I’m taking a seminar focused on Rushdie this upcoming semester, and back in May I got a pretty long reading list, so as to alleviate reading during the semester. Of course I waited until August to start working on it, and decided to begin with The Satanic Verses, as it seems to be his most heated work. I’m really enjoying it so far; it’s magical realism so a lot of crazy things occur throughout the story. For instance, two people fall from a plane’s height, and by flapping their arms, they are able to slow themselves down. Afterward, one of those two men turns into a demonic goat while the other acquires a halo that floats above his head.
There is also another character in the book who remains unnamed, and who is the subject of this post. He appears on page 292 of my edition, and then disappears forever. He is a “perfectly ordinary looking ‘accountant type,'” who goes home every night with a briefcase and a box of sweetmeats, and every day when he gets home he rearranges his sitting room furniture, placing chairs in two rows with an aisle in between. Then, for a half hour exactly, he pretends that he is the conductor of a single-decker bus bound for Bangladesh. Not only that, but his family is obliged to participate every night. “and after half an hour precisely he snaps out of it, and the rest of the time he’s the dullest guy you could meet.”
Now when I read this I was initially extremely amused (I certainly laughed out loud) but after that started wondering about a lot of things. First of all, what does his family think of this? Have they told him, “Hey daddy, it’s really strange that you pretend to be a bus conductor every evening,” or “We don’t really like pretending to be your passengers every single day, can this please not happen anymore?” or “Robert, buses can’t drive to Bangladesh. There’s water in the way.”
Or maybe they just go with it without complaint. Apparently the entire community knows about this habit, so I’m guessing the family has told everyone about how peculiar this man is? Or maybe people overheard fake horn blasts coming from the house, shouts of, “Next stop is Pakistan!” Does he know that he does this every night, or does he go into a trance during these episodes? And has he seen a pyschotherapist at all?
What I love is that he is incredibly dull otherwise. I mean, what could be more interesting than having a fantasy about driving a bus across the English Channel. And what’s with the sweetmeats? Does he bring home anything else other than sweetmeats? These are all questions I have, but alas he is only mentioned in passing, so I will never learn the answers.
But seriously, what a weirdo.