to somewhere over the rainbow.
Somewhere in the midair, Saladin again undergoes the process of rebirth—to be what? He gets on Flight 420 for England, but terrorists hijack the airplane, and Saladin and other 49 passengers spend one hundred and one days in the middle of dessert at Al-Zamzam. During this event, Saladin meets the other protagonist of this novel, Gibreel Farushta with whom he flies down into the snow-covered ocean after one of the terrorists Tavleen bombs the airplane in midair. As Saldin and Gibreel fall, Gibreel says: “To be born again…first you have to die” (SV 3). This fall is a process of rebirth. We must recall how Rushdie described the flight young Saladin took: “a metal phallus” (SV 41). At that time, the flight successfully landed into England; therefore, Saladin was able to be reborn into an English self. What about this time? Dispersed sperms (Saladin and Gibreel) have no idea where they will land.
Somewhere over the rainbow, there is a land where one without an identity turns into an evil, or rather, a goat. Saladin and Gibreel fortunately survive the fall from the sky. Eighty-eight-year-old Rosa Diamond rescues and shelters them. While Gibreel manages to escape, immigration officers arrest Saladin who fails to identity himself due to a loss of his passport. Unable to contact his wife Pamela either, he senses that his English identity starts to violently collapse. Having nothing to prove his identity, he faces an identity crisis; he becomes rootless nobody. Glinda is not here to help him. Officers’ brutal violence shatters Saladin’s English self into pieces. Having lost both Indian and English selves, he becomes empty. A lack of identity causes his body to mutate into an ugly horned goat devil, namely the Wicked Witch of the West.
Saladin’s mutation into the goat reveals the dark side of human nature. Rushdie describes his devil form: “loud, stenchy, hideous, outsize, grotesque, inhuman, powerful” (SV 298). These adjectives are latent characteristics of selves that he has been. His determination to become English gave him power; his one thousand and one voices made him loud enough for the world to hear his voices on commercials; his inhuman treatment of his father made him morally hideous; and his outsized goat form made him grotesque and his breath stenchy. Now that his identity is unstable, he tries to gain back his Englishness by returning to Pamela, but he finds out her affair with another man, Jumpy Joshi who soon impregnates her. This plot is similar to how the narrator in “The Auction of the Ruby Slippers” runs into Gale’s affair with an escapee who took over the narrator’s home. Pamela had represented and assured Saladin’s English identity, but she has abandoned that role by refusing Saladin’s love for her. The betrayal of Pamela signifies London’s betrayal as well. The loss of Pamela corresponds with the fall of walnut tree. Having lost both India and England, he has truly become rootless and homeless.
Submission to a new self is the key to turning back to a human. After the unforgivable act by Pamela, Saladin is sheltered in an apartment above the Shaandaar Café where Saladin is forced to immerse himself in the community of Indian immigrants in London. The time at the Shaandaar Café reminds him of his father and Zeeney who made him realize the instability and flaws of his English self. He used to look down India and its people as an inferior civilization, but now he is ashamed of how his goat-like appearance is far from the civilization but best suitable for the bottom of the pit. His devil form, though, becomes a symbolic hero that the kids in the street start to worship for “Sympathy for the Devil” (SV 295). Feeling better to be worshiped, he submits to the reality of his ugly form: “I am, he accepted, that I am” (SV 298). But when his anger towards Gibreel, who betrayed him at Diamond’s, reaches its peak, Saladin feels pain, faints, and somehow turns back to his human form found at Club Hot Wax. When he is found at the Club, the interior is “melted like tigers into butter” (SV 304). As the Wicked Witch of the West melts down when Dorothy accidently splashes water onto her, his ugly self melts down.
His metamorphosis back into a human form is a renewal of self. Having experienced an identity crisis, he has learned that his identity is a hybrid of his Indianness, Englishness, and human emotions. According to Sanga, “[hybridity] is an ongoing, fluid process. . . .in the massive movements of immigrants who are forcing a reconfiguration of the world” (78). “The world” can be a human. By migrating from one place to another, one takes in and removes variety of elements and characteristics that construct his or her identity. Through that process, one must maintain the balance of those qualities; otherwise, one may undergo an extreme mutation like that of Saladin. As one’s perspective changes over time, one’s identity is also “an ongoing, fluid process.” This realization helps Saladin reconcile with his father and his Indian self.
What Saladin thought was missing at the age of ten might not have been lost after all. Upon the news of the dying father, Saladin returns to India. He recalls all the unforgivable acts that his father has done to him, but he hurries back to India: “Hang on, he pleaded silently. I’m coming as fast as I can” (SV 527). His migration back to India becomes an opportunity to migrate back to his Indian self, Salahuddin Chamchawala, the son of the great father Changez Chamchawala. The closer he gets to home, the more he realizes how much his perspective has changed over years because he no longer feels any hatred towards his father but admiration. The last chapter, “A Wonderful Lamp,” points out his realization that his “desperate urge to be a white man” endangered his relationship with his father as well as his Indian self that he never reconciled with (“Salman Rushdie” Ameena Meer 121). It is ironic that he had to wait until this late to reconcile with his father who is just dying and to understand that his Kansas could actually have been a better place if he had been honest with his respect for his father and tried to value his Indian self. In The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy learns a lesson from her journey: “If I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look further than my own back yard. And if it isn’t there, I never really lost it to begin with. Is that right?” (WO) Rushdie criticizes Glinda’s lesson for Dorothy as “hell” because it does not seem to solve any problems that Dorothy faced before leaving Kansas (WZ 57). Yet if we apply this lesson to the relationship between Saladin and Changez, it solves their conflict perfectly. Salahuddin Chamchawala was too young to understand his father and importance of his home, just like Dorothy. What he thought was missing was always with him after all.
Whatishisname? Saladin Chamcha. After losing both Englishness and Indianness, his metamorphosis into the devil averred that he had become a selfless vessel. Yet, his return to “his old shape, mother-naked” after suffering from agony and anguish of his grotesque self proves that nothing stays forever as Sanga suggested the fluidity of self (SV 304). In “The Art of Uncertainty: Cultural Displacement and Devaluation of the World,” Rufus Cook argues that Rushdie uses Salahuddin as a representative of immigrants “to emphasize the fluidity or instability of human selfhood” (231). As a voice actor, he has always worn masks to deny his Indianness or the fact that he is his father’s son. Because of instability of Saladin’s self, to the eyes of Changez, Saladin Chamcha was never his son; Saladin’s face was too blurry to identify. To Changez, it was the walnut tree that contained the self of Salahuddin Chamchawala who maintained the stability of his self. But nothing stays the same forever. The great man who stood before Saladin has shrunken into small on the deathbed. By spending his last minute of life, Saladin reconciles with him and ponders over the paths he did not choose to take.
As a child, Saladin admired his father but never had loved him because of anger. Instead of learning to make peace with him, he committed an act of forgivable to escape from India and his father. The hole from which the tree uprooted represents the father’s internal injury by losing his son: “You can’t judge an internal injury by the size of hole” (SV 440). Their relationship was full of anger and distress, which also filled the hole and the empty self from which Saladin suffered from. The mutation back into his human form, though, taught Saladin to control his emotions. Through the interaction with his dying father, Saladin learns to love his father: “To fall in love with one’s father after the long angry decades was a serene and beautiful feeling” (SV 537). His denial of India and his father prevented him from loving them before, but by changing back his name to Salahuddin Chamchawala, he tries to experience “many old, rejected selves, many alternative Saladins—or rather Salahuddins—which had split of from himself as he made his various life choices, but which had apparently continued to exist” (SV 538).
Whatishisname? Salahuddin Chamchawala. His return to his old name Salahuddin Chamchawala changes his perception of his father and his Indian self. Before Changez dies, he manages to impress his son: “The only thing I’m afraid of is pain, because when there is a pain a man looses his dignity” (SV 543). Now that Saladin has returned to Salahuddin, the father sees him as his son. Even when the cancer is about to diminish his life, he gives his son a moral lesson so that he can be a proper human being. It also teaches that it is nonsense to discriminate one identity from another. Saladin used to choose whatever self he admired, worshiped, and favored; Saladin was the collage of selves. In contrast, Rushdie uses Salahuddin to claim that one’s identity has to be a hybrid of selves. According to Sanga, hybridity “is the mixture produced when two or more elements are fused together. It is the process or the moment of homogenization when dissimilar entities are combined and exist in complement with each other” (75). Salahuddin Chamchawala that Saladin has returned to is not an old version of Salahuddin Chamchawala. He has become a montage of all the selves that Saladin Chamcha had been and possible selves that he is yet to see. The name Saladin Chamcha was a rainbow for migration. The name Salahuddin Chamchawala is the pair of ruby slippers to return to his Kansas, Bombay.
If “Over the Rainbow” is “a celebration of Escape,” then The Satanic Verses “is a love-song to our mongrel selves” (WZ 23; IH 394). Rushdie depicts how migration divides one into pieces of selves and how the concept of home differs from migrants to migrants. Some choose to choose; some refuse to choose; and some choose both options. Being an immigrant himself, Rushdie links his experiences to those of characters in his works. In doing so, he depicts both the bitterness and sweetness of migration experiences. In confinement, Rushdie pondered on the power of the ruby slippers and realized that every migrant has his or her pair of ruby slippers. Mary in “The Courter” misses the physicality of home and uses her certainty to return home. The narrator in “The Auction of the Ruby Slippers” uses his memory to return to the recreation of his home on his imaginary homeland. In The Satanic Verses, Salahuddin Chamchawala uses the hybridity of selves and reconciliation with his father to return to home to appreciate his origin. Each migrant has a different story and reason for migration, but after their return from Oz, what all the migrants share is a feeling: There’s no place like home.
This article is a much-revised version of my thesis presented in the senior English Seminar on Salman Rushdie at Framingham State University in 2009. I wish to thank Professor Lisa Eck for her advice on finding Dorothy in Rushdie’s literary work and my mentor, Professor Arthur Nolletti, Jr., who taught me the joy of studies in literature and cinema.
Judy Garland. “Over the Rainbow.” The Wizard of Oz Soundtrack (Remastered), 2010. MP3.
The list of title abbreviations for Rushdie’s works in chronological order:
SV= The Satanic Verses
EW= East, West
IH= Imaginary Homelands
WZ=The Wizard of OZ
The names of actors/ actresses in the movies mentioned in this article are retrieved from IMDB (Internet Movie Data Base) September 2, 2012. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0032138/
IMDB is the largest online database that offers information of films worldwide. The names of actors are cited in parenthesis.
The Wizard of Oz. Dir. Victor Fleming. Perf. Judy Garland, Frank Morgan, Ray Bolger, Bert
Lahr, Jack Haley. 1939. DVD. Warner Home Video. 2000. All the subsequent quotes are from this version and will be cited as WO in parenthesis.
For research on movie experiences of immigrants, see Mikiro Kato’s “1905 nen kara 30 nendai made no eiga kan (Move theaters from 1905 to the 30’s).”
That young children cannot understand adults’ distress as well as why parents treat them in a certain way is a key for understanding a motive for migration. Salahuddin Chamchawala/ Saladin Chamcha is one of those children.
For details of book burning and an actual visual footage of that event, see a documentary The Satanic Verses Affair broadcasted on 7 March 2009, BBC 2. Available on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9-71XyNMzHY
Khomeini died a few months after his declaration of the fatwa. It is said that it is impossible to repeal it once it has been issued. Therefore, although Iranian Government no longer supports it, it still holds its effect.
The Misfits. Dir. John Huston. 1961. There is actually a third man, Guido (Eli Wallach), pulling the horse from another direction, but since Roslyn (Marilyn Monroe) is not attracted to him, it is not necessary to include him in this discussion. Information retrieved from IMDB September 2, 2012. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0055184/
Garland’s information retrieved from IMDB September 2, 2012. http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000023/
Salman Rushdie, Imaginary Homelands. 17. See how Rushdie spent many months trying to recall about Bombay prior to starting Midnight’s Children.
- 2001: A Space Odyssey. Dir. Stanley Kubrick. Perf. Keir Dullea, Gary Lockwood. 1968. DVD.
Warmer Home Video. 2001.
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---. The Satanic Verses. New York: Picador, 1988.
---. The Wizard of Oz: BFI Film Classics. London; British Film Institute, 1992. Reprinted 1993.
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