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Love and Sex in Tropical London

The trouble with the English is their weather

Gibreel in Salman Rushdie’s novel The Satanic Verses talks of making of slow and odorous love in the foetid nights. Farihsta Gibreel forms the opinion that the moral fuzziness of the English was meteorologically formed. The trouble with the English was their weather.
"..City," he cried, and his voice rolled over the metropolis like thunder, "I am going to tropicalize you."

What's in a title?

Compared to Love in a Cold Climate, the title Love in Tropical London seemed inadequate . Upon second thought, I added sex. A word, even love, can change its hue in less than a lifetime. Making love sounds almost old fashioned and is being replaced by having sex or, more colloquial, fucking. Paradoxically, Plato's attempts to divorce love from sexual pleasure seem to be having a renaissance after a spell of reunion of love and sex in the romantic era. I recall my repulsion, visiting London in 1996, at seeing billboards featuring the title of a play by Mark Ravenhill, Shopping and Fucking. In contrast, Sex in a Cold Climate makes you shudder. It is a TV-documentary (1998) directed by Steve Humphries, on sexual abuse in various Magdalene Asylums. nocodeforparanoia claims Sex in the Rain can be absolutely spectacular. Climate's influence on the biology of mating cannot be ignored.

Outcast Salman Rushdie

The Satanic Verses has, according to rishi, a unique distinction of being the most Bought-But-Not-Read novel. The theme of his enemies refusing to read the books they perceive to be insulting reoccurs in Rushdie' other novel The Moor's Last Sigh, as the criminal politician Bal Thakarey, portrayed in the novel as Hardy, said he did not read books. Ayatollah Khomeini also refused to read the Satanic Verses. The iconoclast Salman Rushdie became a persona non grata in India on account of Midnight's Children, in Pakistan for writing Shame, and most other Muslim countries for the Satanic Verses. Upon reading the manuscript, the distinguished elder Indian writer Khushwant Singh warned Rushdie of the danger and advised him to soften the pungent passages. But since he would not listen, his reckless, almost fool-hardy courage probably cost him the Nobel Prize. Kerstin Ekman, a Swedish novelist, and member of the Swedish Academy since 1978, left the Academy in 1989 due to the debate following death threats posed to Salman Rushdie. According to Dario Fo's publisher, Michael Earley of Methuen, Salman Rushdie and Arthur Miller were favourites to win in 1997, but the organisers stated that they would have been "too predictable, too popular". He pointed out that the Nobel committee had often acted in mysterious ways.

Hallucinating archangel

Gabriel is the name of one of the Archangels, considered by many to be one of the most senior angels. In Muslim belief, one of his main responsibilities was to take divine revelation from God (or Allah in Arabic) and deliver it to his prophets and messengers, like Jesus, Moses and Muhammad. in Arabic, his name is written Jibreel. In this fantastic novel, Gibreel hallucinates the redemption of London.
His soliloquy on less than two pages (P. 354-355) allows a glimpse into Salman Rushdie's views on the unhappiness of population and ills of the social structure of England as well as their surrealistic remedy. These visions tempted me to elaborate on them.

The redemption of London

Salman Rushdie almost seems to foresee the beneficial fruits of global warming.

Hot water bottles to be banished forever from London. According to Li, hot water bottles are good for aches and pain, cramps, flu, and arthritic pain. Primarily they keep you and your loved ones warm. They would be replaced in the foetid nights by slow sensous and odorous lovemaking under tropical flora in a formerly cold climate. I suspect he was thinking of his native Kama Sutra.

Gibreel dreams that a national siesta is instituted in England. Siestas are important in the tropics, if you don't want to fall victim to heat exhaustion, or worse, heat stroke. As I heard, so called power sleeping is now also getting popular in some American cities, where you can rent booths in special sleeping saloons for a wad of dollars. In the tropics, people take an hour or so after lunch to rest free of charge in the shade of a tree, during the hottest part of the day, until the temperature is low enough to allow them to work comfortably. Of course, to the natives, only mad dogs and Englishmen ventured out into the midday sun.

Song by Sir Noel Coward written during an extended holiday in Hawaii to cure a nervous breakdown, incorporated into his musical revue, Words and Music:

In the Phillipines, there are lovely screens
to protect you from the glare
in the Malay states they have hats like plates
which the Britishers won't wear
At twelve noon the natives swoon
and no further work is done.
But mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun.

Controvertial opinions about the effects of heat on the health of white skinned people are discussed at length in Dane Kennedy's treatise, 'The perils of the mid-day sun: climatic anxieties in the colonial tropics'.

Flora and fauna of London are also tropicalised. Trees grow under which you could also sleep after lunch. He dreams of "..new birds in the trees (macaws, cockatoos, peacocks), new trees under the birds (coco-palms,tamarind, banyans with hanging beards), outrageously coloured flowers (Magenta, vermilion, neon-green).

Spider Monkeys sitting in the oaks. According to eggdye, the Black-handed Spider Monkey is a small New World monkey, who has a greatly elongated clitoris, but its purpose is unknown. These cousins of our inspired Jinmyo to give us the formula for Spider Monkey’s Curry Powder, created by a Tamil Sufi named Bawa Muhaiyaddeen. "In Bawa’s curry powder, the flavours of the 14 fresh spices roll across the tongue and as one fades, another begins."

Spicier food prescribed by Gibreel to the Londoners would contain the delicious and invigorating ingredients of Herbs for love. Salman Rushdie is almost obsessed by the odours and taste of spices. In his novel Thr Moor’s Last Sigh, the heroine seduces her jewish lover on sacks of pepper and has nostalgic memories of pepper love.

"Aurora da Gama at the age of fifteen lay back on pepper sacks, breathed in the hot spice laden air, and waited for Abraham."

Higher quality music is recommended by Gibreel. Music is a drug, and a healthy mixture is being distributed by cosmopolitans like Nitin Sawhney.

English cricket is in a dire state. Gibreels hopes for better cricketeers. The journalist Martin Johnson once diagnosed: "There are only three things wrong with this England side: they can't bat, can't bowl, can't field". One of the recent headlines before the match against Australia: "Ugly England need some blue-sky thinking".

He also predicts higher emphasis on ball-control among professional footballers. A newspaper laments, "Watching England capitulate so abysmally last week against a Croatia side that was scarcely Brazil in disguise". They should Bend it like Beckham.

Gibreel knows that the use of water as well as paper in English toilets is good for health and hygiene, for it would not only reduce pain and Pruritus ani by cleaning up the itching bums. It would also substantially reduce the incidence of proctological maladies such as piles or haemorrhoids. Installation of bidets in toilets could thus lower the cost of the National Health Service.

Anglophobia/Anglophilia?

These gibes directed at the English bertray a scarcely camouflaged anglophobia of a post-colonial Indian. In this Rushdie may not be as extreme as 'Charlotte Brontë] saying:
"...or else you'd never turn rabid about that dirty little country called England; for rabid, I see you are; I read Anglophobia in your looks, and hear it in your words."
In the Satanic Verses he insults Margaret Thatcher, naming her ‘Maggie the Bitch’. But the tolerant British were benevolent, they hid and protected him when he faced assassination. After the persecution of the Fatwa, and asylum by his hosts, the antagonism seems to have cooled down. The ambivalence of Salman Rushdies love/hate relationship with England is not infrequent among Indians, especially of the older generation. The controversial writer Nirad Chaudhury was an example of an extremely anglophilic Indian intellectual, who his last day, remained the quintessential Victorian English country gentleman. Rudyard Kipling is another victim of this schizm. The Indian Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, was attacked in the Indian media for daring to mention the positive fruits of the British rule in India in his speech at after being awarded an honorary doctorate of the Oxford University.

Climate

Global Warming may be speeding up the fulfillment of Gibreels prophecies, although there is a danger we may get a cooling instead. The sea may change, global warming leaving Britain feeling the cold. Although there is no new ice age yet, the Gulf Stream is weakening. The atlantic current almost came to a halt for 10 days in 2004." Al Gore has been touring Europe busily promoting his climate-change film, An Inconvenient Truth. Tony Bliar quickly sprang up into Al Gore's lap, appointing him environment adviser to the UK government.

Antisexual culture

The cold climate is not the only reason for London being loveless. Sexual repression in Christianity has complex historical philosophical roots in Platonism. Platonic love is the term used to describe nonsexual, spiritual love in common everyday speech. Plato included homo-erotic love in his concept. Since christian doctrine could not digest the obvous homosexuality in Platos Symposium, St. Paul, who was probably impotent all his life, and St. Augustinus, after an intermezzo as a lecher, distorted Plato's teachings to the antisexual culture that prevalled over the centuries.

But morbid sexual supression can be even more extreme in radical outgrowths of other religions. The perverted sexual fears of some believers are revealed in a conversation about veils between a Kashmiri mother Firdaus Noman and her son in Rushdie's recernt novel Shalimar the the Clown:

"How can a woman's face be the enemy of Islam? she asked angrily. Anees took her hands in his. "For these idiots it's all about sex, maej, excuse me. They think it is a scientific fact that a woman's hair emit rays that arouse men to deeds of sexual depravity. They think that if a woman's bare legs rub together, even under a floor-length robe, the friction of her thighs will generate sexual heat that will be transmitted through her eyes into the eyes of men and inflame them in an unholy way." Firdaus spread her hands in a gesture of resignation. "So, because men are animals, women must pay. This is an old story. Tell me something else."

Sexual repression sooner or later leads to violence. Wilhelm Reich realised that supressed sexual energy turns into destructivity. Alex Comfort:

"Sexual intercourse is the healthiest and most important sporting activity of mankind. Many prominent evil men in history were conspicously chaste."

A moral system based on more and better sex has been proposed by Pseudomancer.

Alliance of Civilisations

Through the mouth of schizophrenic Gibreel, the surrealistic suggestions of Salman Rushdie are an example of how cultures can enrich and fertilize each other, contradicting the Gurus of intercultural warfare such as Samuel P. Huntington in his Clash of Civilisations. In Germany a prominent politician of the Christian Democratic Party, Friedrich Merz started an unholy debate by proposing a controversial German Leitkultur (leading, mainstream or baseline culture) for all inhabitants. Leitkultur evoked associations with Leithund, Leithammel (leading ram of the pack) as well as light culture, like 'Light Coca Cola'. But that is a different story.

Either we will sit and remain spectators as the culture of terror, violence and clashes spreads across the world like an infectious disease, or we can globalise a common understanding of humanity.

This is one of the conclusions of the report of The Alliance of Civilisations, a UN initiative sponsored by catholic Spain and muslim Turkey. The report, which Mr. Annan commissioned last year, has just been published.

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