Rushdie's the Moor's Last Sigh as a Story of Bombay City

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In ‘The Moor's last Sigh', we witness a reeling pageant of mad passions and dark secrets, deep crimes and high art, poignant innocence and cruel revenge, hopping in a careful, calculated manner across four generations of a rich and demented Indian family. Salman Rushdie's cynical post-modernistic novel ‘The Moor's Last Sigh' laughs mischievously at the world and shivers from its evils. It is also, by analogy, one version of the history of India in the 20th century. Weaving a tale of murder and suicide, of atheism and asceticism, of affection and adultery, Rushdie's exquisitely crafted storytelling explains the "fall from grace of a high-born crossbreed," namely our narrator Moraes Zogoiby, also known as "Moor" set predominantly in the city of Bombay.

Bombay – the "City of Dreams"; but there is a lot more than just dreams. It is the city of glamour and glitz, but also the city of poverty and squalor. It is the city of "Bollywood" and "pav-bhaji", the city of real-life "Mogambos" and small time "bhais". Bombay is the city of contradictions – the city we love to hate and hate to love. Salman Rushdie in his novel "The Moor's Last Sigh" pays his tribute to the spirit of the city of Bombay and his protagonist ‘Moor' is perhaps a metaphor for post-independent India – both, in terms of population and development, and specifically Bombay, as he ages: "like the city itself … I expanded without time for proper planning – just like the city which kept on growing in all directions."

At the centerpiece of this odd and captivating tale stand the embers of Moor's family: a complex web including a ridiculed political activist, a shrew, a homosexual husband, an artist, and a Jewish underworld gangster, among others. Moor's sisters lead lives as abnormal and doomed as their family history would predispose them towards: Ina, a washed-up model, dies in the throes of insanity; Minnie takes holy orders, predicting a great plague washing over Bombay and envisioning talking rats; Mynah, a lesbian, hopelessly infatuated with Moor's lover, dies in an industrial "accident" that may~be~her~ father's doing. The Moor himself is perhaps the oddest of this family; possessing a club for a right hand, Moor ages at twice the rate of a normal human being, "I have aged twice as rapidly as the old earth and everything and everyone thereupon." He further gaily declares his cultural impurity, born of a Jew and Catholic, that too, out of wedlock and been raised as neither – "I like the sound of the word. Baas, a smell, a stinky-poo. Turd, no translation required. Ergo, Bastard, a smelly shit; like, for example, me." The melange of heroes and viliains, of liars and lovers, often are the same character, produces a sense of confusion in the reader that only draws one further into the tale. The blood of the Zogoiby family is tainted with lies and illegitimacy, and their disease of scandal infects everyone they encounter. Lovers and spouses alike, often seemingly infallible upon introduction, betray the family members and leave in their wake shattered hearts.

The protagonist – the "post-mature" Moor is Mr. Misfit himself and his biggest beef is with his bohemian artist mother, Aurora and arguably the book is mainly about a twisted mother-son relationship. But this theme, like every other taken up in this novel, constantly spills into wider territory. Aurora ruled the heart of Bombay for a certain period – and as Moor shows, she responded to it with a candid openness – "She sucked in the city's hot stenches, lapped up its burning sauces, she gobbled its dishes up whole." His next beef is with Abraham Zogoiby, his quiet but rich, powerful and shady father who moves to Bombay to build up and diversify the family's traditional Cochin spice business with the help of "talcum powder, crookery, murder". He too, ruled the city, but in his own unique way – he ruled his underworld kingdom like the ‘Godfather', like "Mogambo". His crookery far exceeds that of the...
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